The Complete Guide to Early Bird Registration for Events

Successfully marketing an event relies on creating and capturing demand throughout the entire event registration process. Breaking down event marketing into stages allows event planners to appeal to different audiences at different times throughout the registration process. Starting with early bird registration offers, successful event planners generate buzz and accelerate sales in the earliest stages of the event. 

Whether you’re a travel planner setting up your booking strategy or a smart shopper who wants to get the most with your money, you can benefit from early bird registration deals and product offers. Sometimes called “advanced sales” or “VIP offers,” early bird promotions can prove to be advantageous to everyone involved. 

Discover why early bird registration is effective and how it can supercharge your next event

What is early bird registration?

You’ve heard the saying, “The early bird gets the worm,” right? Well, the early bird gets a great deal, too. Basically, an early bird deal or offer is an exclusive offer which is only available to those who register for an event or order a product during a certain timeline. Early bird specials are typically available very early in the booking process and most discounts are between 10-25% off standard pricing.

Early bird offers are a reward for folks who are willing to commit early. They are usually accompanied by a strict deadline, with a limited number of offerings available. For conventions and conferences, the deadline for registration is typically 10-15 weeks prior to the event itself. 

Early bird offers are commonly used by: 

  • Conventions, conferences, and lectures.
  • Product launches. 
  • Webinars and classes.
  • Hotels, flights, vacation promotions, or other travel needs. 
  • Concerts and festivals. 
  • Restaurants. 

Typically, early bird prices should be lower than other discounts offered throughout the remainder of the registration process, giving early bird registrants a deal that no other registrants will receive. Because early bird discounts are so popular to both consumers and planners, they can help prevent a dreaded no-show event.

Types of early bird registration

When you drill down into early bird offers, they all offer the same thing at the bottom line: a discount, offer, or other benefit for customers who book early. From one offer to the next, however, the details of early bird specials can vary. 

Restrictions

All early bird offers have deadline restrictions. In addition to strict timelines, planners may include other restrictions that limit who is able to register for the exclusive offer. Based on the target demographic for a certain event or product, or the specific needs of a sales team, planners may choose to limit early bird offers to local residents or individuals who hold certain memberships, for example. Or, they can choose to open the offer to all. 

Rewards

Not all early bird specials offer the same benefit for customers. Our minds usually associate an early bird offer with a discount because it’s the most common early bird reward. Many companies offer a percentage off full pricing, or a specified dollar amount discount. Keep in mind, the reward doesn’t have to be monetary. Many planners choose to include a coupon code to promote the event or include a discount on a future event. Others include a promotional item or swag bag as the reward for early bird bookers. 

The strict restrictions and rewards for early bird bookers should be absolutely exclusive. Following discounts should never match or provide a deeper discount than the early bird offer. That’s a quick way to make customers angry and sacrifice the credibility of you or your event. Set a restriction on how many early bird offerings are available. Selling too many tickets at a discounted rate could be detrimental to overall profit potential.  

Why do planners include early bird registration?

Planners in charge of drumming up attendance for an event or building excitement for a product launch know that early bird offers can be a powerful tool. If done properly, it can lead to increased anticipation that will help lead to a steady stream of sales throughout the registration process. 

By providing exclusive rewards that no one else will have access to after the deadline, planners create an air of FOMO. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is tied directly to the strict deadline of the offer and the rewards they will receive if they miss out on the offer. That fear is a powerful force that planners are aware of. 

Small booking windows for early bird offers will increase FOMO for events with the right audience. Coachella, a highly-popular music festival with limited tickets available, offered an “advance sale” for one day only. The advance sale offered a limited amount of tickets and sold out quickly. Despite the fact that the one-day offer took place ten months before the event itself, event organizers had a strong understanding of their audience. The marketers knew they could rely on their interest in landing one of the coveted tickets. 

In addition to building buzz in the early stages, early bird offers also help planners prepare for the future. Based on the success of the special offer, planners and sales managers can get an idea of what attendance for the event will look like, or how successful a product launch is likely to be. With this information, they’re able to adjust their marketing strategy accordingly moving forward. For annual events, keeping track of the success of early bird registration totals can help marketing managers forecast the success of future events. 

Why is early bird registration beneficial for event attendees?

Saving money or getting a sweet deal feels really good, right? It might feel like you won something by “beating the system.” The right coupon could even open up the opportunity to spend money on something else you need. 

Furthermore, studies show that snagging a good deal actually makes you feel good physically. When someone lands a coveted spot or saves a lot of money, it actually causes chemical changes in the brain. Saving money or couponing causes a release of oxytocin in the brain — the happiness chemical! 

In addition to saving money and getting a feel-good rush, early bird customers benefit from early booking in a variety of ways. Early bird booking allows attendees to: 

  • Plan for travel early. 
  • Research the event destination. 
  • Get other early bird savings on hotel bookings and flights. 
  • Make reservations at popular restaurants or area attractions. 
  • Plan for pet care, family needs, etc. 

Marketing ideas to help planners promote early bird registration

Creating an early bird offer alone is not enough. Customers need to be informed of the discount — often more than once before they’re willing to confirm. Successful planners will have a long-term event planning timeline. Based on the unique audience for your product or event, strategize marketing efforts that will work best for you and create a plan for successful event marketing with your team.

  1. Advertise early bird offers on your event website, pages where your product is listed, as well as the main page for your company. Make offers easy to see and click to keep the registration process user and mobile-friendly. Clickable buttons that advertise the promotion are a great way to increase registrations.
  2. Create an email drip campaign that keeps your customers in the loop throughout the registration process by using various triggers. Users who include their email to get information about the event, but haven’t registered, for example, should be sent regular reminder emails detailing the approaching registration deadline. Highlight the exclusive rewards they will receive as well as the benefits of attending the event or making the purchase. Once they register, users should be sent an additional email confirming their registration and giving them the option to sign up for your company newsletter, attend a webinar, or another free offer to receive additional content of value.
  3. Advertise early bird registration on your social media sites. Social media can quickly become a catalyst for conversion when posts are linked directly to event registration. Include promotional videos, testimonials, and detail the advantages of booking early. Speed up the event registration process but ensure it still comprehensively covers the main event details. 
  4. Create a short webinar to demonstrate benefits of the event/class/etc. Connect users who haven’t committed yet directly with a visual walk-through. For many consumers, taking in information or seeing how something works through a visual medium is more engaging than reading about it. 
  5. Advertise locally to target potential attendees. Are you hosting a lecture? Advertise your event at local colleges, libraries, and coffee shops. Are you launching a new wellness product? Advertise at local health food stores, gyms, or holistic retailers in your area. 
  6. Market early bird benefits as “VIP perks.” Consumers who are looking for early bird discounts love the exclusivity of the rewards that come with early registration. Marketing the rewards as “VIP perks” will further appeal to these consumers. VIP perks could include early entry, prime seating, backstage passes, or access to an exclusive post-event Q&A. 
  7. Reward repeat attendees. By offering discounts or additional rewards for attending future events, businesses can both build customer loyalty and a reliable revenue pipeline. 
  8. Promote keynote speakers and distinguished guests. Include a short speaker bio, selected quotes from books or other works, and reviews of their former lectures. 
  9. Consider swapping “early reward” terminology for “late penalties” in your early bird promotional copy. By simply switching these words around, you can shift the mindset of potential registrants. By discussing the downside of missing out on the early bird promotion, you’re changing the user’s perspective from a fear of missing out to the fear of facing potential repercussions.
  10. Plan to revamp your marketing campaign when early bird registration ends. 

Additionally, don’t let your marketing stall after the early bird registration period is over. Shift to other discounts. Planners can offer Facebook-only discounts for Facebook users, or send coded discounts to your email list offering “10% off this week only.” 

When an event ends, or a product launch wraps up, planners should be sure to follow up with those who attended and those who did not. Send out surveys for event feedback as well as recap of the event. Post-event engagement will help lock in repeat visitors.

Frequently asked questions about early bird discounts

Do early bird discounts work?

Early bird discounts can be incredibly effective for the right events in the right market. They encourage individuals to book tickets, RSVP to events, or order a product early. It is used as a scarcity tactic, especially for popular events, and helps planners identify how much demand there is for the event or item. 

Should I use early bird registration for my event? 

If you need to accelerate sales for your upcoming event, improve attendance, or create buzz about your event, you could be missing out on a wonderful tactic to help secure your success if you don’t offer early bird registration. 

What businesses offer early bird discounts?

Businesses in most industries can take advantage of early bird sales and offers. From hotels and airlines to restaurants or retailers, most businesses can implement an advance offer to their benefit. 

How much is an early bird discount? 

Most commonly, early bird offers include a discount of up to 25% off. Some offers include a flat pricing discount ($20 off). Others include exclusive privileges or retail merchandise in addition to a discount, or in place of a monetary discount.