Imagine if you took a whole day to set up a feast for guests.

You rent out a beautiful venue, take the time to lay out the finest silverware, and maybe even light a few scented candles.

But, when the time comes for people to arrive, no one comes.

Besides the heartbreak, there’s something that can be just as bad: wallet-break.

That was the obstacle facing The Culinary Guild of New England (CGNE), an organization that promotes events that help chefs and casual cooking enthusiasts alike connect over a fine meal.

“We used to email or mail out event notices, but we never knew how many people would show up,” says CGNE President Carrie Richards. “So if we overestimated, we were left to pick up the balance.”

In July 2010, however, things started to change for the better. Using Constant Contact, CGNE took event registration online in a big way.

Here are the five steps that the organization took to boost attendance:

1. Create a destination for registrants

One way to better position an event is to create a destination that offers critical information to attendees.

Just take a look at the homepage from CGNE’s November event, Feast of the Seven Fishes:

Culinary 2

The branded feel of the page shows off the general theme of the event and left column showcases all of the information that viewers need if they want to attend.

2. Keep registration simple

You’ve filled out registration forms online before. How many boxes do you fill before getting bored and going to YouTube, instead?

The CGNE went with three:


Keep in mind that guests won’t want to share much more information than their names, too. Keep registration short and sweet.

3. Remember the reminders

The CGNE sends out invitations for every event, but often sends reminders to recipients, too.

For example, to promote the Feast of the Seven Fishes, the institution sent a total of five invitations, all of which received open rates higher than 20% which is good. This tactic kept guests interested and, more importantly, continued to give them opportunities to register.

4. Go social to spread the word

To really make sure that members and non-members alike knew about the Feast of the Seven Fishes, the CGNE promoted the event through Twitter and Facebook in a very special way.

Along with traditional posts about the upcoming event, the organization hosted a Twitter contest with a little bit of trivia. One lucky guest who answered the question got to attend the dinner for free.

The email about the contest went out as an invitation – so it both reminded guests about the event and offered an incentive to play. That also made it easy for them to refund the winner’s ticket via PayPal.

5. Make the registration process simple… for you

Carrie explains that hosting events in one streamlined system has made things significantly easier.

“Constant Contact is a great one-stop-shop that allows us to set up an event and then create an email, mini web page, and registration and confirmation messages from the same place, with the same visual theme,” she says.

She adds that, to drive traffic to the event’s homepage, the Culinary Guild’s website calendar links to the page, which means people who aren’t on the mailing list can also register.

All of that means that, when 87 guests showed up at the Feast of the Seven Fishes, the CGNE was prepared for them.

The organization no longer has to worry about budget issues. Now the hosts can worry about what really matters – the food!

Ready to get started? With Constant Contact, you’ll have everything you need to make your event a success.