So, you’ve decided to host a conference call or web conference to a hold a meeting or presentation with employees and partners all over the state, country, or world. But how do you get people to actually “show up” to the call or meeting?
Here is a comprehensive guide to motivating and reminding potential attendees to take part in your phone or web conference—and arrive on time and prepared.
Advertise & Incentivize
If you’re offering a webinar or other interactive presentation or call to a wider, open audience, you need to advertise to your audience base. Require a sign-up for the conference so you can get an idea of how many guests to expect, as well as grow your email list. Set up a landing page on your website with the sign-up form, include it in any newsletters or regular correspondence to your email list, and promote it on social media.
Make sure to include in your email or landing page the reasons why your conference will add value to a guest’s life or business. Hint at some of the resources offered in a web conference, or even offer up a free white paper, infographic, or other file to pique interest.
If you’re hosting a smaller conference call or web conference for a routine office meeting or other task, you can still apply the same principles of incentivizing. Nudge your employees or other conference guests to attend with a few fun ways to break up the typical business meeting. Maybe you include a segment in your weekly call for people to tell funny stories from the week, or even offer office awards or prizes from time to time, which guests have to be present on the call for in order to find out who wins.
Send detailed information
Make all of the important information about your conference call or webinar available upfront in your correspondence with attendees or potential attendees. This will help to drum up interest to attend, as well as reduce emails coming in from confused people with questions.
Provide the following information about your phone or web conference in an email or on a landing page:
- Date: Provide the month, day, and year of the phone or web conference.
Start time (including time zone): Be sure to provide the exact start time of the conference, including your local time zone. You can provide a few common time zone alternatives, or ones that you know will be relevant to your guests’ locations.
– This is a good place and opportunity to strongly suggest that people arrive on the conference bridge or web meeting room 15 minutes early, which we’ll get into in more detail below.
- Expected length: If you don’t have a specific end time, aim to provide attendees with an estimated length. You can say something like, “We expect this conference to last approximately 2 hours.”
- Agenda: Another great way to incentivize and give your attendees a full picture of the purpose and worth of your conference is to provide a detailed agenda, which we’ll get into in more detail below.
URL or dial-in number:
– If you’re hosting a web conference, include the link at which attendees can access the conference at the time of the call, or let them know that you will be sending out the link on the day-of.
– If you’re hosting a phone conference, provide the dial-in number and specify whether it is a toll or toll-free number (subject to charges or free).
Login information or code:
– If you’re hosting a web conference, provide the username and password needed to access the conference, or specify if it will come in a separate email.
– If you’re hosting a phone conference, give out the access code(s) necessary to input when prompted after dialing in.
What they will experience on entry: Give your attendees an idea of what they should see or hear upon entry into the conference.
– For a phone conference, they might hear hold music, instructions from an operator, or pre-conference chatter until the call officially begins.
– On a web conference, they might be met with a meeting room space, an empty webcam or desktop image, or a prompt to test their microphone and speakers before the conference begins.
Any requirements or tips: Include any other requirements or reminders for guests before they attend the conference.
– For a phone conference, you may recommend that callers use a landline if possible for best sound quality, or tips like how to mute their line once on the call.
– For a web conference, you might provide the minimum system or browser requirements necessary to use the web service, or a reminder to have a working microphone and speakers.
Note that if you plan to record the conference and make it available later to guests who have missed it, you may want to hold off on this information for now, focusing instead on it being a one-time opportunity in order to get as many attendees to the live conference as possible.
Prepare and provide an agenda
Make up an agenda for your call or meeting to provide the timing and content that your guests can expect. This can help you to tease or hint at valuable resources or surprise features, or just give people a better idea of how their (and your) time is intended to be spent, keeping everyone focused and on task.
Prepare your agenda, then share it through email, newsletter, or website landing page as you see fit. A good agenda should:
- State your purpose: Let your attendees know what you’d like to achieve with this conference, and what you envision the end goal to be for everybody.
- Advertise the value: Tell attendees what they can expect to get out of the conference. You can reveal a guest speaker, explain resources that will be available to them, or emphasize interactive segments of the conference during which they can ask questions or share ideas and get feedback.
- Break down parts or segments: Let your audience into the basic parts of the conference, and even include specifics on what material you’ll discuss, present, display, or share at those times.
Provide timing of parts: Be as accurate as you can in providing a time or duration for each part of your conference, using your best approximation of how long you expect things to take. For example, your schedule could read something like:
– Hello & Introduction (8:00 am/15 mins)
– Presentation (8:15 am/30 mins)
– Guest Speaker (8:45 am/30 mins)
– Q&A (9:15 am/30 mins)
– Wrap-Up & Closing (9:45 am/15 mins)
- Explain what’s expected of them: Prepare your attendees for what they’re expected to do before or during the conference. Do they need to prepare questions for a speaker? Be ready to participate in polling or other feedback? Or simply show up on time and take notes? Clue them into your expectations for a smooth conference.
- Keep some things a surprise: Especially if you are aiming for a large audience and advertising openly, try to keep some of your agenda veiled, choosing to only hint at a special guest speaker, valuable materials, or a fun segment to break up the business talk. Get attendees to come and participate in order to find out what they’re getting.
After they first hear about it, sending reminders to attendees is crucial to getting them to actually attend and be on time. The schedule of the reminders you send out is just as important: You don’t want to inundate your guests with emails and thereby turn them off, but you also need to remember that everyone has busy schedules and distractions that cause them to forget a meeting time without some gentle reminders.
For weekly or other regularly-occurring conference calls or web meetings, a quick reminder the day before or the morning of will suffice. But for larger events, we recommend three separate reminders for your phone or web conference attendees:
One week before. No matter when you first notify your audience (generally two weeks or more in advance), your first reminder email should go out a week before the event. Be sure to include the date, time, agenda, and access instructions in this email. Pro Tip: Put the date and time of the call right in the email subject line to get the most attention and readability, e.g. “WEBINAR REMINDER: Monday, April 17 at 10:00 am CST”
One day before. A day before the phone or web conference is scheduled, send out a second reminder email, reiterating the same information about date, time, and access instructions. Here you might provide a shorter recap of the agenda, or a few key highlights to refresh guests’ memories on what to look forward to.
- One hour before. Everyone knows how easy it is to commit an important meeting or task to memory the night before only to find it gone from your head in the morning. Send a final email reminder as a refresher an hour before the conference is set to begin. You can choose whether or not to include an agenda here, but be sure to emphasize any access instructions necessary to join the conference within the hour.
These reminder emails accomplish three important things: improved attendance to the conference, reduced number of late arrivals, and attendees that arrive ready to focus and participate in a conference they’ve been well-informed of.
Encourage and practice punctuality
In your initial announcement and especially in your reminder emails, you should insist that attendees arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of the conference.
For a web conference, attendees can log in, test their microphone and speakers, and have time to work out any kinks or unforeseen issues. Then they can simply minimize their screen until the call begins. Arriving early as a first-time attendee is especially important, as they may need to set up their computer or adjust settings for firewalls, plugins, pop-ups, etc.
For a phone conference, attendees can dial in, enter their access code, and either chat with other attendees or listen to hold music until the call begins. This gives them time to solve any unforeseen issues and familiarize themselves with keypad shortcuts they might need during the call.
As the host, you should also arrive early to the meeting room or conference bridge to test the technology and any features you will use, and be prepared to start the conference right on time, without waiting on any stragglers. Your guests will thank you for your punctuality, and they will be more likely to take the start time seriously and show up promptly the next time.
Also be sure to keep to your projected agenda and end time as closely as possible. If questions or productive ideas are really flowing toward the end and you can’t end the conference on time, be sure to interject and politely allow those who need to leave for their next meeting to do so, inviting others to stay on if they can. Sticking to start and end times shows your attendees that the time on the conference is valuable—and you value your attendees’ time as well.
We hope this guide has provided you with a thorough process for phone or web conference attendees to get interested, get reminded, and get in the door on time for every conference. At Conference Calls Unlimited, we believe in the power of a little planning and preparation to make all of your calls and meetings a wild success—and we want to help! Contact us with any questions you have about phone conferencing or web conferencing.