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:

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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