Wake Up! Keeping Attendees Engaged

6 September 2016

We've all sat through uninspired, uninspiring conference days, meetings and events. We’ve all silently longed for the comfort of the office as we doodle mindlessly on the notes we've been given for the next PowerPoint presentation, thinking about the workload we could be making a dent in... In short, we've all been unengaged at events.

There’s just no excuse for event organisers not to be engaging attendees anymore. With huge leaps forward in events technology, increased mobile ownership and connectivity, knowledge of social media and a little awareness, there are more opportunities than ever for an event to speak to, inspire and engage attendees across its entire lifecycle - before, during and after the event itself.

An event should bring people together, provide new forums and platforms for mutually beneficial conversations with peers and leadership, and offer attendees and organisers real value, relationship building and information sharing opportunities.

But it can only do that if attendees are engaged. So how do you go about it?

Before the Event

Let Attendees set the Agenda

Online survey software can pay dividends for event planners. Use surveys and online platforms to discuss and get feedback on your proposed agenda. Find out where pain points are for attendees, and tailor the programme to address them. Add questions and criteria for how attendees like to receive information - by standard presentation, in smaller, focused group exercises, or via event management software, for example. By effectively crowdsourcing the event's content and delivery platforms, you'll ensure that you are answering the questions that your attendees are actually asking.

Leverage Tech & Social from the Outset

In our piece on how tech and social media are changing events, we talked about a 2015 WeAreSocial report that revealed how almost 70% of the 3 billion active internet users worldwide have active social accounts. A Zephoria report this year showed that mobile Facebook users check the site an average of 14 times a day. However you cut it, social media is an inescapable part of daily life for most people in the developed world. So use it.

Event hashtags are a simple, free way of building conversation and anticipation before an event. A strong hashtag will allow organisers to oversee and lead conversation in the build up to an event, transforming the way people experience and interact with an event before they even walk through the door.

Events management software can be another cost effective platform for building buzz and engaging attendees in the weeks before an event. Organisers can use it to speak directly to invited and confirmed attendees, starting conversations, taking feedback and creating buzz. That helps engagement during the build up, and can also collaboratively create a body of information that can be used to create a more engaging end-to-end experience for delegates.

During the Event 

Make the Most of Real-Time Feedback

Social conversation isn't just for warm up and cool down - paired with mobile connectivity it's a massively valuable and easily leveraged tool for real-time feedback, commentary and more.

Conversation doesn't only happen online though - it's a good idea to also work in Q & As with speakers after presentations, and at key points during the event. Ensure that your speakers are primed to give focused, valuable examples that are relevant to the audience's industry and roles.

Keep Presentations Digestible

There are a few ways that you can ensure that speakers are delivering real value at your event. The first is to encourage them to use some imagination in their presentation delivery. This can be as simple as audience participation, use of multi-media or AV equipment where available, or restructuring a presentation around engaging anecdotes... or it can be as complex, involved and off the wall as the venue and facilities permit. The sky’s the limit.

The other thing to remember is that longer is very rarely the same thing as better. Audiences can quickly become bored, disinterested and disengaged from a rambling presentation. Instead, structure your event in a way that encourages tight, lean and quickly turned around presentations, or consider splitting a longer presentation with drinks, food or entertainment.

After the Event

Keep the conversation going for maximum ROI

Measuring event ROI has never been more key to justifying budgets and keeping directors, finance teams and procurement heads happy.

Particularly for events where attendee engagement is a key ROI metric (pipeline gen. events, annual conferences, marketplace positioning meets), keeping the conversation and the buzz going after an event is vital. If you're using an event registration programme you can monitor and record engagement - in the form of comments, conversation and event-related actions - in real time. If you've been leveraging social media throughout your event, keep the conversation going around the relevant hashtags to ensure continued engagement. That’s value that engaged attendees can give you even after the lights are off and everyone has staggered home.

Engaged attendees allow your event to deliver on its key business objectives, to improve ROI and to justify its budget. That means everyone benefits - attendees learn more, enjoy more, take on more key messages and get greater value from their attendance. Demonstrable, measurable benefits to attendees means improved ROI, a stronger business case for future events and contented leadership. Sponsors benefit. Speakers benefit. Everyone benefits.

We would love to help you to create an event that immerses, engages and informs your attendees. We have the imagination, the experience and the industry understanding to do just that - so get in touch now via the Contact page.