How to build engagement before your events

Literally nobody attended a lecture on creativity that I gave at a fashionable London venue 10 years ago, because the hosts had entirely forgotten to include it in their marketing John-Paul Flintoff in The Observer Magazine

If you get invited to speak at festivals and events, or teach residential courses, online or in person – do you ever get nervous that nobody will come?

Wonder if the whole beastly thing will be cancelled? I do. Because that has happened to me three (3!) times this year *, and it hurts every time, because it’s my face and name on the page.

Sure, the organisers don’t enjoy it either, and they have my sympathy, but I suspect they move on more quickly than I do.

So I learned the hard way that if events like these are going to happen they need a bit of work beforehand. But what I also learned, happily, is that the work needn’t be “hard”. It needn’t be painful, or horrible. In fact it can be quite enjoyable, and create a lot of goodwill.

For instance, I recently set up a web page with a welcome video for people coming to a thing I was doing soon. (Just to be clear: there was no requirement from the organiser that I do this.) I structured it with an invitation for people to tell me what they wanted from the event. Like this:

I sent the page URL to the event organisers to share with anybody who might have booked already. This seems to have gone down well with the people who booked. In their comments they said they liked the welcome, and also described in some detail what they’re looking for.

Reading their comments with pleasure, I realised that I had inadvertently created a kind of “social proof” for anybody still thinking of coming along – but not sure yet. Because now the page shows the kinds of people who are coming, and their level of experience and confidence etc.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this with you because it really wasn’t very time consuming, and it feels so worthwhile.

I’m grateful to the organisers (in this case, Arvon) for sharing the page – because if they hadn’t, the whole thing would have failed. Looking ahead, I’m going to do this more and more…

You may want to do the same.