Frank Steiner works in Marketing for the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC), the UK’s leading provider of IT solutions and services to the academic and not-for-profit sector. Since 2008 ULCC has been hosting the Future of Technology in Education (FOTE) conference—an annual, one-day, free-to-attend event showcasing the hottest technology-related trends and challenges impacting the academic sector. Frank has made great use of some simple online tools to sell a ton of tickets, and he was kind enough to write the following post for us!

In the case of our annual Future of Technology in Education (FOTE10) conference, we needed an effective way to communicate conference details, gauge interest and sell tickets online. We used a mix of Twitter, WordPress, MailChimp and Eventbrite to achieve our objectives.

It’s worth noting there are no ‘magic beans’ and the biggest mistake people make when using social media is applying traditional approaches rather than getting to the core. As a recent article in the New York Times points out, ‘It’s less about broadcasting to an audience and more about communicating with a community.’

So here are our Top 5 tips on how to get the most out of these tools and ensure your ticket sales kicks booty:

1. Create a dedicated website or microsite

Setting up a dedicated conference website or microsite might sound like a lot of effort, but with WordPress it is literally a matter of minutes. In addition to its use as a conference hub with information on location, speakers, agenda and the usual shebang, it allows us to actively engage with delegates and anyone else interested in the conference through the use of blog posts. This year we are aiming to have guest posts from all speakers before the actual conference to encourage discussion beforehand.

2. Use MailChimp to gauge interest

We already used MailChimp in the day-to-day business for newsletters and marketing campaigns. One key concern with conferences, events and trainings, unless they are well established, is the question of how many people are actually interested. We came up with the idea of having a pre-registration list to help us to get a sense of the ‘mood out there’. Setting up and customising a new list in MailChimp is child’s play and once done all you need to do is share the URL.

3. Get the word out with traditional and new channels

Once your conference website and pre-registration are in place, it’s time to get the word about your conference out. We use a mix of traditional channels such press releases published online and sent to distribution lists as well as tweets and an email campaign to the previous year’s delegates. Be clear on what you want to communicate—in our case date and venue of the conference, pre-reg sign-up and Twitter hashtag (#fote10). Whichever option(s) you choose, make sure to co-ordinate your efforts for maximum impact and encourage people to share the information: that’s the real power of social media.

4. Track your results in real time

My favourite thing about social media or web 2.0 tools is the ability to get real-time results. Send a campaign in Mailchimp and you can track open and click rates as soon the email has been sent, and switch your list dashboard and see how many people pre-registered. This helps you monitor the activities against objectives and also allows you to make adjustments if necessary. In addition, you should monitor your Twitter account for replies & DMs and set up a search for your conference hashtag to easily pick up when people talk about your event.

5. Sell out!

Now the time has come to actually sell tickets. With FOTE being a free-to-attend conference we are well aware there’s a slight advantage. Let’s face it: not having to part with money makes signing up a little bit easier.

We are using Eventbrite to actually sell tickets and like all tools/apps mentioned previously, I just love the ease of use and simplicity in getting things done. Providing you got your logo, colour scheme and event description handy, it takes less than an hour to set it all up.

Being able to display who signed up to an event in real-time is a great feature and helps act as an incentive for people who are still undecided. The ability for delegates to share their attendance via Twitter and Facebook once booked is another small but lovely detail.

The real power of Eventbrite, MailChimp and all the other shiny social media tools doesn’t stop with getting bums on seats. Eventbrite’s integration with MailChimp allows us to easily send targeted messages to delegates and export functionalities, and a bit of Excel magic gives us insight into who pre-registered, who signed up and who’s on the waiting list. After all you’d want to keep in touch with those who missed out; they might be next year’s delegates.

Despite being German, Frank Steiner doesn’t care for football (soccer) or beer at all; crazy but it’s true. Follow him on Twitter here.

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