Keeping an audience captivated and engaged for the duration of an event is no easy feat. It was always a challenge to begin with, and it’s only getting harder. The average human attention span continues to get shorter, while at the same time, we have the world at our fingertips, thanks to mobile devices that allow us to keep ourselves entertained however we see fit.
We’ve all been to at least one event that may have started brightly only to lose our interest as it progressed. Think back to it, and you’ll find that you remember very little, if anything, of much significance. So how can you keep your events from meeting the same fate of being forgotten? We’ve got a few ideas:
Create an event-specific mobile app
Mobile apps are a great way to provide value to your audience before, during and after the event. The app can be used for registration, thereby eliminating friction for your attendees and also giving you valuable data about them.
Let attendees familiarize themselves with your speakers; make speaker profiles and include links to their bodies of work and social media. This should ideally be supplemented by further relevant content after the conclusion of the event. Content engagement patterns can prove useful in knowing what’s working, what isn’t and how you can change things for the better for not only the current event but future ones too.
Provide all the information your attendees could possibly need – schedules, maps, FAQs, event updates, networking opportunities – anything that will help them plan their time at your event to draw maximum personal value from it.1,2,3
Harness the power of live polling
Encourage your speakers to incorporate interactive elements into their talks and presentations. This could be in the form of live demos that require audience participation, quizzes, game shows, Q&A sessions or live polling to name just a few options.
Live polling is a particularly powerful tool; it turns what would’ve been a monologue into a two-way conversation, allowing for engagement on a large scale. Perhaps its most useful application is in allowing the audience to shape the event as they see fit. They can vote on topics of interest or questions to be answered, and you and the speakers can tailor the flow of the event to address the topics of their choice. There are few better ways to engage the audience than by giving them the power to co-create the event through participation.
Data collected from this engagement can help you understand what it is your audience is looking for, and this information can be used to more effectively plan and optimize future events.3,4
Bring social media into play
Social media is another avenue through which to engage a crowd before, during and after the event. It allows people from all over the world to get involved, even if they can’t be present at the event itself. Set up a unique hashtag and use it to promote your event – it’ll get people talking and do wonders for visibility.
Studies show that Twitter posts with hashtags enjoy double the level of engagement of those without hashtags. Encourage people to share pictures from the event and make their thoughts and opinions known on your social media wall, all while using your unique event hashtag, of course.
By making social media a part of your event flow, you can track activity in real time to get an understanding of how the audience is reacting to each component of the event. Maybe there’s a particular speaker that everybody’s excited about, or perhaps one of the scheduled talks isn’t garnering much attention. Use this information to make modifications as necessary.
Social media also serves as a good source of feedback, as your audience shares their thoughts after the event. It doesn’t end with the event, though. Keep your followers engaged on a regular basis; this will keep your brand top of mind and help get the ball rolling for future events.2,5,6,7
Get the right speakers and make them accessible
Your event’s main attractions are the speakers; they’re what the crowd is there for. With regards to your key speaker, make sure to have someone who’s well-known and widely respected – a speaker who holds a celebrity status within the industry and will excite and educate your audience. Encourage your speakers to take his time, get friendly with the audience, answer their questions and get a conversation going. Also give them as much detail about the event and audience as possible, so that they can plan their presentations accordingly to deliver maximum value.
It’s important to know your audience’s personality and take that into account. If it’s a largely energetic and upbeat crowd, hire speakers who are aligned with that – those who can feed off the crowd’s enthusiasm and excite them even further. Similarly, if yours is a mellow audience, get speakers who can match their wavelength.
Further, making the speakers truly accessible to event attendees is guaranteed to go down well. After all, your audience is there to learn from them. Encourage speakers to mingle with the crowd and socialize. This informal setting is a great networking opportunity and allows the attendees to have more personal interactions with them. Setting up short one-on-one sessions with speakers is also a proven winning idea, as it gives your audience the chance to explore their topics of interest in more depth within a personalized context.2,5,7,8
Introduce gamification in events
Gamification is a fun way to boost audience engagement. Scavenger hunts, quizzes, raffle draws, etc. are all great ideas, but it’s important not to lose sight of the underlying point behind gamification. It’s not about playing games just for the sake of fun; the purpose is to utilize the underlying principles of games to drive the desired outcome for your event.
This can be done in a number of ways. Perhaps entrants in your raffle draw will increase their chances of winning each time they visit a different booth at the event. You could set up your quiz to test attendee knowledge about specific products, thereby encouraging them to learn more about your offerings. Clues for your scavenger hunt could be spread across various sections of the event, encouraging exploration, and as a result, increasing footfall in the otherwise less-visited areas. Another possibility is to encourage attendees to post on social media, with the winner being the post that garners the most attention. This, obviously, results in more user-generated content and online buzz around your event. Gamification also encourages socializing and networking among your attendees.
The prizes you set for each of these games should also serve a purpose and be relevant to both, the winners and yourself. Some examples of good prizes include tickets to your next event, trials or full-fledged versions of some services or offerings.2,3,5,10
Keeping your audience engaged is certainly a challenge, but there are a number of ways to do it; we’ve covered just a few in this article. By putting a little thought behind it, it’s possible to do so in ways that are mutually beneficial, offering value to both, your attendees and yourself. Plan your event right, and watch it become a success.