A Plan for Starting or Overhauling Event Marketing that Drives Attendance and Engagement

Engagement 101

Engagement 101

Meet Engagement Alice. She’s one of the profiles you might see after taking the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment. If you’re an Engagement Alice, chances are you’re not meeting attendance goals, people aren’t opening your emails, and your website isn’t as sticky as you’d like. While you might feel a twinge of despair if you fit this category, don’t worry. You have tremendous potential to improve event attendance and member engagement. And we’ll show you how. Come on! A wonderland of engagement awaits!

Where to Begin?

Your first thought might be to increase the frequency of your marketing, update the look of your collateral, or add more speakers and certifications to your event. Not so fast. While killer event marketing and programming can help drive engagement, you ultimately won’t achieve sustainability unless you lay a solid foundation first. Let’s take a step back.


The first step to increasing member engagement is to get 100% clear on the “why” behind your organization (NOT the “what” of speakers, certifications, etc). What is the purpose of your organization? More specifically, what is the ONE THING of most value that you need your members to know? If you aren’t clear on your purpose, your members won’t be either.


Once you’ve established your “why,” you must clearly communicate it to your membership. You need a step-by-step engagement strategy of triggers (juicy offers), targets (calls to action), and tactics (emails, direct mail, etc.) that will light a fire in your members, encourage them to attend your event, and engage them to work together towards your mission.

In this stage we’ll take a look at your email marketing, social media strategy, web site, and other collateral to identify areas for improvement, tactics to add or subtract, timing, and your buying cycle. For example, are you sending the right messages when your members need to hear them?

Event Experience

Once you have a strong foundation, a clear purpose, and an effective engagement strategy, you must deliver an incredible event experience. Otherwise, your all efforts will have been wasted. It’s not enough to have continuing education credits, certifications, and notable keynote speakers. These are all things your members can consume without actually furthering the mission of your organization. You need to create an environment of high-quality connections and engagement to accomplish real outcomes.

Consider these ideas to improve event experience and create an environment that encourages engagement:
  • comfortable, inviting spaces for casual networking between sessions (Smell the coffee—and the inspiration—brewing!)
  • brain teasers, puzzles, and games scattered throughout your event to spark connection
  • engage the five senses: food, music, lighting, and signage should match the look and feel of your branding
  • special events to encourage high-quality connections: painting lounges, cooking lessons, and improv comedy workshops are just a few ideas
  • active outings to foster collaboration: rock climbing, go-carting, or a friendly softball game
  • a post-conference party on the last day to keep the momentum going long after your event is over

Engagement starts with inspiration

You can’t push people to do anything—that simply doesn’t work. Great marketing and events pull people in. They inspire and compel passionate individuals to come together for a common purpose. They encourage members to be present, participate, and get down to the business of changing lives through hard work and dedication. Your organization can achieve this level of engagement. In fact, you can’t survive without it. So how do you get started?

Take the Engagement Assessment

Find out where you rate on the Engagement Scale. Once you know where you are in terms of engaging members, we can help you craft a plan to increase event attendance and member engagement AND achieve long-term sustainability for your organization.

There’s an old saying, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” If attendance and engagement are low, they’ll stay low unless you make a change. Don’t wait for another event to flop before taking action. What’s more, once you achieve engagement your event attendance, membership acquisition, and retention rates will take care of themselves.

Join us on a journey down the rabbit hole to find out what you can do to drive attendance and engagement starting today.

Take the Engagement Assessment now.

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How to Engage Millennials for Long-term Sustainability

Meet Luke Brandwalker, one of the profiles you might see when you take the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment. If you’re a Luke, the forces of connection and engagement are strong in your organization. You event is well attended and members really dig in to achieve breakthroughs in your industry. Chances are good, however, that you see a lot of gray hair when you look around the room. How can you foster engagement and sustain your organization into the future? You need the Millennium Falcon…er…Millennials. You need Millennials. And we know how to find them, engage them, and sustain your organization for decades. Hop in! We’re off to a galaxy not so far, far away.

Kids These Days…

We know, we know. Everybody is talking about Millennials. It’s almost like we’re observing a new species or dissecting aliens from another planet. The perception is often that “young people these days” aren’t as dedicated, driven, respectful, or productive as past generations. Or “back when I was young” things were different. Millennials just can’t seem to put down their phones long enough for a “real” conversation. They’re lazy and entitled. They can’t keep a job…The list goes on.

You might not be thrilled at the prospect of engaging with these lazy, entitled hooligans. But writing off the next generation will cost you big. If you don’t learn how to communicate with Millennials and, more importantly, ENGAGE them, your organization can’t survive. A closer look at just who Millennials are—and the significant value they can bring to your organization—is the key to your future sustainability as an organization. Ignore them at your peril.

Why Millennials might just be your ideal members

Pew Research defines Millennials as anyone currently 18 to 34 years old. At 86 million strong, they’re the largest generation in the U.S. and the largest share of the American workforce. They have some powerful common traits you can definitely put to use in your organization.

They’re driven by passion, not profits. We know that for your event to be successful, you need people to feel compelled, inspired, and engaged—not forced or motivated and not driven by “stuff” they can acquire. About 60 percent of Millennials are entrepreneurs, and many identify as social entrepreneurs. That means they work to positively influence the world even if it means making less money as a result. They’re really not “entitled,” many faced a tough job market right out of college and were forced to make their own way in the world. Imagine if you can harness this drive for your organization.

They care about community.

Sure, Millennials tend to have a better work-life balance than their parents, but that’s because they value community, family, and time for recreation and creativity. They’ve come of age in a time where busting butt at the office isn’t rewarded with overtime pay, a pension, or even job security. They’re happy to put in their 9 to 5 day, but then they’re off to an after-work activity or event (maybe yours).

They’re drawn to companies that give back.

About a third of Millennials say they will boycott a company based on their convictions. That means if you can’t prove your value and resonate with their worldview, you’re out. However, Millennials prefer to associate with companies and organizations that have a culture of giving back. (Not a bad fit for your life-changing mission, right?) They value authenticity, so an annual day of volunteering isn’t going to cut it. They want to see real change over the long term. If you can effectively communicate your purpose and value to this crowd, they will get engaged and stay there.

They love technology.

I can hear you saying that this is not a positive attribute. But just think for a minute…Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation to date. More than 85 percent own a smart phone, and they rarely put it down. They even sleep near their phones! They’re also socially connected, with an average of 250 Facebook friends each. All this adds up to countless opportunities for you to engage them 24/7—via email, apps, mobile advertising, YouTube, or social media. And when you do reach them with relevant content, they can share it with hundreds or thousands of people faster than the speed of light.

The problem with Millennials

As you might now see, “the problem with Millennials” is largely one of misunderstanding. Don’t mistake differences in values and communication preferences for negative character traits. The truth is you need Millennials, and the sooner you understand them—and how to engage them—the sooner you’ll see attendance numbers, engagement, and goal achievement increase at your event, throughout the year, and into the next decade.

Take the Engagement Assessment

Ready to defeat the dark side and solve your gray hair dilemma for decades to come? Find out where you rate on the Engagement Scale. Once you know where you are in terms of engaging members, we can help you craft a plan to increase event attendance and member engagement AND achieve long-term sustainability for your organization.

Click here to take the assessment now.

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5 Steps to Better Engagement with Triggers and Targets

Meet Christopher Connectus, one of the profiles you might see after you take the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment. Like the famous explorer who came before him, Christopher seeks new horizons and untold treasures. He knows his purpose. He even set out in the right direction. But this Christopher hasn’t quite reached his destination…yet.

If you’re a Christopher Connectus, you probably have an established brand, clear purpose, and a solid membership list. But you might be falling short when it comes to opens, clicks, event registration, and repeat attendance. It’s time to fine-tune your strategy and your marketing communications to reach the New World of engagement. Come on! We’ve got the map!

What are Triggers and Targets?

To move interested parties through your buying cycle—from being aware or interested to actually taking action—you need compelling triggers and targets in your marketing communications. Triggers might be your products, events, and special offers. Targets include whatever you want your members to do, like register for an event or make a purchase. Mastering triggers and targets drives acquisition, retention, attendance, and ultimately engagement. To get started, follow these five steps:

1. Review your past email or direct mail campaigns.

Make a list of any triggers (or offers) you used in the past.

Your list of triggers might include:
  • continuing ed credits or a certification program
  • in-person workshops or online webinars
  • pre-conference sessions
  • networking events
  • pricing promotions, like group discounts or early registration specials
  • ​keynotes, lunches, outings, or other conference offerings

2. Ask yourself if your audience really cares about the items on your list.

Are they exclusive to your organization? Are they so compelling people will take action to avoid missing out? Add or subtract items to your list based on where you members are today—in terms of their careers as well as where they are in your buying cycle. For example, do you have a compelling trigger for a new member who is not very familiar with your organization? If not, you might add a new member orientation trigger. Don’t worry if your triggers only apply to some of our audience. You can always segment your list later.

3. Tell people what you want them to do.

Once you’ve established your unique triggers, you need to compel your audience to act on them. For this you need targets. If you don’t tell people what to do, they will do nothing, and your campaign/event/membership/engagement will suffer as a result.

Here are five common targets for event marketing campaigns:
  • Register
  • Sign-up
  • Tell someone else (word of mouth)
  • Visit the website
  • Make an inbound inquiry

4. Identify the most effective tactics to deploy your message.

For a lot of Christophers, direct mail and email are proven standby tactics. Consider social media, including video content, to build engagement around your brand. If you master these tactics, move on to next-level ideas like microsites or virtual reality experiences.

5. Consider WHEN people will be most interested in your triggers and targets.

Focus on two types of timing: event related (before, during , and after your conference) and the buying cycle (new member, first-time attendee, brand ambassador, etc). It’s also important to consider the frequency of your communications. Generally, people will need to hear from you regularly over a period of time before they’re moved to act.

What Does This Have to do With Engagement?

If you want a successful event that inspires people to connect and work hard to change lives, you have to get them there in the first place. The only way to do that is to create compelling marketing messages that move and inspire people to act. But that’s only part of the solution. You need people to care. They need to be fully present at your event. You need momentum to carry you through the entire year. You need pilgrims who return year after year to be uplifted.

Effective triggers and targets show your base that you know them and care to serve their specific needs. They prove you have killer event offerings and a community of people who can help them achieve their goals. They also show your brand personality, the human side of your organization, which is what people really connect to. Ultimately, solid marketing convinces people of your value, not just of the “stuff” they can snag at your event. If you can’t prove your value, engagement can’t happen.

Take the Engagement Assessment

Ready to explore the New World of engagement? Find out where you rate on the Engagement Scale. Once you know where you are in terms of engaging members, we can help you craft a plan to increase event attendance and member engagement AND achieve long-term sustainability for your organization.

Click here to take the assessment now.

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Why You Need More Than Good Attendance Numbers

Introducing Julius Seizer, one of the profiles you might see after you take the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment. If you’re a Julius Seizer, you rule at engaging members and driving event attendance, but chances are you struggle to break the acquisition and retention cycle. Your event might be full of first-timers and tourists, who come to consume your offerings and leave without furthering your mission. For long-term loyalty, repeat attendance, and overall sustainability you need to boost engagement. It’s time to seize your current momentum, build on existing strengths, and make some important tweaks, particularly in the area of high-quality connections. Carpe diem! Let’s get started building your engaged empire today.

What is Engagement?

We know engagement is more than just “showing up.” It’s about more than attendees. You need participants, volunteers, mentors, contributors, and word-of-mouth marketers. You need members to set aside their phones and their everyday tasks so they can focus on your event and the value they can give to it and get from it. You need individuals who are compelled from within to take action, work together, and tackle the hard stuff that leads to success in your field. And you need everyone to come back next year and do it all over again. So how can you reach that level of sustainable engagement?

Interestingly, the way to achieve engagement isn’t by adding more programming, speakers, certifications, and other “stuff.” It isn’t by having the best food or the coolest venue. Yes, of course, you need high-quality offerings to have a great event, but all these things will come to nothing if people don’t connect.

Hardwired to connect

It turns out human beings are hardwired to connect. When we connect we feel engaged. But not just any connection will do. Psychologists tell us there are two types of connections: high quality and low quality. High-quality connections allow us to fully express ourselves, they withstand setbacks, and they open us up to new possibilities. They also spark action and creativity.

Event marketers need high-quality connections for lots of reasons. Here are just a few:
  • attract and retain new members, even millennials
  • break the acquisition and retention cycle
  • build loyalty and encourage advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing
  • increase productivity and creativity to achieve goals and work towards your mission
  • drive engagement that sustains your organization for decades to come
  • If your event suffers from low attendance, poor feedback surveys, lack of engagement, or general lack of progress, you probably have too many low-quality connections. Even if your event is well attended this could be the case. Low-quality connections kill engagement, close minds to new ideas, and actually damage your organization.

How to build high-quality connections

Building high-quality connections (and eliminating low-quality ones) might sound daunting. The good news is that, as a Julius, you already have a well-oiled machine to help you. A few tweaks will get you on your way to connection and engagement. Try these four items for starters:

Boost your brand experience.

As we mention above, you do need a killer brand experience to attract people to your event in the first place. As a Julius Seizer, you’re doing a lot right in this area. Focus now on ways your event can help people connect. Do you have comfortable seating for casual networking? Do you have interactive sessions, like roundtable luncheons or panel discussions? Do you have a new-member orientation to welcome first-timers into the fold? Consider adding an online component to connect members before, during, and after your event—event-specific hashtags, online forums, or LISTSERVs are just a few examples.

Spread the word.

Consider energizing your marketing communications with more compelling triggers and targets to raise awareness, reassure the interested, and prove the value of your event. If your marketing is limited to email and direct mail, consider adding a channel or two. Social media, microsites, print collateral, virtual reality experiences, and YouTube can all help your members connect with each other, your organization, and your mission.

Time your communications with the buying cycle.

Your organization already has fantastic tools and resources that your members can use to change more lives. It’s up to you to connect each member with the help they need WHEN they need it. Strategic pre-conference communication not only gets members in the door; it shows your value and helps them see why they’re there. And don’t stop communicating just because your event is over. Maintain momentum and engagement throughout the year with regional events, active social media use, and regular progress updates.

Let your hair down.

Build engagement with a culture of authenticity, openness, and vulnerability. You can encourage authenticity with storytelling, idea sharing, group activities, and unscripted networking events. Unlike relationships, high-quality connections can occur in an instant—like in the hallways between sessions. If you build a culture of openness, you’ll increase the number of opportunities members have to connect with one another on really meaningful levels. Compare this to forced networking that simply encourages people to exchange business cards. Which one sounds more promising for your organization’s goals?

Motivation vs. Inspiration

It’s hard to convince or motivate anyone to do anything. For real engagement, your members need to be internally compelled and inspired to take action. High-quality connections entice members attend your event year after year and contribute while they’re there—not because they need a certification but because they might miss out on valuable interactions with their friends and colleagues. If you foster high-quality connections engagement will follow, and your event attendance, member retention, and goal achievement will all take care of themselves.

Ready build engagement and sustainability? Take the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment to see where you rate on the Engagement Scale. From there we’ll help you forge a plan to rally the troops, engage your loyal followers, and sustain your empire for decades.

Click here to take the assessment now.

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How to Connect the Dots Between Messaging, Members, and the Buying Cycle.

Get the Marketing Superpowers to Engage Your Members

Introducing Clark Kentington, one of the profiles you might see after taking the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment. Clarks come to us with at least some foundation to build on. They might be a startup with a clear mission but no strategy. Maybe they’re an established organization who needs a fresh approach. Perhaps they have a great event that nobody attends or emails nobody reads. For lots of reasons, the Clarks aren’t achieving their full potential, but they’re ready to make changes to get there. If you fit this category, it’s an exciting place to be! From here you can flex your marketing muscles, boost engagement, and rescue yourself from another ho hum year. We’ll show you how.

Where to Begin

We talk a lot about Clarity, Energy, and Spark—and for good reason. If you don’t have a clear mission, a savvy engagement strategy, and an exceptional event experience your organization will not thrive. In fact, it might not even survive. But how exactly do you develop these key items?

How to define a clear mission

When your organization was formed, the founders had a clear purpose. Over time that mission might have gotten crowded out by “stuff” like webinars, speakers, certifications, and networking events. Today you know WHAT your organization does, but do you know WHY? Do you know the ONE thing of value you offer to your members?

To find out, you need to strip away all the stuff—the continuing ed credits, the keynotes, the seminars. These are all things that members consume without actually engaging in the mission of your organization. This is not sustainable. Take a look at these example missions for inspiration:

  • teach people how to be leaders
  • ensure no child goes hungry
  • achieve breakthroughs in cancer research
  • challenge the status quo
  • enhance childhood development

To truly engage, you also need to know your members. Who are they? Why do they join? Why do some attend every year while others come once and never return? Formal and informal investigation can shed some light on this for you:

  • What are members talking about on social media? in focus groups?
  • What did they say on your last post-event survey?
  • Who are they? (ex: age, gender, demographics, job title, years of experience, etc.)
  • What do they care about?
  • Which archetype do they fit into?
  • Simon Sinek tells us “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Steve Jobs said, “Marketing is about values.” Walk through these steps to clearly identify your mission (just the ONE), and you’ll find your “why.” Engagement begins with a clear purpose. Without clarity, the rest of your efforts will fail.

How to create an engagement strategy that actually works

After clarity comes energy. Your strategy is your energy source, the engine that drives engagement (and thus, attendance, acquisition, and retention). It’s fueled by your clear purpose but, in addition to the “why” we discuss above, your strategy must also take into account your buying cycle. It’s not enough to have great messages and campaigns that articulate your mission. These items must be aligned with the buying cycle to foster engagement.

The first stage of the buying cycle is raising awareness. If you’re a Clark Kentington, chances are you’ve got this stage covered. You have a database of members and interested prospects. But this list itself isn’t worth much. For real value, you need to move to the next stage of the buying cycle: engaging the interested. Imagine what your organization can achieve if you rally all the troops around your mission. With the right strategy, the possibilities are endless.

One or two campaigns and a handful of social media posts is not an engagement strategy. Interested parties need to hear from you multiple times—at the right times—before they’re compelled to take action. (Notice they’re not being “convinced’ or “motivated.” Your job is to ENGAGE them to want to take action.) We will help you identify objectives, craft a strategy, and determine timing based on your annual conference and other industry events.

Along with proper timing, it’s essential to tailor your communications to audience needs. A new member requires more information about your event than a repeat attendee, for example. A C-level executive needs different offers than an entry-level employee. You can achieve an added layer of precision in your communications by segmenting your audience and tweaking your messages accordingly.

How to spark action with killer brand experience

Your event is your mission brought to life. Here, too, the goal isn’t attendance numbers or a certain dollar amount; it’s connecting passionate individuals so they can change more lives. Read more about how to craft powerful sensory event experiences here. The big idea is to create an environment that encourages high-quality connections and engagement by incorporating all five senses. Do this, and the numbers will take care of themselves.

Take the Engagement Assessment

Ready to step out of the phone booth and soar to new heights? Find out where you rate on the Engagement Scale. Once you know where you are in terms of engaging members, we can help you craft a plan to increase event attendance and member engagement AND achieve long-term sustainability for your organization.

Click here to take the assessment now.

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