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Are sold out events always a reason to be happy? A case study of 4Developers

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Are sold out events always a reason to be happy? A case study of 4Developers

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Forecasting the success of an event is hard. Organizers often underrate the power of their endeavor or simply miscalculate the possible interest and therefore the size of attendance. Not being able to fit every willing participant in the venue may be the source of great stress. It is also a little bit of pride that your conference is one of those sold out events and was so popular. However, is there anything we can do to prevent such a situation?

Despite the fact that it’s more important to determine the audience quality rather than quantity, the number of participants is one of the most obvious event success indicators. After all, every organizer dream is to have a sold-out show and a venue full of participants who enjoy the event. The estimation of the possible number of guests is difficult and we always need to mark the margin of error. However, knowing approximately how many attendees to expect help with event organizing process.

The two sides of the same attendance coin

When dealing with attendance size estimation all variety of factors need to be taken into account. In fact, it’s one of the common problems faced in event management. Sometimes the weather season will take its toll and sunny vibe will steal your attendees, while on another occasion your perfectly prepared agenda will win. Both fixed factors and those unexpected can influence the participation level, so don’t freak out when you can’t decide on one exact number of predicted event attendees.

Forecasting the number of possible participants long before the event can be flawed and, believe me, in most cases, you won’t hit the right quantity anyway. The thing is to look at the matter objectively so that you can prepare for your event.

Usually, event organizers can either put too much faith in their event or rather the opposite – place a bet on the negative scenario assuming that the attendance level will be low. In both cases, it can influence the success of the event and cause some problems.

Too optimistic predictions

Imagine, you are totally head over heels with your brand new conference. You know that your attendees will have the chance to taste truly substantive knowledge provided by the best speakers. Many attractions will fill their breaks in between the lectures and networking conditions are just perfect. You see all of those amazing opportunities prepared for participants, also you know how to attract a crowd to your event and assume that the crowds will storm your event’s front door to get in. What do you do? You book a spacious venue, invest eyewatering budget in speakers and attractions.

Then, it turns out that the weather played its tricks, some competitive events showed up on the horizon and your conference didn’t gather as many enthusiasts as you thought. This way the spacious venue is a true representation of what ‘emptiness’ means. The money you invested can’t be returned, your event ROI is poor as the ticket sales. Your attendees can feel the signs of your failure from empty space around them and lecturers are not satisfied with the audience size. Well, in case of prognosis ‘the more the better’ didn’t work out well, wouldn’t you agree?

Too preservative predictions

The other scenario starts with a careful evaluation of your event’s attributes. You know it has a substantive value for potential attendees. You did your target group analysis, so you prepared the agenda and attractions exactly according to their wishes. Then, you look for the venue but, again, you won’t invest too much money just in case the event wouldn’t return the investment. Later on, the registration process begins, with crowds willing to be a part of your event. What’s the result?

As a result, you’re forced to shut down the registration process long before the planned date. And there you have it –  a sold-out show. After all, the venue has limited space and you won’t risk trespassing the security standards. While the mentioned situation is undoubtedly a reason to be satisfied, it can contribute to the general frustration of those who didn’t get the tickets for your event. In a way, it’s like aiming it to just a special, separate group of people. In the same time, if your predictions were more optimistic, you could earn more on the ticket sales. Long story short, you’re wasting a good ROI potential here.

As you can see, miscalculations of audience number, in one way or another, can cause you many organizational troubles. You may think that it’s just a rookie mistake, but even the best can find themselves in such a situation. PROIDEA, organizers of hit 4Developers conference, event managers with a massive experience learned what does it mean to underestimate the potential of the event. Let’s see what was the case.

4Developers’ case of sold-out event

Organizers of the 4Developers knew that their interdisciplinary festival for the IT community in Poland is annually meeting with great interest from the target audience. They use their experiences and tricks that make the event one of the best of its kind. The main edition, taking place in Warsaw, gathers thousands of enthusiasts who can attend a variety of different lectures and engage with additional attractions.

With the great success of this all-Poland event came the local versions of 4Developers. And that’s where the careful calculations played the trick on organizers. When they opened the registration for the 4Developers local satellites (that’s how the local editions are called) the number of attendees was rising at a very fast pace. As a result, Paulina Małocha who coordinated the project and the rest of organizers was forced to close the registration earlier due to the surprisingly huge interest.

Due to the miscalculations when estimating the possible interest with the event organizers needed to limit the access to registration. This way, many willing to show up at the venue to learn new programming skills were left without a chance to attend an event. Paulina admits that they didn’t realize how big potential lied in some of the satellites they organized.

We approached local editions very warily. At the same time, we must admit that our research wasn’t precise enough to be able to predict the number of potential attendeesPaulina Małocha, Conference Manager at PROIDEA

Regardless of closing the registration earlier than it’s supposed to, the event turned out to be a great success. However, with more adequate research and predictions, the stress and race to get a ticket for the event could be avoided. According to Paulina, organizers of 4Developers learned from their mistakes and, the situation will not happen again during the 2019 event. They’ll go for a bigger venue this time so that more of participants will have a chance to participate in the conference.  

The importance of pre-event research on the possible attendance level

As the example shows, even the best and most experienced organizers can struggle with problems faced in event management such as estimating the audience size that would be close to the actual number of participants. Many unpredicted factors that interfere with precise calculations can stretch the predictions. However, there’s a way to bring your research closer to perfection. It’s the pre-event survey.

Feedback is mostly associated with the end of events. However, pre-event polls provided to target group audience can give us first-hand information from those who are willing to show up at an event. Implementing a feedback form on the event website or in the application, such as Eventory, will allow you to get a proper insight into the possible interest in the event.

Also, when you created a Facebook event for your undertaking, check how many of users declared to attend it. While it may give you an idea of what audience size you can expect, don’t forget about the survey which will allow you to confirm it. After all, we all have those thousands of Facebook events that passed by with our ‘participation’, right?

Remember, while the fact that you probably won’t hit the exact number of participants that you’ll have to host may be daunting, you can’t skip that part. Estimating the audience size may help you save time, money, stress and, what’s the most important, can allow you to prepare the event for every willing to come attendee. Isn’t that what we all want when the idea of organizing event sprouts?

Do you have some special methods to deal with this problem? Tell us about it!

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