3 things to do at your current event to increase attendance next year

empty arena
Photo Credit: tochis via Compfight cc

I’ve been writing a lot about events lately with my posts on Adventure Week 13 and the #1 Question you need to ask when planning an event. This week we are in the middle of our VBS on steroids program for birth – 6th grade. We’ve have over 850 kids in attendance and well over 200 volunteers. It’s been an absolute blast so far and I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

All of us our a bit afraid of what we see above…empty seats.┬áBut today I wanted to share one of the most important things that you can learn about event promotion and getting students in the doors at your event. It’s just like your favorite blogs.

Your events are all about the content.

The events with the best content are the events that win over and over again. It takes long hours and lots of creative thinking to create amazing content year after year. But if you are struggling every single year to top your theme, graphics, and promotional strategy then let me change the way you think of promoting your event. Here are 3 surefire things to do this year that will increase your attendance at next year’s event.

1. More pictures /videos less words

You can only say how awesome your event is in so many ways. Awesome, amazing, unbelievable. After a bit, these all get old and boring anyway. But stories never, ever get old. Here is an example of how we use pictures to help us tell a story of what we want to happen in the lives of our students.

All of these students are students that attended our camp. They are sold that it’s the best camp on the planet and they can say it not only with their words but also with their faces. As they tell the story of something that made an impact on them, we make sure to show it to our students in the video.

Take pictures/video of your current event and use them for next year.

2. Know your big thing

You might think that the messages at your camp or VBS are the things that stick in the skulls of your kids. For all I know they might be, but make sure that’s really the big thing for your kids. There are two things that you notice from the stories above.

  • Lake Time
  • Hummers

It would be so easy to manipulate these and talk about the amazing friendships and conversations (even though a few students mentioned them) but if that’s not what stuck out, it won’t make the biggest impact.

Ask your students and leaders what has been their favorite. Find your moneymaker and use it in promotion next year.

3. WOW them

Michael Hyatt in his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, has an entire section called, “The How of Wow”. It was all about blowing away the expectations of your customers. It would be helpful for you to outline what students and parents expect from your event the way you promoted it.

Here’s a very brief outline:

Students Expectations
  • Students expect to have fun
  • Students expect to meet people at camp
  • Students expect to have food at camp
  • Students expect to do something at camp
Parent’s Expectations
  • Parents expect their children to be safe
  • Parents expect their children to have fun
  • Parents expect their children to learn something valuable
  • Parents expect their children to improve their relationships with other students
  • Parents expect for the staff to be prepared for camp

These are the baseline minimum. How can you totally blow these expectations out of the water. Clarify what each of these mean for your context.

For example, Parents expect their child to be safe. Their child is deemed safe when their is a safe adult-leader ratio, someone present with medical training, and safety procedures and processes in place.

Wow could be something like this:

  • We will give each parent a packet of information containing the name of the leader in their cabin, a short bio, and why we selected them as a leader.
  • We will have a certified RN with us at camp to take care of any emergencies and will provide in the packets information to the nearest emergency facility.
  • We will include in our parent packet the number of their leader, the rules of camp, the consequences of not following those rules, lake procedures and the number of the camp as well as the address and map to where we are staying.
  • We will also include a short video to parents helping to ease their concerns either during promotion or with a link to the packet adequately explaining why we’ve selected this particular camp as the perfect camp for their student.
  • Make a separate promotional video for parents and kids. In the parents video talk about our awareness of safety and that we care about their child. Here’s an example of what we did this year:

See how those are so much different than the baseline expectation?


Find out your baseline expectations during your current event. Find them for Students, Leaders, and Parents. Pick 2 or 3 for each category and just WOW them.

Try to remember this pithy statement…

If you take the time to wow, their attendance they will vow.


Bonus: Create a note in Evernote of what’s working/not working

Here are a few things that I include in that note:

  • Checklist of things that need to be reviewed for next year
  • Wins, Losses, and things to mull
  • Ideas or inspiration for next year
  • Premium Promotional Pictures (awesome pictures that you want to use in your promotion)

Last thing and so important here…

**If anyone ever says I didn’t expect this (positive or negative) then write it down and put it into Evernote.**

So those are 3 surefire ways that you can use your current event to increase attendance for next year.

What’s the most important thing you’ve done to increase attendance at your events?