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How Do You Get Guests to RSVP to an Event?

From personalized invites to registration landing page links, here’s how event pros across Canada push guests to show up.

(From left:) Kori Gorman, Tom Stulberg, Ruby Sohi
(From left:) Kori Gorman, Tom Stulberg, Ruby Sohi
Photo: Aaron Aubrey (Tom Stulberg), Courtesy of Readers (all others)

“We have been most successful sending invitations via an email that is linked to a registration landing page. We employ a professional designer who makes our invitations look attractive to set the tone of the event. Guests are able to add the event to their calendar and receive reminders closer to the date. If a guest has not responded in a timely manner, they receive catchy reminders leading up to the event.”
Christina Lupkoski, director of operations and accounts, Substance Group, Toronto

“Understanding your event audience is key to determining strategies that will encourage timely R.S.V.P.s. A tech-savvy audience may appreciate a digital R.S.V.P. process with one-click, auto-responses. A more mature crowd might prefer mailing traditional response cards. Either way, playful, creative wording, instead of traditional R.S.V.P. lines, will help draw attention to this request. Specifying deadlines and any limitations—seats, tables, etc.—will create a sense of urgency. That said, creating a reputation for producing high-quality experiences will certainly result in quick R.S.V.P. responses.”
Ruby Sohi, lead event planner and founder, Royal Blue Events Management, Toronto

“Getting people to R.S.V.P. is just a first step; getting people through the door is the ultimate goal. For a consumer trade show like ours, we gradually increase warm leads through multiple touch points during the year, priming people to be ticket purchasers as soon as they go on sale. We do this through Facebook Event R.S.V.P.s and e-newsletter sign-ups months before the event. ... Don’t underestimate the psychological impact of someone publicly marking themselves as ‘interested’ or ‘going’ to an event via Facebook. Pairing this with a ticket rollout at varying price points to encourage ticket sales well in advance has proven effective as we’ve grown our event from 1,000 to 15,000 attendees over seven years.”
Kay Protheroe, co-founder, Healthy Family Media and the Healthy Family Expo, Vancouver

“I approach it from the position of the guest receiving the invitation. What reasons is this person going to give not to attend the event? I write a list—perhaps the timing will conflict with rush hour or maybe there isn’t adequate parking available. Whatever the issue may be, I try to eliminate it ahead of time. Once the obstacles are out of the way, I focus on giving guests something to get them excited about attending. Maybe it’s the entertainment, maybe it’s a renowned chef designing the menu. Whatever it is, promote it so guests know it’s the party that’s not to be missed. And of course, give them a deadline so there’s a sense of urgency, such as ‘limited space available,’ so it’s clearly communicated.”
Kori Gorman, director of events and catering, Eatertainment Events & Catering, Toronto

“Make the invite personal to them. Highlight key and relevant event components that you know will appeal to them directly; this may require you to create three to four invites for the same event. Send sales-oriented ones to salespeople and business development strategists, send creatives invites that highlight new forms of communication and design, and so on. Incentivize with preferred seating, gifting, or anything to make them more inclined to respond, and respond early.”
Adam Bultz, president, C3 Events, Montreal

“We like to take a personal approach whenever possible. We may send a direct, friendly follow-up to the invitee to remind them of our event with easy-to-find details—and any fun highlights they may have missed—and a quick ask for a reply. Often, simplicity is the most effective route to an R.S.V.P., especially when people’s inboxes are overflowing. I know I always appreciate a reminder myself, but a personal follow-up will always receive an answer.”
Debra Sadowski, president and founder, Rock-It Promotions, Toronto

“It’s always tough to get people to commit. We do all of the usual things like graphically engaging invitation designs, fun and provocative subject lines, visually obvious reply buttons, click-anywhere-to-respond formatting, and reminder emails two weeks, one week, and a few days out, but in the end, a phone call or personal email reminder always gets the best response.”
Tom Stulberg, owner, Loungeworks, Vancouver