The Network Effect: Boost Ticket Sales By Leveraging Your Connections

November 29, 2023

Dana Freker Doody

Dana Freker Doody is a strategic marketing communications executive who excels at engaging audiences across physical and digital platforms. She has 25 years of experience in events and trade shows and now runs her own agency, Inktide Solutions, LLC. Dana serves as the fractional head of marketing communications at EventsPass.

The people you already know can lead you to prosperity because multiplying network connections creates a self-perpetuating cycle of growth.

The Network Effect is not new, but it may be time to take a fresh look at the methods and software technology tools that are enabling it today because there is potential to reshape an event’s success. Marketing methods for consumer shows and events are always evolving and knowing the latest tactics can stretch marketing budgets.

By strategically leveraging network connections and referral strategies, event organizers have the potential to significantly enhance an event’s success. The following sections highlight specific execution tactics that, when compounded over time, can amplify the impact of marketing efforts and guide immediate deployment.

1. Attendee referral marketing is often underutilized in the consumer events and trade show space as those already committed to attending the event are overlooked. To maximize the impact of attendee marketing, it’s essential to recognize these individuals are not just participants but also potential brand advocates.

“Attendees are your strongest asset for amplifying event reach. Leveraging their networks through referral marketing creates a ‘plus one’ strategy, expanding attendance organically,” says Adam Blakney, CEO of EventsPass.

As more attendees refer to other attendees, an event’s reach extends exponentially. Referral tools like unique codes and links empower attendees to become brand advocates. Attendees can be rewarded with monetary incentives or unique experiences based on effort or success. Tracking conversions from these referrals provides valuable insights for targeted marketing efforts.

At the very least, ensure you encourage ticket purchasers to share their planned attendance with their networks via social media channels. Plus, be sure to structure ticket packages for maximum audience spend with packs of 2, 4 or 10 called out in your purchase options to further reinforce network sharing.

2. Exhibiting companies and their personnel can become brand ambassadors for an event, utilizing their networks to attract attendees. Tap into these networks to access a wider audience base and increase visibility. Strategies that incentivize exhibitors to be promoters will increase the impact of marketing dollars and unlock mutual growth potential for organizers and exhibitors.

“Exhibitors are essential contributors to the event’s success. Their vested interest in attracting attendees aligns perfectly with the goal of increasing event attendance,” Blakney says. “I think there’s a lot of pressure on organizers to deliver a market and it’s good neutrality when exhibitors have tools to bring market to the shows as well. Marketing departments inside companies understand the whole idea of community marketing a little bit better and are more open to optimizing their exhibit marketing investments.”

Exhibitor network-enhanced marketing should go beyond year one and nurture long-term partnerships. By providing exhibitors with marketing tools and strategies to succeed, organizers demonstrate their commitment to exhibitor success. These relationships built on mutual growth can lead to repeat exhibitors, increased booth sales and a more vibrant event ecosystem.

Another way to incentivize participation is to offer digital lead generation to exhibitors. Collecting attendee data efficiently ensures exhibitors can access high-quality leads and better manage their own performance. The right software is VITAL to this endeavor and ultimately in the purview of the organizer. Be sure to think about this opportunity when choosing a ticketing and registration partner.

3. Industry influencers have the ability to significantly expand the reach of consumer events and trade shows. Industry influencer recommendations and endorsements can carry a lot of weight, and the ability to captivate audiences is invaluable. 

Collaborate with influencers to create engaging content, such as highlight the event’s value and lead to attendance. Understand the motivations of influencers so you can create an optimal package for your engagement together and find a mutually beneficial agreement.

Event organizers can offer influencers exclusive access, special features or opportunities to engage with event attendees. In return, influencers can lend their expertise, actively promote the event and amplify the event’s message through their channels. Integrated software facilitates this.

“Collaborating with influencers aligns the event with trusted voices, creating a compelling invitation for their followers to participate,” Blakney says. “On the backend, organizers must be able to see who the top referrers are and what level of additional ticket sales are coming from each source. When you see in your data that someone’s referred 40 converted tickets, for example, reach out to that person individually to engage more deeply and also understand what they’re doing that may be different from the others.”

4. Local media outlets have a vested interest in sharing news about events and shows taking place in their communities because it aligns with their core objective: to inform the public. Consumer events and trade shows have broad audiences, are a lighter side of life and have a specific time hook. Events can captivate a reporter’s audience through their visual appeal, element of excitement, diversity of news, educational opportunities and contributions to the local economy.

A press element should be part of the overall marketing event plan. Organizers who earn compelling coverage will resonate with potential attendees and see demand for ticket purchases increase. Press releases can garner earned media through editorial aspects by highlighting the economic impact, or by showcasing the local citizens who are passionate about your event theme.

Be sure to develop media kits containing event photos, logos, relevant data or statistics and story angles. Then, identify and reach out to members of the press and offer interviews or exclusive content.

Remember, building relationships with local press and media outlets is an ongoing effort. Consistently engaging with them, providing valuable content and delivering newsworthy stories can result in substantial media coverage that boosts the visibility and success of an event.

Even more ideas can be found in the EventsPass resource “Elevate Your Event Success,” available for download here.


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact