A Personalized Approach to Alumni Retention

By Kimberly (KC) Coerr and Shauna Peters

The easiest audience to convert to registrants should be past attendees. They have first-hand familiarity and (hopefully) positive feelings about the event to inform their decision to return. And yet, many shows experience low alumni retention rates. So how do you retain past attendees? Get personal.

Customizing communication with past attendees gives you a head start to ensure they return year after year.

Here are four simple, proven ideas to get you started:

  • Give an incentive. Send prior attendees a personalized email recognizing their “alumni” status and offering a discounted rate (or other value add) as an enticement to register for next year’s event as early as possible. Give specific reasons why they can’t afford to miss the next event, such as continuing the networking or business started at the prior event, updates on industry-specific policy or legislation or other time-sensitive topics.
  • Simplify registration. Work with your registration vendor to provide personalized URLs that pre-populate alumni demographic information. The call to action –register today – can be tailored with a “one-click” button that streamlines registration. Minimizing the process shows the attendee that you appreciate their past attendance and are eager to see them again next year.
  • Personalize event messaging. Since this prospect has already attended, you can skip selling him/her on the concept of the event. Rather, focus messaging on the new products, speakers, education sessions and features that keep the program fresh in their minds and highlight specific value in returning to the event.
  • Create ambassadors. Position past attendees as experienced leaders within the industry / organization and call upon them to mentor new members and first time attendees. By combining these groups and creating a mentorship program before, during and post-event, you create additional buy-in from both audiences by maximizing their involvement. It also helps ease concerns and anxiety of the new member attending for the first time by providing a built-in network and warm welcome, through these event ambassadors, before they set foot at the meeting.

These strategic, targeted approaches to audience retention go a long way toward creating a human connection, engendering loyalty from past attendees and ultimately helping your organization achieve its audience goals.



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