Data Analysis Report: A Look at Promotion, Pre-Registration, and Attendance Data for Evangelistic Events

Larry WitzelBasic Marketing Principles, Case-studies, Evangelism Practices, From the Field, Marketing Tools

“Which marketing method gets more pre-registrations AND attendance?

Isn’t that the question EVERY Pastor or Evangelist wants to know?

SermonView is in a unique position. We offer marketing for evangelistic events. We have a pre-registration system that can tell us the source of a registration. We also have the AttendanceTracker module for our InterestTracker CRM software. Because of this, we’ve collected a ton of anonymized data over the last 15 years. But it’s not connected to each other, making it difficult to analyze.

So when I had an opportunity to write a paper for my PhD program that required this exact type of data analysis, I jumped at the chance. It opened the door to the possibility of uncovering patterns and insights on evangelism marketing and attendance that previously could only be speculated on. (If you’d like to review it, the full paper is available online.)

The Study

The purpose of this study was to understand the influence of various marketing communication channels—ranging from emails, mailers, or social media—on event pre-registration and actual event attendance. In other words, which marketing channel gives us the most pre-registrations? And which marketing channel gives us the most attendance?

The data for this study came from two sources. The first dataset is SermonView’s event pre-registration platform database, which provided individual registration records for 119 campaigns for in-person events in the 2020-2023 range for which matching attendance tracking data was available. To qualify for inclusion, a campaign needed to:

  • be for an in-person event
  • have received attendee registrations from at least one marketing channel
  • have corresponding attendance tracking data

The second dataset is our InterestTracker database, which provided individual interest records of those who attended at least one session for these same 119 campaigns.

While we have data for thousands of marketing campaigns over the last 15 years, not every event used InterestTracker to track nightly attendance. And many events in InterestTracker did not have a corresponding marketing campaign using SermonView’s event pre-registration system. That limited the analysis to just these 119 campaigns.

There were 9,510 records in the event pre-registration platform that met the study criteria, of which 3,314 had matching records in the InterestTracker database. The InterestTracker database provided 11,631 records that met the study criteria, of which there were 3,314 matching records in the event pre-registration platform database.

Findings from the Data

First, keep in mind that there are many factors to consider when reviewing data such as this. Things like event length and topic are likely to influence registration and attendance rates, as well as the clarity of communication of the value to potential participants. There is not enough data to slice this with any more granularity, such as by event length or topic, but this does give us some insight into ways attendance rates can improve.

With that in mind, here are four specific findings from the data:

1. How you hear about the event matters.

When they registered for the event using SermonView’s event pre-registration system, guests were asked how they heard about the event. Figure 6 (below) shows the pre-registrations for 119 events broken down by how the guest self-reported how they learned about the event.

The first thing that jumps out from this graph is that nearly half (49%) of all the pre-registrants said they heard about the event from online marketing, predominantly through Facebook or Instagram.

But the second thing you immediately see is that Facebook/Instagram had really low attendance rates, and in fact this group represented a smaller number of attendees than those who heard about it from more traditional marketing channels like direct mail.

2. “Effort” matters, but not how you think.

Figure 7 (below) shows all pre-registrations from people who heard about the event on Facebook or Instagram and compares attendance rates between people who registered on the pre-registration website versus the on-page form used for social media ad event registrations.

While the on-page form had much more registrations overall, it had a lower attendance rate than the website form submissions. What is the difference between the forms? 

The on-page form used for online marketing allows for auto-filled fields. This reduces friction, and makes submitting the form easier. The website form requires entering multiple fields manually.

One might think that the simplified, easier form would be more beneficial, right? However, the higher attendance rate from the website form aligns with what Cialdini found in his principle of Commitment and Consistency: lower commitment leads to lower rates of follow-through, while higher commitment effort leads to higher rates of follow-through.

3. There is always room for growth.

This study shows that some additional commitment steps could be added to the registration funnel, particularly for those who sign up via Facebook or Instagram advertising. Cialdini’s principle of Commitment and Consistency suggests that additional small commitments, with some type of public view, could improve compliance with the ultimate goal of attendance at the event. This might lower the overall pre-registration rate but would increase the rate of attendance by those who do pre-register.

This could be done by researching different types of forms, perhaps removing auto-fill or incentivizing registered guests to post publicly on social media or share the event to their friends via email. For example, a book or printed study guide could be offered to those who send an email to 3 of their friends, stating, “I’m going to this event, and I hope you will, too.” (Attendance rates could then be compared between those who share and those who don’t.)

The take away from this is it is worth experimenting with not making it “too easy” to do, or else it might be too easy to forget too. By increasing the additional commitment steps, you are increasing the likelihood of the pre-registrant staying consistent with the commitment they made in the beginning of their journey with you.

Let’s take another look at Figure 6 (below). We don’t know what “”Unknown” or “Other” represent, but take a look at the attendance rate for “Friend”.

This leads us to believe there should be connection efforts that are complementary to your digital marketing methods that get great pre-registration numbers, but perhaps weaker attendance rates.

Establishing a nurturing campaign both increases the awareness of the commitment and starts building relational connections with pre-registrants.

For example, a church could call each person, particularly those who registered using the on-page form on Facebook or Instagram. Even if the caller couldn’t speak to the guest directly, leaving a voicemail would alert the guest that a real human is aware of the commitment they made, raising the apparent weight of the commitment.

Another option would be to send weekly emails, signed by the pastor or speaker. These emails would affirm the decision the person made to pre-register, inform them a seat is being saved for them, and let them know you are looking forward to seeing them there. Emails should also include engaging questions and Bible verses to help keep the excitement of what first drew them in at the core of your communications.

The data for events that took this extra approach could then be analyzed to determine if this intervention increased the rate of attendance.

4. You need both digital ads and direct mail.

In a previous study, I found the median cost of a pre-registration by direct mail was $538.89, while the median cost from digital advertising was $50.00. Once we account for the lower attendance rates from digital advertising, though, this difference is dramatically reduced. The cost per attendee who pre-registered from direct mail was $1,189.60 ($538.90 ÷ 45.3%), while the cost per attendee who pre-registered via the Facebook or Instagram on-page form was $847.46 ($50.00 ÷ 5.9%). This suggests that even though people who pre-register via the social media on-page form attend at much lower rates, there is still value in including Facebook and Instagram in the advertising mix, because ultimately the cost per attendee is still less than the cost of an attendee from direct mail. However, direct mail is still the only way to guarantee that someone in every home gets your invitation, so even though the cost per attendee for direct mail was slightly more than from digital ads, you’re reaching a wider audience. Ultimately, it’s both/and, not either/or.


This data shows that by utilizing a combination of digital marketing efforts across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, you’ll get a better cost-per-lead for your event marketing budget. While supporting your marketing digital efforts with a mailing might lead to a higher cost per lead, it is actually likely to get you more attendance.

Plus, building an intentional follow up plan to your marketing efforts, with reminders and personal connections built in, shows promising potential for turning more of your pre-registrants into attendees.

Next-generation digital advertising to reach this generation.

At SermonView, we take a multi-touch marketing approach as often as we can when helping churches reach their communities. There are several key ways a multi-touch digital marketing approach can have a positive impact on reaching more people and building trust with your ministry.

We have helped churches with over 6,000 outreach events. We’ve sent over 30 million mailers into communities and reached over 8 million social media users. So we know how to help you plan an effective campaign.

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