Your last attendees just left the building, and you're ready to turn off the lights and go home. The event was a success, and the only thing left to do is congratulate yourself and go get some rest. You're ready to close this chapter and move on to the next event. Not so fast!
Would you leave a treasure behind if you discovered it unexpectedly? Of course not. Then why are you already planning your next event without stopping to connect with your attendees and leverage the real potential of the event you just had?
"Well, what else can I do? The guests have already left", you might be thinking. True, yet depending on how your event went, you could be one step away from unrealized opportunities. Think about it: planning and hosting an event is the same as designing a product life cycle. After your clients (the attendees) buy the product (the event), you need to nurture the relationship with them to drive product improvement and increase their number of 'future purchases'.
Moreover, according to Pierre Benckendorff and Philip L. Pearce, "While psychological involvement is a useful concept for understanding pre-visit behaviour, it is also important for understanding how attendees experience events and subsequent post-event outcomes such as satisfaction and loyalty."
In other words, if you want to explore the full potential of your event, know that your work doesn’t end with the last attendees who say farewell. Not convinced yet? Here are the reasons why you may want to interact with your guests after the event:
Reason 1. To increase attendee loyalty
There's a big difference between average attendees and loyal ones. The first category will manifest the desire of just attending the event and acquiring information. The second one, instead, will enjoy your event, talk about what they learned at your event, anticipate your next event, and of course, encourage others to attend future events. To maintain attendee loyalty, you can’t limit yourself only to post-event 'thank-you' notes. You also have to engage attendees in post-event discussions, debates, or additional Q&A sessions.
Reason 2. To transform your attendees into promoters
Is there something else more powerful than word of mouth when advertising your events? What if you could turn previous event attendees into promoters of your upcoming events? In this case, don’t forget about your previous guests and engage them post-event by maintaining a positive communication dynamic (tagging them on social media when publishing event content, sending the photos or valuable event documents, creating a post-event online community, etc.).
Reason 3. To obtain valuable feedback
As Kevin Van Der Straeten, the founder of eventplanner.tv and the author of EVENTS 2 - How to organize a successful event? notes, "It would be a great shame to let all your detailed preparation and implementation work go to waste by failing to carry out a proper evaluation. A good ex-post assessment allows you to identify not only your most successful points, but also points where there is still room for improvement in future events. This can only work to your advantage."
You can send an email to your attendees with a two- or three-question survey (try to keep the questions brief) asking their opinion about their event experience. As Kevin highlights, the one thing to keep in mind is that "the longer you wait before requesting feedback, the lower the response is likely to be." So do it as soon as possible. Your attendees' evaluation will help you understand what you should improve next time.
Reason 4. To understand the real impact of your event
Only by engaging and communicating with your attendees after the event will you truly be able to understand if the event had any transformational effect.
Did your guests discover new insights that will boost their careers or business? Are they motivated to apply what they learned at your event to their own careers? Did they meet new people and extend their business prospects?
You can’t find out the answers to these questions by just sending a brief survey - you need to develop an efficient post-event communication strategy to access valuable information about your attendees, therefore learning how to increase the value of your upcoming events.
Reason 5. To create a powerful community
Help your attendees identify with other like-minded people who attended the same conference, workshop, or convention. Provide them with an online platform where they can engage and discuss event-related topics. This way, you’ll be able to build a strong community, subsequently increasing the outreach of your events.
There's no shortage of advice when it comes to engaging attendees before the event. Yet, you may tend to forget about your guests once the event is over, and miss out on great opportunities such as reinforcing the image of your events, accessing valuable feedback that will help you improve the planning process, evaluating the real impact of your meetings, and even creating a powerful community. Thus, when planning your next conference, training, or trade show, don't forget to design a strong post-event communication strategy to engage with your attendees. Let your past help shape your future.