When an organization hires me to speak and/or do an interactive drumming activity at a mental health event, I only get to see things from the perspective of preparing my presentation(s) and logistics (travel, shipping, etc.). As I’ve developed relationships with meeting planners who produce mental health events, I’ve learned a lot about the challenges and frustrations that go along with producing one. Mental health events include conferences, forums, fairs, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Here are 7 proven and practical tips for getting more people to your events. These tips came from being a member of Meeting Professionals International, conversations with successful meeting planners, and my own personal experience. If you don’t produce mental health events, but know someone or an organization who does, I encourage you to share this with them.
- Create short videos to promote your event. For most events that I’m hired to present at, I offer to film a short video of me inviting people to come to the event. This allows people to learn more about my presentation(s) and possibly develop a connection with me.
In an article titled, Make New Friends: How to Attract First Time Attendees, author Karen Rea suggests “providing quick, fun videos that give attendees a sense of what they can expect. These don’t have to be fancy productions requiring production specialists. Using a smart phone you can tape an executive giving a quick overview of the event. Interview a past attendee or exhibitor to get their experience and advice for others. Provide some quick video footage of the venue, the parking. Rather than promotional, these videos should have a ‘how to’ vibe to them – how to get the most out of the event. Any or all of these options will give people a better feel for the event than written words on a website ever could.”
ACTION: Read How to Make a Promotional Video…
- Host friendraisers prior to your event. Yes, you read that correctly. Friendraisers (not fundraisers) are small events that you host to build relationships with new people. You can do this through activities that include a small party at someones home, a bowling event, a barbecue, etc. Your current supporters (or donors) simply invite some of their friends. It’s that simple.ACTION: Read “Fund-Raiser” or “Friend-Raiser?”…
- Let people know about the results from your last event. Through videos, marketing copy, and friendraisers, let people know about the highlights of your last event. Maybe you had a really good speaker or really interactive workshop that helped your attendees. Share about it enthusiastically! Your enthusiasm about your previous events is important for Transforming Stigma™.
“Keep up your enthusiasm! here is nothing more contagious than exuberant enthusiasm.” – Harry Houdini
ACTION: Read How to Make the Sell with Enthusiasm…
- Focus on a marketing to specific group of people. You can’t be all things to all people, and neither can your event. When you focus on a specific group of people, you have a better opportunity to position your event as an ‘expert’ event and distinguish your brand.
Ralph Heibutzki, of the Houston Chronicle, says that “Learning to distinguish between different audiences makes it easier to determine what segments of consumers truly support your business and whether they are going to become more than one-purchase customers.”
ACTION: Read How to Discover Your Perfect Customer in 5 Steps…
- Create sessions that focus on small wins to specific problems. People want solutions to their problems. They want solutions that are simple easy, and allow them to experience quick wins. This is the paradigm that I have when I prepare for my presentations. Recovery stories are critical to Transforming Stigma™, but the truth is that no one is going to pay money and/or take time out of their busy schedule just to hear another recovery story. If they really want to hear one, they can find many on YouTube. In fact, you can see an example of creating small wins in this article. At the end of each point, I give you a link to a specific action that you can take on each point.
Jeff Hurt of VelvetChaninsaw.Com says that“Providing high-quality conference learning experiences is a conference game changer.”
- Fun and games. Please excuse my bluntness, but a majority of mental health events are BORING! Also, many focus on the negative aspects of life with mental health challenges. I’ve been told by many of the meeting planners who hired me to facilitate my Drum Up Your Feelings™ workshop that Iwas hired because they desperately wanted to add fun and energy to their event. Your event, however,won’t be boring or negative. And no, you don’t need to hire me to make it fun.ACTION: Read The Big Book of Humours Training Games…
- Leverage social media. I’m not going to suggest which specific platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that you use. However, I highly encourage you to educate yourself about using social media effectively. In addition you want to take advantage of the many tools that make social media marketing easier. For myself, I have found Hootsuite, Buffer, and Infusionsoft to be the most effective. In fact, if you clicked on this article through my Facebook page or my Twitter profile, Hootsuite automatically detected it within an hour of me publishing it and posted it for you. I Love Automation!!!
Before the event:
- Create an event on Facebook – share this on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr (Yes, you should have a profile on each of those platforms).
- Create an event #hashtag and put it on all of your marketing materials.
- Put information about your social media profiles on all of your marketing materials.
- Tell the story of your event in small, bit-sized, and consistent updates that post until the day of your event.
- Create infographics and use pictures in all of your social media updates.
During the event:
- Have a point person to manage social media throughout the event. This person’s sole job is to respond to social media mentions and keep conversations going.
- Remind your attendees to follow your social media profiles and encourage them to take pictures, video, post, and share. Do this enthusiastically!
After the event:
- Share pictures, videos, and insights gained from your event on your social media updates.
- Thank everyone who was involved in your event.
- Ask for suggestions for future events.
Use the power of the media to bring even more attention to your event.
ACTION: Create your own press release and submit it to local and national news media outlets, such as television news stations, radio news stations, newspapers, magazines, and blogs.
As you focus on getting more attendees to your event, remember that no matter how many people attend, you want the right people to attend. In my experience, the most valuable part of a mental health event is the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations.
Peter Gomez said it best in a recent article in Meeting Professionals International Magazine. “The key is not to define success or failure in the logistical elements of our job,” he says. “It’s not the temperature of the coffee that matters, it’s the conversations that take place around the coffee pot that do.”
As you plan your event, whether it be a conference, symposium, forum, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, please accept my sincerest gratitude to you for the work you are doing. It is through live events like yours that move us forward to living in a stigma-free world. As you manage the different challenges that come up along the way, be sure to remember why you are doing your event.
Thank you for Transforming Stigma™!