Creating Fear in Your Event's Non-Attendees - the Good Kind!

Creating Fear in Your Event's Non-Attendees - the Good Kind!

By Liz Giannini, Senior Manager, Operations, Awards and Personalization Association

Remember that year you didn’t attend the Annual Conference? The food looked perfect on Instagram. The hashtag blew up Twitter. Your favorite conference buddy was tagged endlessly on Facebook during the new learning labs which were located OUTSIDE in Palm Springs. And…you’ve always wanted to go to Palm Springs…And, the sky was perfectly blue. Nobody was wearing a coat. Everyone was smiling; and earning millions of CE credits while smiling. This feeling that’s welling up inside you? This, my friend, is the fear that you’re missing out or, more commonly referred to as FOMO.

An overwhelming digital age phenomenon where we’re inundated with images and messages that enhance an experience, FOMO is almost inescapable. As conference and tradeshow marketers, how do we create a sense of FOMO tied to our events so that they’re seen as “not to miss”?

While each association and its members have a unique personality, culture and trigger points, here are a few tips that may help lead the way to creating that sweet spot of FOMO:

Be Visual & Fun 

The majority of FOMO will occur through social media. Photos are king! Is your location warm? Include the photos with the palm trees. Has a Board member recently done a site visit? Have them take selfies at the event property. Showcase the personality of the association and its members. Show the members who are active and excited.

Example: The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine held their 2016 Annual Assembly in Chicago. In addition to their event hashtag, they created a #100inChicago hashtag that highlighted 100 recommendations for Chicago – restaurants, venues, things to do. The posts on Facebook and Twitter included a link to the recommendation and a photo when available. Who doesn’t love food? Who doesn’t want to eat while in a great city like Chicago?!? Exactly. Build the excitement and equip attendees with ideas upon ideas.

Be Unique

What is unique about your event location? What will make people want to travel to your event (outside of the stellar educational programming you’re offering)? Are you in a “non-traditional” conventionGreetingsFromToledosmall town or city?

Example: The Awards and Personalization Association held a Regional Expo in Toledo, OH. Did you know that Toledo has a public art ordinance mandating a percentage of public art? Public art is everywhere downtown. Photo and selfie ops galore! Or did you know that its minor league baseball team, the Mud Hens, has a cult-like following and its stadium is a 5 minute walk from the convention center? The actress Katie Holmes is from Toledo and she recently told a talk show host that her Mom thinks everyone should eat at the famous Tony Packo’s restaurant (also a 5 minute walk from the convention center). Don’t make your attendees do all the research, help educate them and reveal what’s unique about a new city! Push this out through social channels and email.

Track Activity

Members and potential attendees opening your emails want to be able to scan their options on their smartphone or between the flurry of email they’re receiving throughout the day. Bullet your messages, create Top 5 or Top 10 Reasons to attend. Make it easy to read and share.

Example: The Awards and Personalization Association tracked email delivery leading up to the International Expo and the features that created the most clicks. Guess what everyone wanted to know about (after registering)? The updated exhibitor list and the After-Hours Party! Guess what the association gave them more of? Take the temperature and raise the heat! FOMO will draw them in…

Engage Exhibitors and Supplier Members

Many will have dedicated marketing staff or work with agencies. They want to promote their presence and will welcome your help! Create a marketing toolkit with a list of suggested posts. If they’re starting to be on Instagram, make sure you’re there too. Follow them, retweet or repost with the event hashtag and they will return the favor. Exhibitors experience FOMO too!

Example: The National Restaurant Association positions their NRA Show as a carefully curated experience that attendees are encouraged to come hungry for…and they’re not just talking about the delicious food that will be sampled (although that certainly helps). It’s a true experience. Exhibitors are essentially given a treasure trove of marketing resources to guide them. Traveling from England? They have a digital “British English” brochure (in addition to nine other multi-language brochures) for you to take and share with current and potential customers. It knows you’re an international attendee so it showcases show features designed directly for international travelers. Need to know more about the fun you can have in Chicago? Maybe it’s your first visit or your 100th – there’s information to guide you there too. For more: https://show.restaurant.org/Exhibit/Marketing-Resources.

If you’re reading this and feel unsure of how to start, test the ideas with your committees – what are their trigger points for FOMO? If they’ve had to miss a conference, what was it that made them come back again the next year? Shine the light on the features that make your association unique and create a sense of fear in your attendees - a fear of missing the amazing experience your event regularly provides.


Liz Giannini serves as the Senior Manager of Operations for the Awards & Personalization Association. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

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