The Trick to Increasing Pre-Registration to Attendee Conversions


By Michelle Bruno

It’s much easier for trade show organizers to get online, pre-event registrations than it is to convert those registrations to actual attendees. Even if the event content is compelling and the timing is right, a certain percentage of registrants fail to actually show up at most events—a metric that makes it challenging for exhibition organizers to plan effectively.

There are plenty of reasons why registrants fail to attend—schedule conflicts, last-minute work emergencies, projects suddenly coming due or the registrant simply forgetting about the event. In order to improve the event’s chances of keeping the non-attendance rate low, it’s helpful to understand and leverage what ultimately draws business professionals to an event and acting on that information.

A 2013 study from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reveals what attendees want from trade shows. 69% say they attend to meet “shopping needs,” including see new technology, talk to experts, discover and interact with new products, compare brands, and gather competitive intelligence. 66% of attendees attend to meet “learning needs,” such as find out about industry trends, network with other professionals, improve job performance, and develop skills.

While publishing exhibitor lists and conference agendas contribute to registration and attendance, there are ways to effectively leverage the value of networking, in particular, to improve pre-registrant-to-attendee conversion rates:

  • Use the pre-event marketing campaign to inform prospects of their ability to view other registrants from their social networks when they too register, if they elect to use social registration.
  • During registration, provide registrants with the opportunity to view others from within their social networks that are already registered.
  • Encourage registrants to post status updates advising their respective networks that they will be attending the event or to send personal invitations to others in their networks inviting them to register for the event.
  • Send personalized emails to registrants to advise them of individuals from their networks that have subsequently registered or to inform them of the benefits of going back into the social registration platform to connect with others about the event.
  • Provide exhibitor staff with the ability to log in to see who from their own networks or followers of the company are registered and give them the opportunity to invite their prospects to the event.
  • Analyze data post event to determine how connected the registrants were and the actions that registrants took—if they sent invitations to others, posted status updates or returned to the social registration platform (after registering) to see if any of their network contacts also registered—prior to attending.

Success on any digital channel depends on collecting data and making changes to processes or forms based on that data. For example, GleanIn recently ran an A/B test on the impact of the order of appearance of two different calls to action—send an invitation and post a status update—on the dashboard that appears when a registrant chooses to register socially.

The A/B test revealed that by positioning the “Invite a Guest” (send an invitation) call to action first in the dashboard, registrations increased more than when the “Please Spread the Word” (post a status update) appeared in the first position. It also demonstrated that when Invite a Guest appears at the top, attendees are more likely to engage by sending an invitation and posting a status update. Higher engagement from registrants results in more conversions.

Social registration not only helps exhibition organizers find new registrants—especially when registrants are engaged and encouraged to send personal invitations to others in their online and offline networks, but it improves the percentage of registrant-to-attendee conversions. Networking is an important reason why people attend trade shows and when they do—judging by the effectiveness of personal invitations—they enjoy networking with people they already know. 

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