Opinion

Engaging event attendees

Event and conference planners are always trying to improve on attendee engagement strategies for two reasons.

Event and conference planners are always trying to improve on attendee engagement strategies for two reasons. Firstly, for the organiser to get the best return on the investment from the event. Second, the organisers want to engage attendees in such a way that the messages they embed into the event content will educate and create behaviour change through positive memories of the event experience. But how can technology help in these processes? It is clear that planners need to have a pre-event, during event and post-event plan to enhance the attendee experience, and technology is crucial in the design of the processes.

Pre event engagement planning

Getting attendees to register and buy tickets for an event is crucial to its success. Pre-event engagement is really about marketing the event or conference and making sure that the number of attendees planned for actually do attend. So how can technology assist in this process?

Platforms to market events can be very simple and effective to use. For example, Feathr is a marketing platform that allows an organiser to create marketing campaigns for events. Social media is also a tool that can be used to engage potential attendees. Facebook event pages, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels can all be used to let potential attendees know about the event programme, speaker and other content that you have planned. Social media can also be used to inform the planner as to what type of content attendees want. Cocreating content though engaging your potential attendees in planning the event, is a great way to get conversations started as well as creating influencer networks. Simple ideas such as putting up a poll on Facebook as to what kind of food people want for lunch is an aspect of cocreation that gets potential attendees excited about your event. However, planners must invest in good digital content that is going to attract the attention of poetical attendees. Therefore a content marketing plan needs to be part of the pre-event engagement plan and should include a dedicated event website or webpage on your website. Pre-event marketing can also include the design and build of an event app that has all the event details within the downloadable application. Event apps such as Crowd Compass, Guidebook or Pickevent can be used prior to the event to give specific information on the event – dates, locations, timings - and then used on the day of the event. There are also simple tools to use. An example of engaging digital content is creating small image files of keynote speakers at a conference – that includes a face picture, their job title and company details, the keynote topic and time of the presentation – that can be used by both the organiser and the speaker on social media channels to engage with potential attendees.

Engagement at the event

Planning is also needed on how to engage attendees more deeply at an event. Face to face interactions are a strong platform for attendees to observe and learn and create positive memories. However, engagement can be passive or active. For example passive engagement is listening to a keynote speaker. Active engagement comes when an attendee asks a question to the speaker and a conversation ensues. Planners want a mix of passive and active experiences at an event. There are various tools available to vary engagement. Active engagement will allow a greater return on investment for the organiser. By providing active engagement deeper learning and enhancement of the core messages or narrative of an event leads to better attendee experiences. Engagement tools can be broken up into three distinct areas:

• Interactive hardware technology, for example the Giant iTab, the Sublime dome, Twitter walls, the Catch Box, Buzzmaster, MyMic, Photobooths.

• Event apps that have engagement tools embedded into them like treasure hunts, quizzes, and sometimes slide sharing technology.

• Slide sharing and polling technology such as Glisser or Slido and Play2Lead allow greater participation in the content through the use of quizzes and polls and sharing of presentations.

It is important that technology is used to enhance the experience and planners need to make sure that they are not using technology in a way that will distract attendees away from the physical experience of looking, listening, feeling, smelling and tasting the various elements within the face to face design of the event. Technology must only be used to amplify these physical attributes and not replace them. Getting the balance between the use of technology and the live elements will depend on how well you know your attendee segment.

Post event engagement

Once everyone has gone home, it’s important to continue the conversations around the event and its content to make sure that the return on the investment is assured and that the positive memories of the attendees are reinforced. Many organisers use post event surveys but the response rates can be low. There are other tools available. Social media is the main tool where content can be sent out to attendees and those that could not attend. Using links to applications like Glisser where slide shows are hold on the server, will allow attendees to download content after the even- even if they were not there. Images always create positive memories of an event and distributing images from Photobooths, photographers and creating an event video are all good ways to continue the engagement with attendees. The post-event content strategy could last as long as you like. I can even loop back to pre-even engagement for a similar event the following year.

To conclude, it important you have a comprehensive engagement plan for your event. This should include a plan for creating the marketing content for the pre-event stage, as well as digital content to compliment the live content at the event itself. Planners also need a post-engagement strategy to compliment the pre-event and during event plans so that attendees take away a positive image that lives in their mid, therefore reinforcing a good return on the organisers investment. Using technology to enhance these processes is going to create both a digital legacy for your event as well as reinforce the positive memories you have created.

 

James Morgan | CSEP
Founder of Event Tech Lab  

Tags: Events

05-01-2017