If you’re not drawing 20 percent new delegates to your association conference, “you’re regressing,” says Robin Lokerman, in a new paper that is part of the Expert Article series published by INCON, a partnership of worldwide professional congress organizers. Based in Singapore, Lokerman is CEO of the Institutional Division of MCI Group, an INCON member company.

The new article offers 10 tips for conference marketing. “Planning and delivering a conference involves many thousands of hours, but even the most impeccably organized event can fail to achieve the anticipated numbers of fee-paying delegates,” the paper states. “Inevitably this reflects a weakness in the area of event promotion. A well-prepared marketing plan is fundamental.”

Some of the recommended steps are:

Position Your Event
Spend time on your theme and tagline. Tell potential delegates why it’s a must-attend event. For example, “At ABC Event, you’ll find all the latest advances in XYZ under the same roof.” Be thoughtful with your conference logo as well. Don’t just rely on your association logo. “Engage a competent designer to create a conference style sheet,” the paper advises. “Avoid non-standard fonts and colors, which will be lost in most Web browsers.”

Promote to Your Audience
“In its simplest form, social media is about using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to blog, clog, and flog people, ideas, and products,” Lokerman states. If social media is not widely used by the mainstream Gen X or Baby Boomers who are the main source of delegate revenue, focus on other promotional tactics. “Reflect on your target audience before investing time and funds in social media tactics.”

Survey
Not sure how active in social media your target audience is? Use one of the free e-mail survey services to find out.

Get Out of Your Bubble
“Avoid the ‘inside looking out’ syndrome and capture valuable data by brainstorming with past and potential attendees to develop the value proposition of the conference.”

Download the article for the rest of the tips, plus a promotion timeline. And remember, Lokerman writes, “the old adage that you have to spend money to make money rings true. Research shows it is rare for more than 2 percent of a conference budget to be spent on marketing the event. A minimum expenditure of 5 percent will be more effective in attracting new and repeat delegates.”

Think you don’t have to spend money because you’ve got a good e-mail list? It’s true that e-mail is cheap, but it is also the least effective promotional method, Lokerman states. If you do use it, note that spam filters are “increasingly aggressive,” and you should always use the conference’s own domain name as the sending address—never a service such as hotmail.

The CEOs of INCON’s partner companies act as the directors of the INCON Group. Currently, there are 11 partners operating in 36 countries and 75 destinations. All of the INCON Expert Articles are available in the Expert Resources section of the INCON Web site.