Event Management

10 Times You Failed Your Attendees

Skift Take

Steve Jobs and many other entrepreneurs have endorsed the benefits of failure. Failure when innovating spurs ideas. Failure in doing these things as an event planner… not so much.

If you have ever watched reruns of American family shows like Leave it to Beaver, the Brady Bunch, or Eight is Enough, you probably caught an episode where one of the kids did something that disappointed the parent. It was the type of meaningful moment when you got a pit in your stomach because the idea of letting someone down who counted on you resonates with all of us. Whether it’s your parents expecting you to be more responsible or your attendees not getting what they expected, failing someone else never feels good.

Here are ten examples of how you may have failed attendees in the past. Sometimes event planners aren’t even aware of it.

Not Having a Year-Round Connection Opportunity

If you host an annual event like a conference each year, it’s important to keep people connected. After all, connections fuel attendance. If people are connected to other attendees and to you, they’re more likely to attend next year. You will save yourself a lot of marketing headache if you create a LinkedIn or Facebook group or use a private online community to keep your attendees close.

Not Using Video in Sessions

Not using video is a fail for multiple reasons. Your sessions are rich in content that can be repurposed a number of different ways from marketing collaterals for next year to virtual tickets, from resource libraries to being able to sell content afterward. Record your sessions, even if you’re just broadcasting using Facebook Live. Your attendees will appreciate it and it can help you reach a larger audience.

Missing Opportunities to Make Introductions

If you use your data well, you have the ability to make very effective introductions between attendees, vendors, sponsors, and the like. With data, you can do more than just assume it would be a mutually beneficial relationship, you can nearly ensure it. Use your data to uncover the introductions that you can assist with.

Not Using Personalized Emails

Again, there is no reason not to be using data to personalize your emails to attendees. I recently signed up to attend a conference six months from now. I took advantage of early-bird pricing and the money was pulled from my account. Since then, I have received countless notifications from the organization reminding me to sign up and advising me that the cost is increasing.

I know I am on their email and they’re marketing the conference to that list but taking a few minutes to cull the data and ensure only people who haven’t signed up yet get those notifications, is better than sending out blanket emails. All blanket emails do in this case is make people worried they are not on the registration list. This means they must contact you, something they probably don’t have time to do.

Not Keeping Early Birds in the Loop

Along those same lines, if you have people register for early-bird pricing, touch base with them periodically so they know you have their money and they’re on the list. If you don’t use this opportunity to get them excited about the event, you’re missing out because excitement often means they talk about it. Referral marketing is very powerful.

Not Doing a Deeper Dive

Often attendees become interested in topics at event sessions and want to know more. If you ignored this fact, you missed an opportunity. Instead, you can create additional content from speakers, add deeper dive content to an online community or group, or interview attendees about what they learned so others can learn from them. Sometimes speakers will be willing to do a book contest giveaway or write up some additional questions for a “more to ponder” segment on your website or online community.

Using a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Personalization is not just a trend it is a requisite now for a good attendee experience. Attendees expect it thanks to large companies that provide personalized online shopping experiences and personalized recommendations. With accessible data, there is little reason not to be personalizing communications, experiences, and offerings.

Using the Same Entertainment or Speakers

Even if your audience is vastly different year to year, there is little reason to host the exact same event each year. It’s easy to fall into a rut with the entertainment and the sessions, particularly when you have reliable suppliers. But don’t. Attendees come to events to add something new to their lives. Look for ways to make each year’s event unique and extraordinary like Coachella Music and Arts Festival that is always looking for ways to top its previous efforts.

Skimping on the WiFi

Yes, it’s terrible to have to pay for WiFi these days but if your venue offers multiple packages and you select the one with the signal strength of dial-up, you’ll have a mutiny on your hands. These days, there are very few groups who don’t expect free working WiFi. It’s become akin to an open bar from an attendee perspective. Events that don’t offer it, or skimp on WiFi and thus experience terrible connections and lackluster speed, will be talked about but not in the way you’d desire.


Event planners know there’s a fine line between attendees having plenty to do and every minute being scheduled. You need to provide time for people to meet and discuss things of their choosing. You want them to network but if everything is extremely structured, the only way to do that is by missing out on sessions or exhibit hall time. Don’t make attendees choose between sessions and meeting up with others. Give them “time off” during multi-day events or schedule mixers for those who might need a little help finding their tribe.  

In Conclusion

Often it’s not the grand failures that mess up events or hurt reputations. Most people are willing to forgive a mistake. But the times of missed opportunities or failure to connect register much deeper with attendees because they don’t seem as inadvertent. Don’t make these sorts of mistakes. They will cost you attendees in the long run and will disrupt your ability to get referrals.