How to avoid event fatigue


Your social engagement is good, your core demographic is strong, and your attendee retention rates are solid year on year. So why are your overall event numbers dropping?

Event fatigue is not just something experienced by consumers. Event organisers should also be wary of the complacency that comes with staging the same event year after year. Keeping an event exciting, and interesting enough for attendees to put it in their calendar every year, presents its own set of challenges. How do you maintain and grow interest in an event over a number of years?

The City to Surf is a fun run that has happened in my home city (Sydney Australia) every year since 1971 and continues to attract record entrants of around 85,000 every year. Tough Mudder is an obstacle race that has been running since 2010, operating at multiple (and changing) locations in a number of countries, and to date has had over 2 million entrants worldwide. The Woodford Folk Festival is a music festival now in its 30th year, and 22 years at the same location. While there are many other long running events worthy of mention, let’s look at the factors in these 3 examples that promote event longevity.

The first commonality of longevity is simple – getting people together. The reasons can be many: a fun day out with friends, supporting a great charity, being part of something bigger than yourself, personal challenge/group challenge, a PB for the course, learning something, trying something new. Events are almost always about sharing a great experience with other people, even when the end result is an individual one. The more group drivers your event encapsulates the better.

The City to Surf fun run appeals to elites looking to run a fast time as much as it does to a guy in a gorilla suit out for a fun day with his friends, and also has a strong charity fundraising focus. Tough Mudder promotes the group ethos of looking after each other as you tackle various obstacles, has a charity focus on returned servicemen, and creates a “be part of the club” culture with their bright orange headbands. The Woodford Folk Festival, like all music festivals, is about the shared experience of being part of a large and diverse crowd all enjoying the same music and attractions. Each of these events has strong group drivers that entice new people, and keep others coming back.

Secondly, events need to change as well as stay the same. Keep your format fresh so people readily understand what type of event you are, but still get surprised and delighted by changes you make. Woodford relies on freshness for it’s longevity by bringing new and different acts to the lineup each year, as well as an ever changing arts, and crafts, programme. An exciting new lineup peppered with some familiar faces, has kept people coming back to the “same”event for decades as well as continually enticing new attendees every year.

Tough Mudder changes its location and its obstacles every year, giving people motivation to come back to try what’s new while still understanding they are in for a 20km obstacle race. Tough Mudder also create a club within a club by rewarding those who attend more than once with a different headband, giving people incentive to return in order to achieve status within their social circle. Even the City to Surf, which relies on the familiar tradition of running the exact same course every year, promotes different yearly entertainment and celebrity interaction at pre and post race.

Finally and most importantly, continue to move to where people’s attention is. Each of these long running events has a strong online and social media presence, as well as great event management software to help them sell tickets, and much more. Oh sure, The City to Surf relied heavily on print advertising in the 80’s and 90’s, in the same way Woodford would have used radio and posters to get people along in its early days. Yet each of these events has now moved to where people’s attention is. Once the internet came along, and then as social media took peoples attention it was important that the event organisers moved with the technology to keep their event numbers strong, from a great online experience through to mobile native app engagement.

Today, working out where your potential attendees, and past customers, are spending time is about trying a number of different social platforms, and then working out what types of content will best engage your community through those channels. Combine this with a fresh online presence, and event management software that provides you timely feedback on your attendees and conversion rates. Always keep an eye on where your potential customers are spending their time. Is it Instagram or Snapchat, or are Twitter and Facebook getting solid traffic? Maybe it still works to have a targeted poster/flyer programme to your key demographic. Wherever your potential attendees are putting their attention, is where you want to be engaging them with your event.

There’s a consistent amount of work needed each and every time you run an event to make sure your numbers continue to grow year after year. In a busy market it’s never enough to reload the same thing each time and expect people to continue to turn up. The winning formula over the long term will be a constantly moving target, and you will need to move with it.

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