Time to Re-think Early Booking Incentives

Break Even PointConference planners and other event planners who organize public events for the corporate sector need to encourage early bookings in order to determine if an event is economically viable. The key is to ensure that enough people register and generate enough revenue to cover the event budget.

Most conferences and public workshops have a go/no-go date determined by:

  • deadlines for confirming or releasing event venues
  • dates on which attrition clauses in accommodation contracts expire
  • the need to book airline travel for speakers and facilitators when space is still available at affordable rates

This is particularly challenge as, this year, event venues and airline flights are getting sold out earlier than ever. The need for early bookings is in direct conflict with the tendency of participants to book at the last minute. All too often, the deadline for making a decision about whether or not to proceed with an even comes and the break even point has not been reached,

It's time to re-think strategies to give attendees the impetus to book early.

Here are a few personal incentives to consider:

  • Negotiate a number of upgrades to the hotel club level and offer them as early booking bonuses.
  • Negotiate upgrades to business class as "in-kind" sponsorships and use them to encourage attendees to book events and reserve their flights early.
  • Offer an exclusive lunch, tea or reception with the speaker or facilitator for all attendees who register by an important milestone.
  • Get a limited number of autographed copies of a book written by the speaker or another public figure and use them as an early booking bonuses.
  • Offer music CDs or DVDs by a popular artist as an early booking incentive.
  • Schedule your conference or workshop to coincide with a popular concert, sporting event or theatrical production and provide tickets as an early booking bonus to the first 4-6 people who register. (Sometimes tickets can be obtained as an "in-kind" sponsorship.)

The key to successful early booking incentives for corporate events is to sweeten the pot with incentives that provide value for the attendee in addition to the discounts and multiple attendee savings that appeal to organizations.

To ensure that early booking incentives drive required levels of registration, set some based on key dates in the planning process and others triggered by key milestones (e.g. number of participants needed to break-even).

One thing is certain, venues and flights get sold out earlier and earlier, early bookings are going to become increasingly important for event success.

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

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