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Increasing Attendance at Your Seminar or Conference - FGS Wiki

Increasing Attendance at Your Seminar or Conference


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[[Category:Strategies for Program Chairpersons]][[Category:Stuart-Warren]][[Category:Seminars]][[Category:Workshops]]
 
[[Category:Strategies for Program Chairpersons]][[Category:Stuart-Warren]][[Category:Seminars]][[Category:Workshops]]
 +
 +
 +
== Introduction ==
 +
 +
Societies must face the fact that even though
 +
your seminar is your main event of the year,
 +
and you know it will be a smash hit, there is a
 +
lot more going on in the area.
 +
 +
Think about how many times you’ve read or
 +
heard an advertisement for a chain restaurant’s
 +
seafood night, the department store’s semi-annual sale, or the upcoming home improvement
 +
show at the civic center.
 +
 +
How can your event compete against these
 +
big budget publicity campaigns? Read on for
 +
more ideas.
 +
 +
 +
== Plan Ahead ==
 +
 +
Contact the speaker twelve to twenty-four
 +
months in advance. Planning ahead is the key
 +
to everything. Some societies contact a speaker
 +
and look for a meeting site about six months
 +
in advance of the meeting date. This does not
 +
allow enough time to do everything right, to
 +
publicize it fully, and to generate enough attendance to break even.
 +
If the event is in need of a large meeting site
 +
and the idea is to have a national-level speaker,
 +
this may mean beginning twelve to twenty-four
 +
months ahead of the event date.
 +
 +
Many meeting places and speakers are
 +
booked well in advance; for larger meeting
 +
sites there is the competition of weddings, conventions, graduations, business meetings, and
 +
other events.
 +
 +
Involve others in the planning process. If
 +
the society is a small group, use some regular
 +
meeting time to discuss future program topics
 +
and speakers.
 +
 +
If your society is large, utilize written surveys to garner program, speaker and meeting
 +
site ideas. It is important to stress that you are gathering ideas and that costs and availability are important factors which the program committee or
 +
society board must take into consideration. You might also read the newsletters and announcements of other societies and the syllabi
 +
from national conferences for more program ideas.
 +
 +
 +
== Be Cautious ==
 +
 +
Protect yourself as the program chair as
 +
well as your society with contracts or letters of
 +
agreement with the speaker detailing arrangements, travel, topics, lodging, fees, and with the
 +
meeting site and audio visual provider. Most
 +
meeting sites and national speakers have their
 +
own contracts.
 +
 +
This will help with your attendance as things
 +
will go more smoothly overall, and people will
 +
feel comfortable. If things are well run, the registrants will return next year. The speaker will
 +
let other speakers know your society is well run.
 +
 +
 +
== Publicity is a Major Key ==
 +
 +
Another reason for early planning is so you
 +
can advertise. A brochure or flyer with only
 +
a date but no speaker, topics or meeting site,
 +
doesn’t exactly cause excitement.
 +
 +
I have seen too many event flyers or newsletter announcements with speaker names or topics TBA. Get the event and go online early to
 +
catch those who spend their research time online. Think about what you are selling (yes, I said
 +
selling): the speaker, topics, parking (free, plentiful, or at least the location and cost are well
 +
explained) and amenities. What about access by public transportation?
 +
 +
A person who sees the brochure or newsletter
 +
might not attend this year, but who now knows
 +
about your group and saw the words “annual”
 +
seminar or “monthly” meeting.
 +
 +
Use the “free” advertising which can be
 +
obtained via the Federation of Genealogical
 +
Societies and the National Genealogical Society in their newsletters. There are many event
 +
websites, your own society website, and bulletin boards and flyer racks around the region.
 +
You never know who might see that notice and
 +
know they will be visiting your city on vacation or while on a business trip and can attend
 +
the event.
 +
 +
Think about the number of brochures or flyers, places to put them and plans to restock. Intrigue and excite the possible attendees before
 +
they come, while they are there, and afterward.
 +
 +
Use an early registration incentive; perhaps
 +
more door prize chances? How about significantly lower fees? Then, have higher registration fees the two weeks before the event and at
 +
the door, if space is still available.
 +
 +
Is it different from recent programs? Stress
 +
that. Do you sell the speakers and the topics?
 +
You may have heard Susan Q. Brown speak
 +
and know she’ll be a big hit with your society,
 +
but do most of the prospective registrants know
 +
who she is and her special talents? Tell them!
 +
 +
Does your society keep a mailing list or use
 +
broadcast emails for advertising seminars and
 +
regular meetings? Do you add new members,
 +
purchasers of books, class registrants, people
 +
who sign in at the local library’s genealogy
 +
room; and people whose names appear in the
 +
local newspaper who have some historical interest? Take every opportunity to add to your
 +
mailing list.
 +
 +
After the event, do those who didn’t come
 +
read the rave reviews in the newsletter, along
 +
with information on next year’s big event? They
 +
might put it on their calendar so they won’t
 +
miss next year. Do they know how many freebies were available or about the many vendors
 +
selling genealogy publications and software?
 +
This also reminds the recent registrants about
 +
the great day they experienced.
 +
 +
Does the advertising list a website, email address, or telephone number for more information? Do you mention the brown bag lunch area
 +
and include a list/map of area restaurants? Is there a prepaid luncheon or box lunch?
 +
 +
Do you have some rave reviews from other
 +
places your speaker has lectured? Ask for permission to print a couple of those in your advertising.
 +
 +
Schedule a free session at the end of the day.
 +
It could be from 3:30 to 4:30 as a Q & A panel
 +
(you might even be able to arrange to have the
 +
day’s speaker participate). Invite (with a complimentary registration)
 +
a couple of area librarians or archivists to the
 +
seminar. Build this into each event budget. If
 +
they know about the event, they may then mention it to their patrons.
 +
 +
 +
== Hold Their Hands ==
 +
 +
Even though the genealogists should be able
 +
to find a tombstone in the middle of a cornfield,
 +
they still need help for the meeting. Does the
 +
advertising clearly tell where and when the
 +
event will take place? Do the directions or map
 +
get them to the place?
 +
 +
Ride along with someone who has never
 +
been to the meeting place to see if they can
 +
find it from your directions before they get into
 +
print.
 +
 +
Does the advertising clearly sell the activities, time schedule, refreshments, vendors selling historical and genealogical books and supplies, and the tons of freebies a volunteer has
 +
accumulated? Will there be a sale of white elephant genealogical books and CDs?
 +
 +
Have outdoor signs for the parking lot entry,
 +
on building doors, and inside, so people know
 +
that they are at the right place and can easily
 +
find everything? Remember that many of us
 +
need signs and maps that are easy to read.
 +
 +
Will the event fulfill the social aspect reason
 +
that brings some of the registrants?
 +
 +
 +
== Other Preparations in Advance ==
 +
 +
Make a list of what you need that day: first
 +
aid kit, scissors, paper, markers, tape, extension
 +
cord, etc. If you and the event seem prepared,
 +
those in attendance will sense it and feel more
 +
relaxed, enjoy their day, and be more likely to
 +
return.
 +
 +
Work the angles. If your city’s mayor is a genealogist, present a free registration and inform
 +
the newspaper.  Listen to the local radio hosts; catch some ideas of their passions in life. Maybe it’s historic
 +
building preservation or the river, or something
 +
that when you have a lecture on it be sure to
 +
send a flyer. Maybe some on-air publicity will
 +
come.
 +
 +
Look at the newspaper columnists. What are
 +
their interests? Do you have members who can
 +
post flyers at work? I have left behind a flyer on
 +
the table with magazines when I leave the doctor’s office. Give your new cemetery publication to the historical society and maybe they’ll
 +
mention your next event in their newsletter.
 +
 +
 +
== Does Every Seminar or Meeting Feel the Same? Get Out of the Rut ==
 +
 +
Have you recycled topic X or topic Y with steadily decreasing attendance? Do ethnic topics work in your area? Would it be a type of
 +
seminar you could offer every few years?
 +
 +
It takes money to raise money. Think seriously about whether your plans are too big for
 +
your society. Cutbacks may be needed or other funding needs to be found.  Have a board discussion to decide if your society can really afford the money and whether
 +
it has the necessary volunteers. You will need to fulfill what you promise in print to registrants.
 +
 +
Genealogical and historical societies and
 +
book and supply vendors add to the overall
 +
good feeling. Contact area ethnic organizations
 +
and repositories. Send invitations to many types
 +
of vendors who are reasonably close (within a
 +
few hours) of your seminar site. Set reasonable
 +
table rental fees.
 +
 +
Some vendors may be able to contribute door
 +
prizes if you let them know in advance that the
 +
prize name and the name of the donor or company will appear in your newsletter and day’s
 +
program. (Don’t forget to list them!) Mentioning them briefly during the day is also a plus.
 +
 +
Have free cake for the society’s anniversary
 +
or some special event. The word “free” works
 +
wonders.
 +
 +
Open up a half hour early and have several
 +
experienced members handle a Q&A table. For
 +
regular meetings have a half hour before the organized meeting for members to come and discuss problems, discoveries, share the reference
 +
materials. Stress this free, added attraction in your
 +
newsletter.
 +
 +
Offer a beginning genealogy class
 +
the night before or early on the seminar morning at no extra charge.
 +
 +
Have gift certificate door prizes for the next
 +
seminar or discount certificates to be awarded
 +
for this year’s first ten or twenty registrants. Let
 +
them know they can pass it on to a friend or
 +
relative. Advertise the certificates in your newsletter.
 +
 +
 +
== Make Your Audience Feel Welcome ==
 +
 +
Have enough people staffing registration to
 +
make the line move quickly. Keep the business
 +
meeting short and run it tightly. A big seminar
 +
is not the time to have a bylaws discussion.
 +
 +
Introduce yourself and subsequent people at
 +
the podium. Welcome both members and non-members.
 +
 +
Have light refreshments. Either include these
 +
in the fee or set out a donation basket. Make
 +
them feel good by saying cookies are included
 +
in your registration fee. (Remember the magic
 +
word: “free.”)
 +
 +
Start and end everything on time. Have a bell
 +
or whistle to remind people ahead of time that a
 +
session is about to start.
 +
 +
Don’t run out of handouts. Never. Ever. The few dollars to print extras are worth the goodwill with last minute registrants. The extra printing saves rushing at the event and saves
 +
listening to complaints.
 +
 +
Is there a freebies table? Advertise this and remind the audience at the event. Vendors unable to come to the event may still be able to send flyers, catalogs, pamphlets.
 +
These might also be available from libraries, archives, and ethnic organizations.

Latest revision as of 15:49, 13 August 2013

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