It’s Not What You Know… It’s Who You Know

Event Attendance

Competition for event attendance continues to heat up. Planners are charged with improving attendance year after year in a highly competitive event marketplace where it seems like more events are vying for attention every day. The pressure to include the latest innovation, to locate in a trendy location, to present A-list entertainment, and to offer gluten-free, farm-to-table, organic, low carb, vegetarian, pescatarian, low-cal culinary fare has never been more intense. However, recent research into what factors have the greatest effect on attendance indicates that influencers have a greater impact on attendance than any of the factors listed above.


People do business with people they trust. This mantra has been part of the planner’s lexicon for many years. In whatever ecosystem an event is taking place, there are always influential people that dominate the conversation. When an “influencer” endorses an event the positive impact on attendance is always substantial.

  • The planner’s first job, therefore, is to identify the top five or ten influencers in an event’s ecosystem (food-tech-medicine-autos-etc.). Who are the personalities that everyone potentially attending the event would love to rub elbows with? For example, if your event is a food event, a celebrity chef might be your “influencer”. The planner must decide who is a credible voice and then enlist them to promote the event.
  • The second step is to decide what role an “influencer” might play. If the obvious role of “presenter” is off the table for some reason, perhaps your “influencer” may be willing to play the role of ambassador. He/she may be willing to meet with other influential people in the field and spread the word by endorsing your upcoming event. Influencers may also use their social media network to “chat up” an event or even be a paid spokesman. There are many roles key influencers can play, and planners must decide how best to utilize the influencers they identify and employ.

Tribal Leaders

Tribal leaders are also important players in any event’s attendance program. A tribal leader is someone who already attends your event, but with a little encouragement, can be persuaded to bring along close associates (club members-employees-colleagues-family members). Non-profits have used tribal leaders as table captains for years by leveraging one interested party into a table for ten.

Tribal Analysis

An important part of pre-event strategic planning should be the process of tribal analysis. Not unlike the social selection process used in high school, planners analyze attendance lists, sorting people into groups of like interests. Who are the jocks? Who are the geeks? Who are the brains? Who likes to party? What planners know is that each social subgroup has a tribal leader. The planner’s job is to find a way to motivate the tribal leader to increase his following every year. There’s always room for one more, and the tribal leader always knows who that “one more” is. If ten “table captains” each add one more guest to their table, attendance increases.


Multi-level marketing may be a sleazy concept in certain circles, but not in event attendance competition. A simple MLM method for event planners is to identify perhaps 10 faithful attendees who can be encouraged to bring one more person with them to an event. Technically, these are neither influencers or tribal leaders, but are simply faithful attendees who have attended the event more than once. Usually they are targeted with an Email campaign offering them a gift if they bring a guest to the event. These ten guests can then be motivated with gifts or free tickets to bring a guest with them etc. etc. It’s amazing, if you persist year in and year out with a little MLM-like activity how attendance grows. Planners often assign this task to an associate who is learning the event planning business.

Who You Know

Understanding and utilizing the concepts of Influencers, Ambassadors, Tribal Leaders, and Multi-level marketing will help keep your event attendance growing. The event attendance market has become too competitive to leave it to traditional advertising techniques. Planners must make it personal.

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