Getting Butts in Seats: Asking Anchor Participants to Your Event
I love, love, loooove hosting my Plan of Attack sessions. They're really fun, and hearing the enthusiasm around creating new events and workshops for a customer base is really, really encouraging to me and to my own business.
However, usually, the LAST thing that people think about is how they're going to get people to come to their event. They're unsure about how to market, so they start planning the event before they even think about whether or not their audience would throw down their cash to attend said event.
While I have about four thousand ways to get people to come to your event, one of the things to consider is having anchor participants attend your event in order to encourage other audiences to attend as well.
Here's how most people market an event:
1) Create a website or splash page for the event
2) Send an email to your list
3) Post a bunch on social media
4) Send more emails to said list
5) Wait and wonder why ticket sales aren't going well
Here's the thing: events aren't like buying a pair of shoes. Most people have to think about taking time off work, traveling to get to said event, and budgeting the added cost of flying and staying in a hotel, if the event isn't local.
It's a lot to ask entrepreneurs (or even people from corporations) to do, so you need to prepare yourself with as many incentives as you can in order to help break down the barriers to attendance.
One way to incentivize people to come is to give away tickets to anchor participants, or people who are well known in your sphere or community, in exchange for either their help promoting your event OR simply to create legitimacy and buy in around your event.
What is an anchor participant?
An anchor participant is someone who is well-known and respected in your community, who would provide immediate legitimacy to your event. If your event is a first-time event, having people in attendance that are "bigger names" or work for big companies immediately lends credibility to your event and inherently, people will trust that they're going to get their money's worth.
How do you get anchor participants in the room?
Great question. Before you even launch your event, I suggest you spend 1-2 weeks making phone calls or sending emails to people who you'd really want at the event. I suggest phrasing it like this:
"Hey So-And-So! I'm launching an event next month and I'd really love to get your input on a few things; mainly X, Y, and Z. I see so many events popping up, and I want to make sure I'm meeting the needs of my target audience. I know you go to lots of events, so I'd love some feedback from you."
After you schedule this phone call, and they seem totally bought into your idea, you ask them if they'd be interested in attending, in exchange for being able to be listed as a participant on the site, as well as inviting any friends they may have to the event.
Most people say yes to this, and it's a good way to start building out your registration list, before you've even opened ticket sales.
How do I show anchor participants on my website and marketing efforts?
Easy! You can add an area to your sales page that says "Participants" and list out all the anchors that have already signed up.
You can also add it as section of to your mass email campaigns, with the title "Special Guests and Speakers."
Finally, you can post on social media with your participants' headshot and a quick bio and say "XYZ is coming to the event. Are you?"
Additionally, you can ask your anchor participants to spread the word for you, either via Instagram or via Twitter OR on their own email list (which is, like, the holy grail!).
Your turn! Have you ever been asked to be an anchor participant? Have you ever asked someone to come for free just because their presence will invite legitimacy?