Issue #20

Welcome to the newsletter! I hope you are enjoying these as much as I am writing them! 😄 I try to be: (1) brief (2) ad free and (3) target to organizers, speakers, and/or attendees.

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You can find this issue on the website:

Tips On “Driving Ticket Sales” 🎟️

There can come a time where you wonder if there’s anything that can be done to increase ticket sales for your conference (especially your local conference or WordCamp, which the below is primarily focused on). Take it from me, conference organizers can be anxious folks. Even those that have run “successful” and “sold out” conferences still get anxious and eye the ticket sales numbers more often that they would like to admit.

There is no magic way to get attendees to come (unless you offer literal free money?) but I can share some insight and information that has at times (but not always) helped me in the past. But more importantly it’s critical to remember how careful you should be and don’t forget what might be even more important (spoiler: I reveal this in the end).

Of course there’s information below that won’t apply, be agreed with, or maybe has been tried (unsuccessfully) by readers. That’s ok. I’m only here to share my experiences. Even if someone walks away with one new thought, that’s a win! 😄

Start Early.

Never assume last year will be the current year and that things will be “easy”. Especially if you are a volunteer based event, start talking about your event many months before (some WordCamps literally start 10 months before). You wouldn’t be promoting ticket sales directly, but actively using forums (like meetups, Slack channels, etc) to keep your audience engaged to a point (getting input from the public – some of which might turn out to be volunteers and organizers – keeps honest and genuine interest in your conference). Another thought along these lines is to have conference or WordCamp workshops in between annual events, or review past conference and WordCamp talks at meetups. Don’t overdo it, but showing that there is value from the previous year’s conference is a good way to build momentum so when tickets are being sold (along with the other announcements) it’s just that much easier for some to grab a ticket without thinking too much about going. You would like some people to look forward to attending, even if they never have been before!

Highlight What Makes This Year Different or Unique.

Note what makes this year different and special from previous years’ – regardless of how big or small these differences can be. Do you have a difference venue? Do you have different tracks or workshops (hopefully the existence of these are validated somewhat from surveys or the trends in the industry)? Is there a particular focus or theme of the conference (some WordCamps have themes… some from fun like “80s” or more professional “freelancing”)? What tracks perhaps are you expanding upon? Once you can identify what makes your conference unique and different from other similar conferences in the area (and from the same conference the year before) it becomes easier to target certain groups and customize your marketing and promotions.

Communicate Something Interesting.

Frequent communication with good content – it’s been beaten down to death but regular consistent with tidbits of content keep your audience interested. Without something new or interesting to report, it becomes harder for people to get tickets earlier (nothing brings conference organizers more joy than selling out… not from a PR or bragging rights standpoint, but simply it’s easier for logistics!).

Keep It Real.

In advertising online make sure to use when possible non-stock photos. Use real photos and videos (even GIFs) of past events. Testimonials (written, audio, and video) are effective in certain uses – often are easier to get DURING your current conference as you think about your NEXT conference. Remember to get a DIVERSE range of testimonials.

Other (Potential) Tips:

  • Early bird ticket sales (sometimes) work, but only if either you shared enough of the conference (speaker announcements, special events) or you want to award those would be buying a ticket anyway. I often find you can tap the well quickly – in other words, you might get an initial rush of tickets but after that this tactic dies out pretty quick (unless there’s content, news, or other interesting items being released…)
  • Get sponsors to help promote you on social. Often they have a reach that your social accounts will not. If you have a good social media time able to devote some time, there can be specific content (“why does WordCamp Sample City value SiteGround as a sponsor”)? You might get more shares and enthusiasm from sponsors when your conference generates this kind of content. Of course, generating this takes time so carefully judge the ROI.
  • Sending out a nicely timed email to past attendees can work but depending on where you get the emails or how they signed up this action might border on spam. Be careful and send emails sparingly. Usually good – especially for local conferences – to wait for at least some speaker announcements but with enough time for people to plan to attend (asking for time off, etc.).
  • If you are having your WordCamp or conference at a school or college, hopefully you have the ability to broadcast to students (and appropriate teachers) about the event (noting any educational or volunteer discounts, assuming you have those in place).
  • Ticket sales usually pick up when speakers are announced, when after party information is released (yep), and certain workshops and track information are published (especially if there is a limited number of seats or other considerations). The more quickly you can get this information out, generally the better (although read until the end).
  • Speaking of colleges, old school flyers can be created (WordCamp Miami did a single template and just changed out the college logo on them) and with some volunteer help (contacts or students at a school) place the flyers in public areas, tables, or classes. School newspapers (email and print) could also be a way to promote your event.
  • Find contacts at local co-working locations, coding boot camps, art schools, and similar venues (often there can be ways to send an email to members or perhaps a public wall or area to leave flyers or post announcements).
  • Depending on the conference consider reaching out to K-12 schools (especially if you are hosting a Kid’s or Youth camp or specific classes that high school or younger folks would appreciate). See if there are any teachers or school board members in your network (or parents or PTA members that could reach out). Related: youth tech or related camps… if it’s not the summer, establish relationships early and plan ahead for the next year/event (remember “start early”).
  • Find other related meetups in the area. For WordCamps, this can be meetups related to business, freelancing, programming, development, design, general education, etc. is a good way (despite my feelings on it in general) to locate meetups and contacts within a decent driving area of your event. Remember not to come off to “sales” like – imagine if you are a meetup and you get generic emails about some conference, even if that conference could be beneficial to some of your meetup group. Visiting a meetup in person, when possible, is the most sincere form of promotion these days (assuming you ask the organizer prior if you can share information about the event – for WordPress meetups, it’s concerned poor taste to hand out flyers during a meetup but be able to share something for people to check out the conference after you share some information).
  • Establish a radius around your venue and locate local hangouts – even coffee shops – that might be able to accept a flyer to post.

And Finally…

All the communication in the world won’t be enough unless you customize your message to your audience and convey how the event will benefit THEM and/or whoever they are bringing (remember I keep pushing that at least some of the event was tailored to trends and your local community to being with). Don’t forget to add genuine excitement. Try to keep your message brief in printing and online marketing. Carefully use calls to action (discounted tickets, seats remaining, limited space at a network event).

Finally, realize that for certain events some attendees will wait until the last minute to purchase a ticket. This goes for WordCamps especially. Why? Because of the ticket price (cheaper tickets – and I’ll cover the “persectived value” of low ticket prices in a future newsletter) . Add to that most WordCamps don’t have a history of selling out (I know that WordCamp Miami and Europe have in the past, and looks like WordCamp Asia’s first event is sold out).

There is simply no way to sometimes people’s habits or control when they can decide and commit to coming (keep in mind travel and personal life play a factor so can’t blame anyone). Also events can be smaller in some years compared to others sometimes due to factors outside of one’s control (another conference is happening during the same days or close enough to it, travel issues, natural disasters, etc.).

While this is likely a certain number of tickets that need to be sold to justify cost of certain items at the event remember ULTIMATELY in the end don’t focus so much energy on trying to “sell out” that you miss what even is MORE important: providing a high quality experience for those who DID buy a ticket. If you are a growing conference and have this type of thinking, often more attendees over the years will come.

Word of mouth is ultimately the best way to get more people coming to your events.

Misc. Stuff 🤷‍♂️

These tips were written and/or gathered by David Bisset, someone who’s been helping organizing conferences (such as WordCamp Miami, but others too) and meetups for over a decade. He’s still learning so share any of your tips and it might be included in a future newsletter.