5 Ways to Build an Emotional Connection with Participants

Many event directors are focusing on ways they can create strong connections with participants to keep registration numbers high, as well as to build loyalty and differentiate their events from the competition. Emotional connections humanize your event – giving it a personality that participants can relate to and engage with. This is a tactic that has proven to grow registration numbers and keep people coming back, year after year.

Here are 5 ways you can set your event apart by building an emotional connection with participants:

1. Tell your event’s story on your website
Make sure to have an “About Us” section on your website and don’t just include your contact information. Tell your story! Explain when your event was founded, how the first year went, how the community has been involved…anything that paints a picture to participants of why your event exists. And be sure to include your story as an event director as well. Participants want to know who you are and how you got started in the business. People love a good story and it will leave a personal, positive impression in the minds.

2. Have your participants tell their stories
Your event has its story, but so do your participants. Each one has a unique reason they registered for your event. It could be for fitness, fun, a challenge…whatever the motivation, encourage them to share it. Have a “What’s Your Story” contest on your website and ask participants to send in videos or letters telling you what inspired them to register for your event. You can use this section to inspire others as well as to show your participants that you are focused on creating a great experience for them. Make your participants feel special and they will return the favor.

3. Hold a “Biggest Loser” contest
You can leverage the popularity of the Biggest Loser TV show and the media attention that the obesity epidemic is getting by creating your own version of a weight loss contest. Offer an incentive (e.g. a free entry to next year’s race, free running shoes, complimentary six month membership to a gym, etc) to the person/team that loses the most weight as they train for your event. Have participants submit applications to be a part of this contest and then post updates on your website about their progress in the weeks leading up to race day. They will be the unofficial ambassadors of your event! This is an easy way to motivate participants to get healthy and it’s an emotional connection that many people identify with and want to be part of.

4. Partner with a charity
This is the most obvious and most popular way to humanize your event, partly because it is so effective. People want to do good. If they can combine getting fit and having fun with supporting a charitable cause, they will. Take a look at your participant demographics (Do you have a lot of families? Women? Locals?) and try to choose a charity that would align with their values. Or, choose one that fits with your event story. If you have a course that runs by the sea, maybe partner with a beach clean up organization. If you are based in a military town, partner with Wounded Warriors. The more personal and relevant the cause, the more participants will identify with it and want to be involved.

5. Get kids involved
When you create an atmosphere that the whole family can enjoy, people tend to make it a tradition. Add a kids’ fun run or even just a play area (with supervision) to entertain the young ones while the parents compete. Have finisher’s medals for kids, throw up some bounce houses, have a face painting area, etc. By including the kids, you are taking your race to the next level and making it an event – a more holistic experience for all ages. This will build a connection with each family member and tie their positive experiences back to your event.

If you have other ideas on great ways to build connections with participants, comment below to share them!

how to organize a 5K