As event organizers aim to attract more attendees, it’s tempting to think about making massive changes to the on-site experience. And while embracing new educational formats or overhauling the design of the environment might resonate with prospective attendees, there are also some very basic adjustments that can appeal to a larger audience. “There is a lot of sensitivity about the right time of year, the right time of the week, and the right destination,” David Saef, executive vice president of strategy and MarketWorks at GES, told PCMA in a recent interview. “Organizers should evaluate their decisions to make sure they are picking venues, cities, and times that work for their target audience as opposed to doing what they’ve done each year.”
Gregg Lapin, director of meetings at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), and Saef’s fellow panelist in the “Traffic Builders 2.0: Attracting, Engaging and Immersing Healthcare Attendees” session at HCEAConnect next month, has felt the impact of that reevaluation. Between 2014 and 2016, professional attendance at AADE’s Annual Meeting increased by 52 percent. In addition to registering, those attendees were filling the association’s room block. In 2014, Lapin said, his pickup was less than 70 percent, but 2015 delivered a whopping 99-percent pickup rate. How did AADE do it? These four simple changes played an important role in the results.
1) Change the calendar. Previously, AADE attendees arrived on a Tuesday and left on a Saturday. “We shifted our model to a Thursday arrival and a Monday departure,” Lapin told PCMA. “Our attendance shot up, because that required less time away from the office.”
Saef added: “In AADE’s case, many attendees own their practices, and they are funding their own travel. The weekend made more sense, so that they can make sure they are dedicating as much time as possible to their patients.”
2) Don’t discount discounting. While many organizers focus on determining an appropriate year-over-year increase for registration fees, Lapin took the opposite approach. Between 2014 and 2015, AADE’s registration fees declined by 44 percent. The more attractive figure appealed to cost-conscious audience members who balance the need to obtain continuing education with keeping business expenses low. The increase in attendance numbers isn’t just good news for AADE, either. It’s safe to say that the 200 exhibitors on the trade-show floor have been happy to welcome the crowds.
3) Create the Power of Choice. Rather than trying to force all 3,500 attendees to stay in a four-star headquarters hotel, Lapin wanted AADE to have a presence at more properties. “The more hotels and more options you have,” he said, “the more likely you’ll be able to motivate attendees to book in the block.”
At AADE’s upcoming meeting in Indianapolis, the slate of options covers all major brands and price points. From a $142 room at the Staybridge Suites to a $219 room at the Conrad, there is no need for attendees to turn to an online travel search engine.
4) Make the Message Count. Increasing pickup isn’t as simple as adding more options, though. Lapin said that AADE makes a serious effort to educate attendees on the value of those negotiated rates. “The marketing is very informative,” Lapin said. “We do the math to make sure that attendees recognize how much cheaper and more convenient it is to stay within walking distance. For example, we want to tell the attendees who might consider splitting the cost of an airport hotel with three colleagues and paying to rent a car how much they will pay in fees and parking expenses.”
Interested in more insights from Saef and Lapin on how to attract and engage medical attendees? Click here to register for HCEAConnect in Chicago from Aug. 13–16.