Guest post by Ryan Farquharson.
Attracting attendees is a tough job for event professionals. Between juggling exhibitions equipment for hire, selecting and working with the venue, managing stakeholders, and sponsor prospecting, a lot that goes into putting an event in order.
But beyond that, it is essential to pay attention to event engagement—more specifically, attendee engagement. If your audience is not engaged, chances are they will leave unsatisfied and unimpressed, and probably won’t ever want to come back for any future event.
So how do you improve attendee engagement at events? Here are eight best practices to help you keep your event guests focused, enthusiastic, and engaged with your event activities and people.
1. Produce Great Content
A memorable event starts with engaging content. The content you deliver should support the strategic purpose of your event as well as meeting audience interests and needs. Consider sharing behind-the-scenes photos and moments to make attendees really feel like part of the experience. Ensure that your event speakers and presentations are relevant and compelling.
Live tweeting during your event (using your event hashtag, of course) is an excellent way to keep your attendees engaged. Share photos of what’s happening at your conference, speaker’s quotes, and retweet your guests who are making use of your event hashtag.
2. Use Gamification
To keep attendees engaged, make your event more fun. Long gone are the days of audiences being comfortable sitting in on one lecture-style presentation after another. Add competitions or games to spice up the event. A few more suggestions to set your event apart:
- Hire professional acrobats, musicians, and/or magicians to perform at set times and spontaneously during the event.
- Incorporate virtual or augmented reality into your product training session.
- Run a sweepstakes or raffle; announce the winners in between event sessions.
Whatever entertainment element your choose, your attendees will appreciate the break in your event schedule.
3. Interact With Your Audience
Today’s event technology and event management software make it much easier to interact with your guests. Make use of an attendee engagement tool to enhance and improve communication. Consider collecting and curating top attendee questions and answers.
Collect audience feedback to help optimize the operation aspects of your event. By listening and interacting, you increase attendee engagement as well as identify opportunities to improve the overall experience.
4. Make Use of Live Question & Answer and Polling
Improve attendee engagement through Q&A plus polling. If you use a tool like Glisser or Sli.do, you can crowdsource questions from your live attendees. Event surveys are helpful in collecting valuable feedback and keeping attendees engaged.
5. Utilize Interactive Seating Layouts
Conventional seating layouts still work best for some sessions, but there are other options beyond the basic which can improve engagement at your event. Consider circular and other layouts that encourage interaction. Different layouts serve different purposes, so consider the objectives and best approach for each session.
If you don’t want to change the seat layout completely, try a simple change such as using round tables to help the audience to interact with each other naturally.
6. Create an Event Hashtag
Before your event takes place, create a short, unique hashtag that will be the only one promoted across your event. Have all your event speakers encourage attendees to make use of the hashtag. Add the hashtag to speaker slides, event signage, badges, and any place your audience will go for information.
7. Book Compelling Talent and Speakers
When booking your entertainment talent and speakers, know your attendees. Ensure that the personality and subject-matter expertise of the speakers matches the tone of the event. Most importantly, be sure the talent and speakers help to improve the entire event experience.
Make sure to inform your performers and speakers of all the guidelines they need to know about.
8. Create a Mobile App
Mobile apps are now commonplace for organizers and attendees, but remain an effective way to improve audience engagement. Well-designed event apps enable attendees to plan their itinerary at the event, receive alerts for essential sessions, connect with other attendees, and find answers to common questions.
Social media monitoring and engagement serves as an incredible channel for promoting an event online. Create a catchy and unique hashtag, then encourage everyone to post content including it. Interact with attendees on social media; track shares and mentions; and recognize (and perhaps even reward) the most active users for their effort.
Ryan Farquharson is co-founder and CEO at ExpoCart, the one stop shop marketplace for products and services for exhibitions and events. Through its intuitive platform, ExpoCart makes it easy to companies to hire and purchase everything they need for their exhibitions in just a few simple clicks for venues across the UK.