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How to Avoid the Number One Mistake of Failed Events


“Build it and they will come.”

This is the number one mistake that many people make when organising an event, and it’s a great way to lose lots of money quickly!

It applies equally to event organisers, entrepreneurs and small businesses, whether your event’s purpose is to make a profit, promote a product or generate leads.  If you don’t know who your audience is, then your event is unlikely to be a success.

Why?  Because without having a defined audience you can’t:

  • Know where they hang out and where to reach them with your marketing
  • Understand why they would want to attend and what your messaging should be
  • Speak to them in their language
  • Create a realistic budget, pick an appropriate venue or develop a compelling Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your event

With a defined audience, you should be able to:

  • Target them with specific messaging in specific communities – increasing your conversion rates while decreasing your marketing spend
  • Be reasonably sure there is a good market fit, that they can afford to attend your event and what USP will resonate with them
  • Price your event appropriately, pick the right kind of venue and produce a more accurate budget

Three Steps To Defining An Audience

There are three key steps to developing your audience understanding, which are creating a persona, research and market sizing.

The Buyer Persona

The buyer persona is crucial to successfully creating an event.  The end result of a good buyer persona should be a document that helps you understand who you’re targeting, what their situation is (what do they care about, what are their challenges?), why your event can help them and where you should be marketing to get their attention.

There are a wide variety of buyer personas and ways to create them, but so long as they answer the four key questions of who, what, why and where you should be in pretty good shape.


Some may argue this step should be first.  However research with no buyer persona in mind can get very distracting very fast, and leave you more confused than before!

You should use research to prove or disprove some of your assumptions that appear in the buyer persona.  For example you may assume your ideal attendee want to learn about branding and design, but in actual fact their main pain point is finding great designers.  This can then help inform the direction of your event and key messaging.

Research can take many forms, including calls, emails, surveys, reading blogs, searching through social media and forums or reading industry press.

As a general rule of thumb, try talking to a handful of prospective attendees if possible, and then supplement this qualitative research with some second hand research.  Don’t spend too long on research, just enough to feel confident your persona is reasonably accurate.

Market Sizing

Market sizing is always a tricky business, and there are entire businesses dedicated to this kind of thing.  Again, it shouldn’t be a week-long distraction, but it should indicate that there is a demand for your event i.e. there are enough people that fit into your persona to warrant holding an event.

To help, you should first search Google for any reports or blogs that might have information on your target market.  One tip is to try several combinations of keywords, and then add ‘type:pdf’ to the end, as many reports come in this format.

If there are no recent or authoritative looking documents online, then you can still try a few other avenues.  Look for LinkedIn groups – are there any involving the audience you want to target?  How big are they?  How active?  A paucity of LinkedIn groups featuring your potential attendees might be a warning sign.

You can always ask too.  Find forums that have experts you can ask about industry size.  There are general interest ones like Quora, or you can always find specific ones such as HackerNews for programmers, GrowthHackers for marketers or Mumsnet for Mums!

A Real Audience = Real Success!

Bringing this all together should leave you feeling confident that you have a real audience for you event, you know what they care about, how to speak to them and where to market your event.

It will also be the baseline for many other crucial decisions, from your USP to pricing, venue selection to approaching sponsors or partners.

Without a defined audience, your event is really just blowing in the wind, hoping to catch someone’s attention without a strategic plan or any direction.

With it, and you’re one giant step closer to a successful event!

Got an upcoming event? Join us for a free webinar on ‘‘How to Sell Your First Event Tickets’, which takes you through a step-by-step guide that will help you sell your first tickets and start to build momentum towards a sell-out event.  It takes place Thursday, September 18, 2014 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM (GMT).

Register your place now.

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