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Don’t Announce Events if You Want People to Come

I just finished reading a press release for a non-profit organization’s conference that went something like:

We’re Holding an Event!

We’re a great group of people trying to do good in the world.  Our event will be next month, at this location, and it will focus on talking about these topics.  A lot of interesting people will be there.  Here are the dates, times, and location.

As announcements go, it wasn’t bad. The basic 4 W’s of journalism were covered: who, what, where, and when were handled.

But, there’s another W:  Why.

Why are you telling me about this event? Why should I care?

Many of the articles that are sent in to me as the volunteer editor of my church’s newsletter, The Flame, leave out the critical why.  The writers send in the announcements because they want people to show up and join in.  But, their write-ups don’t say that.  They read like a For Sale ad posted on the bulletin board of a community laundromat.

For Sale.  27-in flat-screen TV 2 years old. 555-1212

Reading the 3×5 card ad at the laundromat, you know that you’re supposed to call the owner if you want to buy the TV.  But, with event announcements it’s not so obvious what you’re supposed to do.   Make a reservation?  Buy a ticket? Are there membership or other prerequisites?  Are you talking to me?

Woman inviting people to her eventInvite Your Audience

As the harried organizer of a non-profit group you know you are eager for people to join to come to your event.  That’s why you sent out the announcement, for Pete’s sake!

But, the reader of the announcement may not understand that this message includes people who are not already involved with the activity. Or, they may not understand the logistics of how to become involved, even if all they have to do is show up to be welcomed.

The solution is to avoid announcing your activity.  Invite people to it instead.

Put an explicit invitation to join in, participate, or “come on down” in your headline and lead paragraph.

Tell Them HOW to Join the Fun

Along with who, what, where, when, and why, stories about future activities should include an H word:  HOW.

Tell your target audience in plain words what they have to do to be included:  do they need to call ahead, come to the first meeting, or pay at the door? Especially in these times, cost is an important factor, and you should mention the price of admission for everything, even when it’s $0. You and everyone in your group may know that you’re informal folks and people can casually drop into your free activity. But, the people you’re trying to draw into your circle may not know the details. Make it easy for them by laying it all out in the invitation.

Give your readers a clear road path to becoming involved, and ask them to take that first step.

Include a Compelling Call to Action

In the business world, marketing mavins are told to include a call to action in their sales materials.

Call now!
Register today!

Go ahead. Get down and dirty with all the sales tricks when you’re trying to fill up your event. Make your pitch invitation include a sense of immediacy.  Have them sign up right now!

Why not?  Why not ask them to commit while they are reading your message.  If you give a reader until next month to register, they’ll put off signing up until next month. And, then they’ll forget.  If not right now, certainly they should register at coffee hour this Sunday or email you by Friday.

There is a reason that so many commercials have a breathless sense of urgency.  It works!

 Give it a Whirl

If you want more people to show up at your next event, volunteer to do the “announcements”.  Then write a captivating invitation:

  • Use an action verb to ask people to join in the action
  • Tell folks exactly how they can feel included and part of your merry band
  • Create a way for your invitees to commit to attending now, before their attention wanders

Let me know how inviting folks filled your activity with energetic new folks!

By |2011-09-28T15:39:05-07:00September 23rd, 2011|Writing|2 Comments

Ban These 2 Words to Create Successful Events

There are two words which you should never use if you want other sane, busy people to join your activity. They are the two words I keep trying to remove from the weekly church newsletter I edit, The Flame.  Yet, they are part of almost every article submitted for that organization and for other non-profits and businesses.

Man gagged and censoredBanned Word #1: Meeting

Face it, no one wants to go some place, sit in a chair, and “meet”.  Meetings conjure up the image of school classrooms where you sit and squirm until you’re released to do something more fun.

Except “meetings” are worse than going to class because it’s not just the qualified teacher who is going to lecture you. Meetings carry with them the likelihood that some other member of the audience is going to let loose and share some tangential tidbit from their store of personal biases. Meetings you’ve gone to have lasted twice as long because someone is always going off under the guise of asking a clarifying question or, worse, tagging in with a long story that’s supposed to validate the presenter’s point. Right?

Whatever the details, you know that you don’t want to go to a “meeting.”  The vibrant people you want joining your activity don’t want to go to a meeting, either.

So, don’t use the word.

There are a lot of fine, more action-sounding terms to use instead of meeting.  These phrases may even better describe what you’re doing. For extra credit, see if you can use a verb instead of a noun when you invite people to join you. Ask them to  Rally, March, Gather, Plan, Plot, and Talk!

You can have discussions, seminars, and votes if you need to name the activity with a noun rather than to do it.  Just don’t do a “meeting”.

Banned Word #2: Committee

No one wants to join a committee.  No one.

Why?  Because all that committees do … wait for it… is have meetings. We already know that no one wants to go to a meeting, and sane folk certainly don’t want to belong to a group whose purpose is to hold them.

Committees are even set up by governments to kill interest in a public issue by holding meetings.

(Oddly, when you find yourself inexplicably trapped on a committee, your first reaction is to recruit other bright and energetic people just like you to join the committee.  It’s a tough sell, because the other intelligent people feel just like you about committees.  They run when they see you coming with your committee sign-up clipboard.)

There may be some bylaw or structural reason that your group has a formal name of The XXX Committee.  Just, don’t ever admit to your legal name in public!

Here’s what you do. Advertise your group by its true active purpose.  In fact, I love the word “activist” as a replacement for most “committees”.

  • The Art Committee becomes the Artists or Art Curators or Art Activists…
  • The Ecology Committee becomes the Eco Theorists or Green Activists…
  • The Education Committee becomes the Education Explorers or Education Advocates, or Education Activists…
  • The Justice Committee becomes the Justice Witnesses or Justice Creators or Justice Activists…

Try Out Your New Words

I know that making light of the words “meeting” and “committee” is  fun.  The need to avoid these deadening words is too obvious to any adult who has ever gone to church, joined a community group, or gone to work in a company.

However, changing the terminology for your group and its events is more than simply amusing.  Use different phrasing and you will get more volunteers eager to come to your events and to join your band of lively activists.

Try it out.  Get your most recent “Committee Meeting Announcement”.  Re-write it without once employing the banned words.  Don’t tell people about the committee meeting as if you were daring them to attend.  Invite them to join with other activists saving the world.

By |2011-10-10T15:32:03-07:00September 12th, 2011|Writing|6 Comments