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Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees

Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees: 4 Tactics to Try

Of course you want to provide an exceptional experience for ALL of your conference attendees, but ensuring that happens for your first-time attendees is particularly important. Their decision to attend future events (and possibly even renew their membership) depends heavily on that first experience, so going the extra mile for those folks, in particular, is certainly worth it.

What does “going the extra mile” for your first-time attendees look like? Here are a few tactics worth trying:

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12 Easy Ways to Make Your Conference Stand Out

Posted by Callie Walker


If you’re like most organizations, your conference is your biggest event of the year. So how can you make it REALLY stand out?

We’ve got 12 tips:

  • Have a welcome team - First impressions go a long way. Make sure you have a group of staff members/volunteers ready to greet attendees as they walk in the door.
  • Provide attendees with a map - Conference centers are often huge. Help your attendees out by providing them with a map of the area. (Note: You may want to provide them with two maps - one of the conference center and one of the city in which your conference is being held.)
  • Supply “swag bags” upon check-in - Who doesn’t love some good swag?! Consider giving out t-shirts, stickers, water bottles, etc. If you’re working with a low budget, this is where your vendors can really come into play. They might have some swag they’d like to contribute as part of a sponsorship opportunity.
  • Acknowledge first-timers - You want your first-timers to turn into second-timers, third-timers, fourth-timers, and so on, so it’s important that you give them a warm welcome. Consider giving your first-time attendees a sticker or badge that identifies them as such. That way, not only will you be able to recognize them, but they’ll be able to recognize each other.
  • Utilize directional signs - Like we said, conference centers are huge. In addition to the maps you give out, make sure you have directional signs placed throughout the venue to guide people along.
  • Make the WiFi seamless - Conferences are all about connecting, and WiFi is a critical component of that. To make logging in a breeze, make sure your WiFi credentials are clearly stated - on pamphlets in your swag bags, on PowerPoint presentations, etc.
  • Determine an official hashtag - Speaking of WiFi and connections, you’ll want to have a designated hashtag for people to use during your conference. This just makes engagement easier. And like your WiFi credentials, you’ll want to have your hashtag clearly stated as well - on pamphlets, on PowerPoints, etc.
  • Offer charging stations - People will be using all sorts of devices during your conference - phones, laptops, tablets, etc. That said, consider offering charging stations to give your attendees some “juice.” (Note: If you’re selling sponsorships at your event, charging stations make for GREAT advertising real estate.)
  • Have a “quiet space” - The concept of quiet space (or whitespace, as some people call it) is becoming more and more popular. It’s basically just a quiet space where attendees can relax and gather their thoughts. Conferences can be hectic, so if you want yours to be enjoyable, consider offering a little quiet space.
  • Make sure your staff members stand out - Even with maps and directional signs, people will still have questions. Make it easy for them to identify staff members/volunteers to approach. This may mean wearing the same color or having unique lanyards of some sort. Either way, just make sure your team is easily recognizable.
  • Organize a contest - Contests can be the cherry on top of a truly great event. They get people excited, and often, engaged. If you have vendors at your event, you may even want to incorporate them. For example, consider putting together a scavenger hunt involving your vendors’ booths. This is a quick and easy way to get your attendees and vendors talking.
  • Thank your attendees - Last but not least, ALWAYS thank your attendees. It’s a nice gesture, and one that shouldn’t go overlooked.

Want more tips for planning your next conference or event? Check out our free Event Planning Guide below!

8 Steps to Event Planning Success  A step-by-step guide to planning the perfect event Download this guide

Topics: association leadership, event planning, member engagement, Association Views

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