Tips for Getting Attendees To Commit Earlier

For many conventions getting people to commit early can be troublesome. Whether it's GM's submitting events they want to run, or attendees buying badges, or exhibitors signing up to exhibit, getting them to sign up can feel like herding cats. 

People are incentive driven creatures, so it's just a matter of finding the right incentives to get them to commit. Unfortunately, all too often convention organizers throw "free stuff" at the problem, thinking that is an incentive. As with any measurable objective, if you don't establish the rules for achieving that objective in advance, how will you ever know you achieved success? In other words, don't just give people something they want, tell them what they have to do in order to get the stuff they want.

Attendees

One thing that works well to get attendees to sign up faster is to sell badge types that have earlier access to signing up for events than others. Especially if you make those early access badges relatively rare compared to the overall number of attendees for your con. For example, if you have 1000 attendees, you might sell 100 early access badges. You can also charge more for these, so if your standard weekend pass is $50, you might charge $70 for early access badges.

One of the best incentive systems we've seen for getting attendees to buy their badges early comes from  Gary Con. They create special events that are limited access in nature, and then sell various badge levels with increasing levels of access to these special events. For example, their special events will be high profile ones where a game designer, publisher, or artist is the host of the event. A low level badge might be able to sign up for 1 such event, where higher level badges might get the ability to sign up for 2, 3, 4, or 5 specialty events. They then set their badge type tiers such that the badge types that have more special events attached to them, are relatively rare. It sets up a tremendous incentive to get your badge early, because you want access to get these special events. 

Badge Type # of Special Events Days of Early Access Reg Price Quantity Available
Silver 1 0 $70 1400
Gold 2 7 $160 175
Platinum 3 14 $500 20
Diamond 6 21 $1000 10

Not only is this successful at getting people to sign up early, they sell out of the Gold, Platinum, and Diamond level badges every year. That said, it's taken them years to build up to this ability, so don't think you can sell $1000 badges tomorrow and you'll sell out. 

All of this special event accounting is managed through the  Event Groups subsystem in Tabletop.Events. And early access ticketing can be managed by editing each badge type after enabling event management. 

Another thing that can be effective is to make sure you're venue is small enough that you sell out. If you sell out every year, and your attendees know you sell out, you can use that in your messaging to encourage them to sign up sooner. 

Hosts / GMs

Many conventions give their hosts free badges for running events at their show. Some will do it based upon number of events, or event hours, while others just give free badges for running a single event. Either way, the most important tool you have to get your hosts to get their events in early is to say that they only get those free badges if they get them in by the date you want them submitted. This will encourage them to get their events in early so that you're not scheduling stuff at the last minute, and your attendees have time to sign up for the events they want.

Another tool you can use to get your hosts to sign up early is to do wave scheduling. How this works is to tell everyone that you'll be scheduling events into the system on dates A, B, and C. You'll also tell them that the choice time slots (usually Saturday) will go to the folks that get their events in before you schedule date A. And of course this is true, because if you're scheduling in multiple waves, the first wave has a wide open schedule to get slotted into. 

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