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To Attend or Not to Attend… That is the Question

Madelyn Worley
Madalyn Worley LMSW
, Content Manager, Engagez

I love events! As a social worker, I have attended and organized many events. What I don’t love… events that are BORING and a waste of my time and I have attended my fair share of those. Obviously just because it is boring to me, does not mean it would be boring to others but still, this is something I value when deciding on whether or not to attend an event. I am not the only one out there that does not want to waste my time or money on an event that I will not enjoy. We have shared many tips on organizing your event that will entice people to attend, engage your attendees, strategies to promote your event, and so on and so forth, but few of them are from an avid event attendee perspective. So what factors do we look for when deciding to attend an event? 

  • Professional Development

As mentioned above, I am a social worker, which means that I hold a professional license that I must renew every 2 years by earning continuing education certificates. There are MANY other professions and certifications that require training and professional development credits to maintain that specific qualification. Although sometimes that means I do attend events, webinars, or courses that may not be the most enjoyable to me, receiving those needed credits is a HUGE priority for me when deciding to attend an event. 

I want to attend something where the sessions or topics will be beneficial to my growth as an individual or professional. If the content is really relevant to me, is it worth attending? I want to know what the event is offering and if I can check off at least multiple check marks on my professional journey by attending this event. 

I want to feel like I am adding tools to my toolbelt. As I receive the promo emails or look at the event webpage I look for things like:

  • Who is the event keynote: Within my industry if Brene Brown is your keynote… Where can I register??? 
  • Are there multiple sessions that interest me? I may be excited about the keynote but if none of the other sessions or activities are things that I am interested in, I am not likely to attend.
  • Is this a virtual or in-person event? We all love in-person events and being able to chat with like-minded individuals in person, but virtual events can offer me the same level of excitement if done right, so if it is a virtual event, what does that mean for me as the attendee? 
  • Will I be able to receive Continuing Education Credits? In many events within my industry and I know in many others, this has become standard practice, to include the needed attendance certificates or post-event survey questions so as to earn your CEU, so the question then becomes, are they included in event fees, or is there an additional cost?
  • Costs

In today’s climate and economy, the cost is a HUGE factor in whether or not I will attend an event. Although seeing a celebrity guest that I like as a keynote, this often means the ticket price is going to be unattainable to me. I did one time get the opportunity to attend a FREE event that Simone Biles was a guest speaker at… that was awesome! As an event organizer, I am PRO event monetization with ticket sales, but as an event attendee, when I am reading an attendee email, the first thing I gravitate to is the cost of the event. I am PRO affordability. (Make sure you stay tuned for future articles where we talk about monetization and other ways to bring in revenue that can help offset some of the costs for your attendees). Ideally, I always try to plan to attend as many company-paid conferences as possible, but if I am personally paying the cost, some things I look for when it comes to costs?

  • How much is the event and what is included in that ticket? Many times events offer various packages, so I look for the package that fits my personal budget and then determine if the benefits I would get from that ticket are worth the cost for me. 
  • Are there available discounts or special promos that I am eligible for? Although many offer early-bird discounts, sometimes I have to wait to purchase a ticket to something, until payday or my calendar is more clarity around that date. This happens sometimes AFTER the early bird rates are gone, so I look for other available discounts or opportunities to lower the cost I would pay as the attendee. 

One creative thing I have seen utilized before was a discounted ticket offered to individuals who volunteered at the event for a certain amount of time. It was a creative way that a small organization with limited staff was able to staff their event. I didn’t mind volunteering a small portion of the day so that I could afford the ticket to attend the event.

  • Networking

I am a big fan of community and sharing space with like-minded people. What better space to do that and meet new people, than at an event! When I attend an event, of course, I want the topics to be relevant to me, but I also want to know that I will have a chance to meet people and learn about other organizations. I LOVE exhibit halls… not just because I love going table to table to check out the freebies that are being given (hehe) but I love growing my network and sharing resources and information with others. Whether I am in person or virtual, I want to know if there is an opportunity to network with others. Some of my strongest professional connections have been the ones I have made through event networking.

  • Location

Location is actually often the deciding factor for me. If the event is not virtual and located somewhere not close to me, this is an additional cost I have to weigh, because now I must determine if I can travel and find an affordable place to stay, and although traveling has always been expensive… Today’s costs are at a price that makes it really easy to say NOPE to attending an event. Some things that I do look for if I am considering traveling for an event:

  • Are there hotels close to or attached to the event venue?
  • Are there discounts on rooms or travel available for event-goers?
  • Are there meals included in my event ticket?
  • Time & Convenience

At the end of the day, I want to attend events that fall during convenient times of the day and the year. I am not sure if the pandemic sort of shifted my thoughts a bit, but my overall attitude about attending events now is if it doesn’t fit into my personal interest and I don’t feel like I will get value from the event, it is not worth my time to attend. Before the pandemic, I might attend events that fit outside of my interests, out of curiosity or even maybe 1 particular area of interest, but that just isn’t the case anymore.

  • Health and Wellness

During the pandemic, I fell in love with the artists that were doing virtual living room concerts or the special sing-along shows that were available for us to watch. It was hard not being able to go out and do the things that I love, like concerts, going to the movies, or even dining in at a restaurant for date night. It also inspired in me an attitude toward self-care that I had never really practiced before because I took those things for granted perhaps, who knows! What I do know is that I want to attend events that will not only empower me professionally but also events that I can enjoy personally. Whether it is for a professional requirement or just something I want to attend for my own mental health growth. Some things I consider are 

  • Is this something that feels like a chore to do? 
  • Will this offer me opportunities for me to ‘fill my own cup’ so to speak? 
  • Will this be a fun and rewarding experience? 

Taking time to attend events that will bring you joy is just as important as many of the professional development types of events that you may need to attend. I personally love when those professional events have found a way to incorporate the fun, lighthearted things that I personally enjoy such as live entertainment or a happy hour.

These may not be the top priorities for every person that is deciding to attend events, but I am sure that 1 or 2 of these will make the cut for others. As event organizers it is important to understand what the deciding factors are for attendees so that we can work to meet those needs… or else no one is going to attend our events! Follow along with us as we continue to explore the event experience from the attendee’s perspective and learn not only how to host and organize better events, but also how to make the most out of an event as the attendee!

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