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Discouraging Event Attendance

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Ephraim Schwartz has an entry in his Reality Check blog for InfoWorld in which he expresses dissatisfaction with registration and attendance requirements for a recent IBM/Lotus web conference.

He quotes the registration notice for the Lotus product announcement webinar:

“To participate in the Web conference you will need an IBM ID and password. If you already have an IBM ID and password you may proceed directly to the Web conference. If you do not have an IBM ID… [he paraphrases the rest] setting one up is quick and easy and will only take 10 minutes, after which it will be activated within another ten minutes.”

Schwartz says that as a busy reporter on deadline, he doesn’t have 20 minutes “to play games with passwords and user IDs.”

It would be easy to get all snippy at this point and call Ephraim a whiner, but he accurately represents a huge proportion of your potential audience for any event. Every extra step you force prospects to take and every extra minute of their time they have to spend pre-event reduces the likelihood that they will sign up and attend your webcast.

People who use the Internet for research and communication expect things to be available on demand at their request. Putting delays and barriers to fulfillment frustrates your audience before you even get a chance to start communicating with them.

Think carefully about what you really need from your audience to fulfill your own goals. If you follow up events with an email, just ask for their name and email address at registration. Everything else is gravy. Add a poll or survey or web page to get additional information once you have them hooked. A great way to get this additional information is to send out a pre-event email and ask your registrants what is of interest to them and what they want to hear about on event day. Now that you are offering them something of benefit for their efforts and engaging in a two-way communication, they are more likely to tell you more about themselves without getting frustrated.

Naturally, the ground rules change for events that require additional security. If registrants have to pay to attend, they should expect to provide information about themselves as they would for any type of electronic payment transaction. If the webinar information is confidential and is only being offered to a select group of qualified participants, they should expect to have to identify themselves as part of that group. In both cases it is important to remind your audience why you are asking for the additional information and to make them feel special (and unthreatened).

I’m aware that the idea of setting up IDs and passwords on a site basis has a legitimate rationale behind it. If people have a unique identifier, they can avoid having to reenter all their personal details every time they want to view one of your events. This is a convenience they should appreciate! Unfortunately, the psychology of event attendance doesn’t work that way. People don’t assume they will be coming back and viewing many different shows from you. Their decision to attend an event is based on an impulse spurred by the specific content offered for that webcast and their availability at the time and date it is offered. Giving them an additional ID and password for yet another website (with yet another potential for hacking and loss of personal information) is seen as an imposition, not a benefit.

[Disclaimer... I'm talking almost exclusively about public marketing and informational events. Not remote training and coursework that has an expectation of continuity and multiple sessions.]

With all that said, I have to point out that if you register to attend my webinar with Adobe covering tips for online speakers, you’re going to go through the same kind of ID/Password request I’ve just been arguing against. Sorry. I have no control over this, as I’m just a humble guest speaker and not in charge of the Adobe site. Adobe puts on lots of web events, and somebody at corporate decided to make life easier for the stalwarts who come back time and again. So for a simple one-off visit to my webinar, you will be asked to create an Adobe visitor ID and you’ll get a password. It takes a little extra time. I hope you’ll go ahead and jump through the extra hoop. My audiences for this topic have been very complimentary about the content and presentation, and I think you’ll find it was worth the extra effort.

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With a background in software development and marketing, Ken has been producing and delivering business webinars since 1999. His background in public speaking, radio, stage acting, and training has given him a unique perspective on what it takes to create a compelling and effective presentation. Currently Ken offers consulting services through his company Webinar Success (www.wsuccess.com).

Discouraging Event Attendance
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About Ken Molay
With a background in software development and marketing, Ken has been producing and delivering business webinars since 1999. His background in public speaking, radio, stage acting, and training has given him a unique perspective on what it takes to create a compelling and effective presentation. Currently Ken offers consulting services through his company Webinar Success (www.wsuccess.com). WebProNews Writer
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