How do you encourage word of mouth/referrals for your event?

I’ve been looking at the data from the 2018 Pulse Report and see that word of mouth/referrals is thought to be the third most effective event promotions tactic after free social media and email.

Furthermore, 60% of event organisers plan to increase their focus on word of mouth/referrals to promote their events in 2018. I’m interested to know how this works in practice - what are your experiences?


Hey Belinda,

For referrals, it could be an idea to gamify the experience. Create a leaderboard with some goodies like promotional merchandise, VIP access to a backstage area or “meet the speakers” area and use that as a way to drive increased signup rates. Tonnes of tech companies use referral marketing in the same way for their products, like Uber or The Hustle (which is a pretty awesome newsletter).

For general word of mouth, it works to be provocative or have a highly sought after speaker attending, though I appreciate this won’t be possible for some organisers. Another way to do it could be to facilitate your attendee’s own conversations. Set up a dedicated networking space, and encourage attendees to bring clients or friends along. Can companies receive Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for your events, or are they eligible for free funding from your L&D department? It’s always good to have some templates which make it easier for people to attend.

The biggest growing events that I’ve seen have had some viral or undeserved element, like Brighton SEO which you’ve written about earlier. They grew from 20 people attending to thousands through great content, speakers and parties - that’s always one where the real word of mouth might play in!


Hey Aman, thanks for sharing that. I looked up The Hustle’s referral programme and found this article about how they signed up 300,000 people! It’s really clever how they engage people to make referrals with the various milestones. Also interesting to see they use access to a private community as an incentive and that they proactively email everyone a unique referral link - that could easily be replicated by event organisers.

This reminded me of a point @Richard_Millington made about Advocacy in his latest book - I will attempt to paraphrase:

Lot’s of businesses have customers who would be happy to recommend them to their friends or promote the business. The trouble is, that’s not enough: you have to provide them with a way to do it, or have a way of telling them what to do through prompts/triggers


I’d change that slightly, it’s not enough to enable them to do it. You need to ask them :slight_smile:

That can take many different forms, but asking people to share content, discount codes, news, or giving exclusive information to groups first can all help.

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I saw a conference organiser do something very interesting on LI the other day. He posted a short video where he offered to send a lottery ticket (he was holding them in his hand) to everyone who tagged a potential attendee for his event.

He had dozens of comments within hours with people tagging people they thought might want to register.

I will follow up with him to see how many converted and whether the leads were each worth £2.50 (plus postage I guess!).

Anyone seen anything similar which might work in a business to business context?


Wow! Interesting concept. Did he cap the number of referrals?

Do come back to us and let us know how well this worked.

Great idea! Although that’s quite a high per lead cost. I wonder how much the conference tickets were selling for? Would be fascinating to know what conversion he got. I was thinking that you could also incentivise people by offering to donate £1 to charity for every lead/Facebook share. It would be nice for a good cause to benefit.

I’ve just sent him an email to ask how it worked out for him.

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I asked him how he got on and he said “It was pretty good in terms of cost per registration and ultimately all helps with a bit of publicity.”

He’ll give out the lottery tickets to the people who are at his event or post them if not. As he said to me “The real trick is when someone wins something (even £10) it will be a nice little story. :blush:


Yes it’s a clever little PR stunt. Thanks for sharing

Thought I’d revive this post because in this year’s Pulse report word-of-mouth marketing comes out as the most effective marketing tactic of all. A whopping 93% of event organisers say peer-to-peer recommendations are effective.

What do you do to encourage people to recommend your event to their friends and family? Are you actually taking pro-active action or do you just hope this will happen organically?

I have hosted numerous OFFLINE dinners and I estimate over 600 individuals have attended, all friends, associates or others in my orbit. As OFFLINE is partly a celebration of the virtues of randomness and serendipity, I don’t much care where people come from or what they may do but I care very much that they are givers, open to fresh ideas and perspectives, curious about the world around them and, moreover, interested in the lives of others. Givers are frequently a source of referrals to OFFLINE and I recommend you look at those people in your universe who go the extra mile and do so with pleasure. Indeed, they are often flattered to be asked. I don’t much bother with social media, most of which is deeply overrated.