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Q & A 

Events: 5 minutes with… Mark Sullivan

Staging events is an increasingly important revenue stream for publishers, but how do you get people to pitch up on the day? We grab five minutes with Circdata’s Mark Sullivan to find out…

By Mark Sullivan

Events: 5 minutes with… Mark Sullivan
"An event audience is the most engaged group of people you can get!"

Q: What can publishers do to build a sense of community and engagement amongst their readership?

A: Publishers have a tough job these days to maintain an engaged audience as readers are subject to a multitude of content channels! Organisations who do it successfully give their readers ownership of their brand by opening channels to enable their audience to contribute. This allows a brand to stay relevant and empowers their audience to be important stakeholders. Investing time and resources into organising focus groups, and identifying industry influencers to collaborate with will ensure a brand connects and stays relevant within its sector. Harnessing the power of social media is crucial in a fast moving market sector. Re-posting photos, creating social focus groups and co-creation of content provides a continuous feedback loop increasing engagement and organic reach.

Q: Do you have any tips on how publishers can get their readers to attend their events?

A: Events are an important extension of the content machine. Therefore, publishers should have a strong sense of the issues affecting their audience, and the key industry speakers that would convince readers to take a day out of the office. Incorporate these into an event agenda and you are halfway there!

Research is key; whether via reader surveys or by creating focus groups in order to influence seminar content. This will ensure your content stays relevant in a fast-changing market.

Timing can make or break an event. Finalise your agenda early! It can then be promoted within your magazine ahead of the event. You can also give your readers related content as homework to make the most of a session at the event.

Make it worth your reader’s while to take a day out of the office. Career development is often the sweet spot in driving visitor / delegate numbers. Perhaps offer CPD accredited content, facilitate networking opportunities or host awards to celebrate the achievements and innovation of your audience.

Work closely with key speakers to endorse your event for you; they are important influencers who will widen your reach and will be an effective marketing channel. Do the same with your exhibitors and sponsors.

Q: What additional value can your publication offer to your event audience? What additional value can your events offer your publication?

A: An event audience is the most engaged group of people you can get! They have turned up at your show to learn, network and share experiences. An event is a hugely valuable, engaged offline audience.

Events and magazines delivering content both have their value and support each other. As I mentioned earlier, everyone has content overload. A printed magazine you can immerse yourself in with no distractions, and an event you can be part of are two important pillars to drive engagement and loyalty to a brand.

Q: What are key dos and don’ts of the registration / admissions process?



  • Consider charging a small fee for on-site registrations for a free-to-attend event; it will reduce queues at the door and you’ll understand your audience better in advance
  • Get your registration page live early; you would be surprised at how soon last year’s attendees want to re-register or re-book
  • Review your customer journey every time you launch your event; does it flow seamlessly? What do your delegates receive once they submit the form? Do they know when they will hear from you again?
  • Remind your pre-reg of what is on offer at your event before you open the doors. The earlier people register, the more likely they are to be a no-show. Remind them why they should be there.


  • Ask 100 questions on your registration form! Do you really use all of the information? Get the red pen out and cut all the questions if you haven’t used the data in your media pack or your planning for the next event
  • Switch off your registration form before the event, keep it open. The customer journey will be more seamless and good registration providers can deal with a real-time system
Q: After a great first event, how does a publisher deliver a successful second?

A: Don’t wait until after the first event! Have next year’s date and location ready to promote to delegates before they leave the show.

Think about what your audience will post about your first event. Give them an opportunity to share their experience to help grow your audience ahead of the second event. For example, why not create a social campaign for delegates to post images of themselves with key speakers or show features? This will create a huge buzz and hopefully fear of missing out (FOMO) will drive more visitors to your second event.

Use technology at the first show to understand your customer’s behaviour. You will learn more about your delegates through their engagement with your event than you’ll learn from the demographic questions in your registration form. Tools such as live polling, content collection, gamification and competition participation, and even the event Twitter feed will give you deep insight into what your audience liked or want, to help you shape a second event.

If you invest in video at your event – capturing sessions, speakers, vox pops, etc – repurpose this content post-show to engage and grow your audience ahead of the second year campaign.

Publishers have an excellent opportunity for continual engagement with their event audience through their online and print publications. Create a special additional magazine or online content to showcase event highlights; alongside the date of the second event, it will drive registrations early… so have your registration form ready!

About Circdata

Circdata is a technology-driven organisation providing fully integrated audience management and development solutions for media owners. Established in 1994 as a data management company, it has developed a technology platform that offers web-based financial transaction and data processing tools – called Fusion – which meets the needs of both event organisers and publishers. Circdata’s core capabilities include:

  • Circulation and subscriptions fulfilment including ABC/BPA audit compliance
  • Event registration services, including an integrated visitor and exhibitor mobile event app
  • Lead capture solutions
  • Data management & audience development consultancy