Questions to Ask When the Numbers are Low

Sometimes event registration doesn’t go quite as well as we hope. The number of attendees we plan to have are not as high as we need them to be. In fact, the event might be on the brink of cancellation due to low attendance. (How do you know when to cancel? We’ll discuss that in another blog post soon!)

When the guest numbers are lower than expected, here are questions you can ask to gain a better understanding of why you may be in this situation:

  • Have you marketed the event well? Whether through social media, mailouts, personal invites, emails, flyers, radio or other marketing means, do people know about your event?
  • Is this an event people want to attend? Does the theme entice people to come? Do people want to hear from the platform speakers? Would you want to attend your event if you were a paying guest?
  • Is the event location convenient? Do people have to travel too far? If flying, are there clear instructions on how to best get to the event location from the airport?
  • Is the price reasonable? Too high, and you’ll limit your number of guests because people can’t afford it. Too low, and you might run into people thinking the event isn’t high quality.
  • What is the weather typically like during the time of your event? If it is a snowy season, guests may be hesitant to book travel.
  • Is the time of your event conducive to the guests to which you are marketing? For example, a senior adult retreat can more easily occur during the week than a marriage conference where couples may have to secure childcare or take off of work.
  • Are there competing events during the same time? In addition to other conferences, are there events that might affect a majority of your guests? These could include graduations, sporting events, holidays, etc. If attendees are coming from the same area, and your event is planned for the weekend of the high school state football tournament, this might be a reason numbers are low. If you are planning a men’s event, have you looked to see when the next major sporting event near your date is?

At the end of the day, sometimes we can’t explain why event registration numbers aren’t what we had hoped, expected, or budgeted. It’s natural to be disappointed, but, if you ask yourselves the above questions, perhaps you can get a better understanding of the whys to your low numbers. If it’s not too late, you can act on these, as well. For example, market your event if there is still time. Change the date if it is a possibility. Adjust the pricing structure if it fits within your budget. You can’t plan for every situation, and you can’t please everyone with the date your event falls. However, with a little pre-planning research, you can hopefully avoid a low attendance.

 

BlueFire: An Online Tool for Event Registration

Effective registration is crucial for a successful event. First impressions are key, and for many, registering for an event is the first interaction they have with the host organization. As an event planner, an uncomplicated registration process can allow you to spend time on other details.

While it is possible to create your own registration system, there are online programs available that can streamline the process and virtually take care of it for you. BlueFire is one such online service specifically designed for US-based nonprofit, religious or educational organizations. A faith-based company, BlueFire exists to help nonprofits make giving and getting involved easy for their supporters. According to representative Ben Reese, “Our mission as a company is to provide helpful tools for your organizations to collect payments and donations in any way that they choose. This includes only using BlueFire for event registrations, even free events.” (BlueFire was initially launched to help nonprofits accept online donations. Since inception, it has expanded to include benefits such as event registration, as outlined below.)

Signing up for BlueFire is very simple. An easy, step-by-step guide is available on the BlueFire website, gobluefire.com. There are no set-up fees, monthly charges or contracts to sign. Registration with BlueFire includes registration with HaloPays, the payment processor and payment gateway that will be used behind-the-scenes. HaloPays charges a low percentage transaction fee.

After reviewing BlueFire, here are a few benefits:

  • BlueFire easily integrates into your current website.
  • You can set up both free and paid events for your organization. Secure payment by credit, debit or e-check is available.
  • In addition to registration and payment, registrants can also provide information such as t-shirt size, dietary restrictions, etc.
  • It is possible to take payments on location with a USB credit card swiper.
  • BlueFire supports unlimited administrator, webmaster and accountant-level accounts, allowing organizations to provide appropriate access to any of their members.
  • You can easily monitor registrations and payments in one spot.
  • BlueFire is PCI-DSS compliant.

Reese also adds, “With BlueFire, our organizations don’t just receive a flexible and robust event registration system. They also receive a powerful donation and payment system with user-friendly reporting and reconciliation tools, reliable 3-day batch processing and the support of an organization that wants to see Jesus Christ magnified.”

When it’s time for your next event registration, don’t feel like you have to begin from scratch. There are tools designed to help your registration be as successful as possible.

These opinions and thoughts are my own, and I have not been compensated from BlueFire for this blog post…I just really like their software!

 

Write On: A Sample Pre-Event Communication to Your Attendees

Sending out an email, letter or packet to those who register for your event is an excellent idea.  It allows you to provide them with necessary details and to communicate your event purpose and personality.  Here is a sample of what such a letter might include:

Dear Thomas,

We have received your registration for the 2012 Pastor’s Training Event on March 15, 2013 in Asheville, NC.  We are looking forward to providing you with encouragement and tools that will enable you to better teach, inspire, comfort, train and pray for your congregation when you return home.

Schedule:

March 15 2013
3 pm    Registration, Rollings Conference Hall
5 pm    Dinner in Ballroom
6:30     Large Group Worship, Rollings Room 500

March 16 2013
7 am    Breakfast, Dining Hall
8 am    Large Group Worship Rollings Room 500
10 am  Break out Sessions (see attached sheet for details, no reservations needed)
12 noon Lunch, Dining Hall
3 pm    Final Large Group Worship, Rollings Room 500

Included in this packet you will find recommendations on lodgings, all of which provide an airport shuttle to the Rollings Conference Center.  The average temperature in Asheville, NC in March is 43 degrees Fahrenheit, the locals dress in layers and wear a good coat outside!  During this time of training, encouragement and worship, please feel free to dress casually.  We encourage you to bring your Bible, and participants in the past have told us they benefit greatly by bringing a notebook and business cards.  Wireless internet access will be provided in the conference hall, but we ask that computers not be used during the large group worship sessions.  If you have any questions, please contact Jeremy Tyler, Event Support Leader at 828.669.1234 or jeremy.tyler@pte.com

Sincerely,

David Grouper
Pastor’s Training Event

A letter like the one above communicates care, organization and intentionality.  The attendee now knows where to make reservations, what to pack, and what the main purpose of his time in Asheville will be.  Detailed packing lists are needed only when younger participants are involved or the situation will be out of the ordinary (like camping).  Think carefully through what information it is important your participants have before arriving, and also what questions they might have.  Addressing these in a pre-conference communication will save you lots of time and phone calls!