How To Guarantee Audience Engagement at Your Events?
What is worse than an event where your audience is not actively interacting with your speakers? Nothing. A lack of engagement is every eventprofs biggest nightmare.
While there are passive attendees to every kind of event, the atmosphere becomes electrifying when attendees are active and enthusiastically contribute by sharing ideas and opinions. Having good audience engagement is one of the many goals that event professionals aim for. High engagement often means that your attendees are having a good experience. And that is key to ensuring that your event fulfills your attendees’ expectations.
Audience engagement is not guaranteed simply by having good content to share at your event. But what are the best ways to engage your audience? You need to incorporate additional touchpoints that would entice your audience to actively interact and stay engaged. In short, you need to come up with a solid audience engagement strategy.
In this article, we’ll share some of our favorite tips that you can take to guarantee audience engagement at your next event.
What is Audience Engagement?
Audience engagement, also referred to as event engagement, defines how much the audience’s attention is retained by the event and its content, as well as how much the attendees are actively interacting with the event and its content.
Having good audience engagement is often proof that your event is interesting and providing value to its attendees. It also works to build a connection between your event and your community. Through engagement, the multiple interactions between the brand and the audience at an event help create a meaningful connection between them.
There are a variety of ways to engage your audience, and the approach you take will depend on your goals and the nature of your event. For example, you could consider involving audience members in the planning, execution, and evaluation of an event. This helps give more ownership to your attendees, helping the audience feel more connected to your event, thus increasing the chances of participation.
Yet, measuring audience engagement at an event can be challenging. For example, many companies struggle to precisely define event engagement, and thus capture it accurately. Is it the number of questions the audience asks at a Q&A? The average time they spend listening to the sessions? The types of engagement important for you and your event will be different for each setting and instance. Setting precise goals for your events is the first step, but you also need to define clear metrics to measure your event engagement.
Build your own event engagement strategy
As we’ve outlined, event engagement isn’t just a happy accident. It’s something that planners must develop and facilitate. Here, a solid strategy will be key to helping you reach the goals you set for yourself. Once you have a clear vision of your goals and the KPI you select to measure your success, it’s time to set up a strategy to ensure engagement at your next event.
To have a good strategy, you need to plan it around 3 main areas: pre-event actions, during your event, and post-event follow-up.
Pre-Event Engagement Ideas
To ensure that your audience engages with your event, you need to think ahead and not just wait for the event to take place to bring its own result. The goal is to create opportunities for your audience to interact with you and your brand in advance, while making it look like everything was organic and unplanned. It is a fine balance that starts long before the launch of your event.
1. Do your research!
Before any event, it’s important to know your audience. What are their interests? What are they hoping to learn or gain from the event? What are their biggest pain points? Build personas to help you organize the results you discover from your research.
Armed with this information, you can work to create content and messaging that is relevant and engaging for your audience personas, as well as create a personalized experience during the events which will increase the likelihood of engagement.
The greater understanding you have of your attendees, the better you’ll be able to plan event content that will encourage activity. Be careful and realistic. You need to consider who your actual attendees are, not necessarily who you hope your attendees are. There may be a big difference between your actual audience and your target audience. If there is– take time to understand why. What is this target group looking for when attending your event? What type of content is likely to activate them? Make sure that you have a clear vision at all times to plan tailored experiences.
2. Plan Ahead
Once you have developed a clear picture of who your audience is, you can begin thinking about activities that your participants will interact with at your event.
This exercise helps you create meaningful content and identify appropriate speakers that will speak to your audience’s pain points and needs. The goal is to curate an event program with tailored content designed to resonate with your unique audience.
From here, it’s time to ensure you have all of your materials prepared and ready to go well in advance before the event starts. This includes your speaker’s presentations, any handouts or slides, and any social media content that you can plan to share at the appropriate time. Having everything ready to go will help reduce stress and ensure that you have plenty of time to engage with your audience during the actual event.
3. Include your audience in the planning
By asking your audience about their opinion or feedback regarding your event’s content, it’ll help you make sure that the sessions at your event are relevant and interesting to your audience. If your audience feels included in the process of planning the event, it means they are more likely to interact with it on the event day.
Engaging your event community early in the planning process also creates hype about your upcoming events, which will help you reach a wider audience that might discover your brand and values. It helps to reveal a bit about your brand, organization, and value, something that is particularly appealing to Generation Z. The younger generations entering the marketplace are all about brands that are open and listen to their audience’s needs. Use this to your advantage!
4. Get social!
Make sure that your audience knows your event is happening! This means making lots of noise on social media channels to promote your event. It sounds simple, but there’s much more event brands can do to build conversation and buzz on social media. Activating old email lists might also be an option to attract more attendees. You can also choose to run a paid marketing campaign, whichever works best for your brand and your objectives. If you’ve done your research on your target group (as suggested above), you’ll know best where to place your attention to attract your intended audience.
The most important thing is to get the word out about your event! Make sure your content is up-to-date, and be sure to respond to any comments, shares, or likes you get on the content you post. By responding to your community, you begin to build a rapport with your audience. Followers are more likely to engage with you if they know their responses are being read and replied to. Allow your audience to get to know your social media channels (that they will be able to tag during your event), and the branded hashtags you’d like them to use. Share sneak peeks of the production process, pictures of the past editions of your events, and information about the sessions that are to come! Each of these helps to generate buzz and create a sense of excitement about what’s coming up…
5. Leverage event technologies
The event technology landscape opens further possibilities for you to interact with your audience. Before the start of your event, take some time to explore some eventtech tools that you can incorporate to help reach your event’s goals. If you’re looking for some tools and solutions, head over to our Eventtech Tools Directory, with over 400 different technologies, you’re guaranteed to find something creative to include in your event. From polling tools to quiz solutions, you’ll find many interesting tools out there.
Make sure that the engagement tools you use to make your event more interactive are suitable for your audience’s interest and how you want your brand to be represented. Don’t go overboard, sometimes less is more!
Maximize audience engagement during your event
This is the big day. Your attendees are here, the event is starting… Now is the time to shine and show your attendees the amazing experience that you’ve created for them. Here are some of our favorite ways to maximize audience engagement during an event.
1. Live Polling and Q&A sessions
Live polling is a great way to get your audience engaged and involved in your event. It allows your participants to share their thoughts and opinions on the topics at hand, and it can help to keep the discussion flowing. You can use live polling to activate your audience on a variety of topics, or you can use it to help you make decisions during the event.
Q&A sessions also get your audience engaged and involved. They allow your attendees to ask questions and get answers from experts, clearly showing the level of interest in the content.
2. Interactive Presentations
Interactive presentations are another great way to keep your audience engaged. They allow your attendees to actively participate in the program’s content, and work to actively keep the discussion flowing. Coach your event speakers into creating a good interactive presentation rather than a boring lecture-style session. Connection and engagement are further developed through discussions, exchanges, and being at the moment. This might mean your speakers will have to adapt their content in real time based on the audience’s reaction, but it creates more organic content specific for your audience. Attendees will be more interested and engaged throughout the entire presentation.
3. Group discussions between attendees
Group discussions are another great way to get your audience engaged and involved in the event. They allow your attendees to share their thoughts and opinions on the topics at hand, and they can help to electrify the discussion. Group discussions can also help to build relationships among your attendees– a great outcome if you are looking to build a community around your event.
4. Have a Micro-Blogging Team
Micro-Blogging platforms like Twitter allow users to share short updates with their followers. This makes them the perfect channels for sharing quick news and updates at events!
If you’re planning an event, make sure you have a team of micro-bloggers ready to share updates on what’s happening at each different session taking place. Here, they can share audience questions, speakers’ quotes, behind-the-scenes pictures and more. This will help keep your followers informed of what’s happening, and it will help generate excitement. Your audience will also be influenced by what you’re sharing and might adapt their agenda to come to see what you are sharing.
5. Gamify your event
Gamification is one of the hottest trends when it comes to building engagement– whether you have a piece of software or an event. There are many ways to gamify your event to increase engagement and excitement. Some options include awarding prizes for participation, publicly recognizing the most creative or innovative ideas, or hosting a contest to see who can get the most likes or shares on social media. Having a social wall can also increase attendees’ engagement: if they take pictures and share them on social media with your event hashtag, they’ll appear on a big screen at your event! It’s a fun way to gather user-generated content and gamify your event all at once: the best picture can win a prize.
6. Plan some breaks
Can you stay focused for 7 hours straight? No? Neither can your attendees. The best events often have more content and activities than participants can digest in one sitting. So make sure to implement some breaks in your event, especially in day-long ones. This will allow your audience to stay fresh, reset, and stay focused, which will lead to better engagement during the sessions since they’ll be more attentive.
This will also give your attendees time to network and engage with each other and take part in any side activities you planned alongside the speaker sessions.
Post-event actions for increased audience engagement
Your event is done? Great, but it doesn’t mean that you’re done when it comes to engaging your participants. Don’t let all the hard work you’ve done so far go to waste. Following up with your attendees is a great way to keep activating your community as well as gather key information that you can use for your next event!
1. Follow up with attendees
After the event, send out a survey or questionnaire to find out what your attendees thought of the event. Don’t be shy to ask direct questions and ask for candid responses. You want your participants to be as honest as possible. This will help you gather feedback and see what you can improve for your next event. Allow them to leave their contact information if they would be open to sharing it with you directly. You can also follow up with your participants on social media to see what they’re up to and keep the conversation going. See what has been posted about your event. Make sure to take a look at your event’s hashtag event after the events! Comment and respond to those posts! Many people will share their impressions on social media after the event, so make sure to keep an eye out and be ready to engage with them!
2. Share your content
Share photos and videos of the event on social media and tag the attendees if you can. This will help them share their experience with their friends and followers. You can also compile the best photos and videos into a highlights reel to share on social media or your website!
Try to get as much data as possible and share that information with your followers. You can easily present this as an infographic to make it easily shareable with your audience. This is a great way to close an event marketing campaign and creates a sentiment of “I was here, I took part in this event” with your audience. This will entice them to interact with your content.
3. It’s all about the community
The key strategy for active event engagement starts with building and fostering community. Events are a great opportunity to bring people together and create a sense of belonging around your brand or organization. While creating a welcoming environment at your event is key to ensuring your attendees feel part of something special, it doesn’t stop there. Fostering your community requires connecting and interacting with your attendees all year round. It keeps the momentum going and ensures that you always have an active audience ready to engage with your content.
The Bottom Line
Having positive and active audience engagement is one of the best measures of your event’s success. Excellent event engagement doesn’t happen by accident. Every event professional should have clear goals for their event’s engagement in advance. Putting together an appropriate audience engagement strategy is key to reaching those goals.
A good strategy requires organizers to carefully consider how they’re engaging their audiences before, during, and after the event. At each step, you’ll want to offer a personalized experience, encouraging your attendees to become more than just participants, to create a thriving community.
Once your engagement strategy starts exceeding its goals, it’s time to bring things to the next step with a 365-community plan.
PIRATEx Digital Marketing Manager