What works and what doesn't work in event planning? Here are tips to help you avoid learning what doesn't work when planning your next event.

1. Effective Promotional Copy

No matter what type of event you're planning, it's your promotional copy—and how it's written—that is going to get people to sign up. If you don't have a direct marketing copywriter on staff, invest in a good freelance writer. Doing so will pay for itself in increased attendance.

What Doesn't Work

  • Assuming your audience knows why they should participate. When copy is short on details, it doesn't give people enough reasons to attend.

  • Not understanding your audience and their problems or pains. People will not respond to a thinly disguised commercial for your company or products.

  • Grammatical errors, incomplete information or broken hyperlinks (in email announcements). No excuses. Ever. Invest in proofreading.

What works

  • Generate excitement with benefits built into your headlines and promotional copy:

    • "Six mistakes that can cost you big bucks… and how to avoid them"
    • "Evaluating new suppliers: how one company did it right"
    • "Avoiding inventory nightmares—or 10 tips for getting your inventory under control"

  • Write long copy. Make sure your promotional copy is long enough to spell out all the details and benefits of attending your event. However, long copy needs to be easy to skim for those who want to get right to the bottom line: use subheads, bold fonts, bullets and call-outs.

  • Sell the event, not your company. You need to focus on selling the benefits of attending your event, not on selling your company and its services. Be sure to include information about what they'll "take home" in terms of new knowledge or something tangible, such as workbooks, white papers or checklists.

  • Provide certificates of completion and continuing education credits for technical people and professionals like lawyers and CPAs. It gives them another reason to attend.

  • Ensure that your promotional copy includes all the following information: location, date, time, cost, how to register and how to get additional information.

2. Getting the Word Out

Get your information out early if you want to get onto the calendars of time-stressed executives, managers and technical people before they are booked up with other obligations.

What Doesn't Work

  • Relying on one method of communicating—i.e., only direct mail or only email. Sometimes direct mail won't get the message through, or emails will get filtered out before being read.

  • Poor timing: Promoting your event too far in advance, or waiting until the last minute to promote your event. You need both to promote well in advance and to remind prospective attendees again shortly before the event.

  • Using "wedding-type" or formal invitations and postcards. Generally, response plummets when these types of communication pieces are used, because you don't have room to list all the details and benefits of attending.

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M. H. "Mac" McIntosh is president of Mac McIntosh Incorporated, a sales and marketing consulting firm. For more information, visit www.salesleadexperts.com.