We’ve had our share of events where hardly anyone has shown up. You can’t predict game schedules, weather or any number of other factors. I’ve spent time time after consoling pastors, youth pastors and other event leaders about the woes of low attended events, working around busy schedules, and competing with other community activities.
Here are some thoughts for getting good attendance at a special ministry event.
Even if the first or second year of the special event isn’t full, and it’s an event you believe is needed, stick with it. Getting an event planned, getting the word out and getting people to show up is hard work. But, stay committed and often it will grow as you keep at it.
40% Programming, 60% PR
In terms of time, you need to be heavy on sharing the word, inviting, etc. The programming piece typically comes naturally to a leader and/or a team. Typically when people meet, they spend much of their times talking about the event details and often overlook details that pertain to getting a crowd to show up. If at all possible, include someone from the PR / Promoting world on your team.
Be sure you pick a good time for the event with plenty of time to promote. Match the time with the style and size of the event. Announcing an afternoon seminar months and months in advance may not be that great of an idea. In fact, there is a chance people will get tired of hearing about or assume after hearing about it so much that it’s already happened. Instead, you and the team know about the event, have it on the calendar, get little details in place, put the date out in small ways, then unveil, push and launch the publicity plan so people sign up or at least make plans to attend. If the event is larger, more time is required. If you’re inviting people to a three or four day event, they probably need many months to actually have a chance of putting it on their calendar.
Anticipation VS Expectation
This is a big one. And it usually plays out in set up and preparations. Someone plans an event and dreams of having 200 people attend. So, they buy food for 200 people and set up chairs for 200, but only 30 show up. The art is to anticipate but not expect. People aren’t obligated to come. We need to learn to get a feel for how many we think will be there, set up for a few less, but be ready for more. Chairs are always an issue. If you are hoping for 250 people, I’d say set up 150 chairs or rope off the back. The only difference to this would be if you have sold tickets. It’s always better to have more chairs ready to set up than it is to have 50 people in a room with 200 chairs.
Know The Core Group
If you are hosting some sort of ministry event, you need to have an idea a few people who are coming. Who had the idea to host this? Be sure they attend and bring people. Who is on your team helping? Make sure they are coming and bringing people. Talk with people personally and find out if they are committed to be there. If you know you have at least 30 showing up, and another 30-40 surprise you, then you are set! If someone says they have no idea what to expect, it’s always a sign.
Build An Event Team
Don’t do it alone. Pull in a team to help make the event go. The bigger the event, the more team structure you will need. Assign tasks for planning, logistics, PR, prayer, program, hospitality, food, etc. Go big and do your best.
Spread Out Publicity
Publicity has changed. You can’t count on one method to cover it. You have to utilize every media outlet in your power to spread the word. People will choose how they want to receive information. We have to offer it as many ways as we can, especially all the free ways: Email, Facebook, Twitter, radio, radio station websites, community websites, newspapers, church bulletins, posters, signs around the community, and any other way you can think of. Of course, you also may need to spend some money taking out special ads and creating publicity pieces.
Pray For The Ministry Event
Spend time praying for the event. And invite others to pray with you. It’s important to trust that God is at work in the hearts of people who may need to be present at the concert, retreat, conference or other ministry setting to which you are inviting them.
Have a good program / plan
When you ask people to attend, they need to know it will be worth it.
Remember, there are always seasons for things. Just because an event is successful for a few years, doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. And one last thought: In the case you have a smaller crowd than expected, don’t berate those who showed up by saying things like, “We wish there had been more, but we’ll do our best” or “We’re small in number, but mighty in spirit” or any other statements that draw attention to the fact that the attendance was lower than we had hoped.