Written by John Ruhlin, founder and CEO of the Ruhlin Group

One truth in event planning is that ticket sales have two peak times: when the tickets first go on sale and immediately before an event. Between those occasions is the “quiet zone,” when ticket sales usually go dead.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are strategies event planners can use to avoid that dreaded quiet zone, and chief among them is using gifts to foster high anticipation levels surrounding each event. If an event is creating buzz throughout the ticket sales process, new attendees will continue paying for admission.

Keeping Attendees Interested

Being in the quiet zone is tough. As an event that’s not hotly anticipated draws near, cancellations are always possible. People are busy — especially if they’re CEOs — and other responsibilities or opportunities might prove more pressing or exciting, leading to low commitment from guests

Commitment is critical in event planning, because without it, it’s difficult to plan for the costs of food and entertainment costs. It’s also nearly impossible to work on cool, personalized gifts for attendees, which helps create and maintain anticipation. When guests are excited about an event and unlikely to cancel, planners can count on those attendance figures and focus on creating a memorable, unique experience.

Look no further than entrepreneur Jayson Gaignard’s Mastermind Talks for an example of an event that continually builds anticipation. Mastermind Talks are networking events for business leaders — but the guest lists are small, and earning an invitation is statistically harder than getting into Harvard. Those exclusive invite lists help Gaignard and his team avoid the quiet zone and plan truly remarkable experiences for each guest.

Using Gifts to Avoid the Quiet Zone

The best events are those attendees look forward to with excitement and expectation, and gifts are a key component of maintaining the momentum that will help you avoid the quiet zone. Consider these tips for using gifts to bolster anticipation around your events:

  1. Give great gifts. Don’t bother offering antiquated, impractical tokens just to say you sent something. You need to send meaningful souvenirs, not cheap baubles that will just be cast aside. If you want to give a common gift, such as a coffee mug, make it exceptional — think an expensive, hand-crafted work of art rather than a cheap, mass-printed object. A simple but amazing gift can surprise even the most serious CEO. Great gifts let your guests know you value them.
  2. Focus on personalisation. Make your gifts memorable by making them personal. Think about your attendees’ values and interests, and base your gifts on those elements. If your event is aimed toward athletes, for example, consider an over-the-top, surprising gift such as a Vitamix blender, which ties into athletes’ focus on nutrition. Tying your gifts to something that matters to an individual attendee will ensure he stays excited about your event right up to the day it begins. Give a gift that is beyond the average swag bag and says “I thought of you specifically.”
  3. Practice practicality. No one likes clutter, and no one wants another gift that will take up room without being useful. If your gift is too common or is only decorative — think vases and paperweights — your attendees likely will just throw them out. Choose a gift that will make your attendees’ lives better and, if possible, easier. Say you’re attracting CEOs for an event. CEOs work hard, travel often, and rest rarely. Consider making your gift something that will add value to their lives and their families’ lives. Guests are much more likely to appreciate a gift they can actually use.

Avoiding the quiet zone in ticket sales requires creativity and planning, but thoughtful gifting will help you maintain anticipation for your event and keep attendees coming back year after year.

John Ruhlin is the founder and CEO of the Ruhlin Group, a firm that specializes in high-level gifting plans to build relationships and acquire new clients. The Ruhlin Group’s partnership with Cutco has enabled it to become the No. 1 distributor of Cutco in Cutco’s 60-year history. John is a sought-after speaker on the topics of C-level selling, relationship development, and strategic gifting; he is also the co-author of the best-selling book, “Cutting Edge Sales” and the author of the recently released book, “Giftology.

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