Attendee engagement is the buzz word for all event planners and organisers. In a nutshell, how can you keep your attendees engaged throughout an event and keep those smiles pinned tight on the faces of your event visitors? No one wants passive attendees who don’t seem to soak up the event and engage fully. Engagement can be hard to monitor and quantify but it can always be measured against how much the attendee is participating in the event as a whole. For example, how many sessions or break-out sessions they attend, how many meetings they hold and how much networking is done. Luckily, we now have the help of social media not only for a boost in the run up to the event but to monitor online interaction throughout the event, so we can go all Miss Marple and get a clue as to how engaged and boosted an attendee is feeling.
Create clear opportunities for engagement
Don’t make your event good- make it great. The kind of event where people want to not only get fully involved but want to pick up their smartphones and share the experience with others. Take a look at the content of the event and the experiences on offer and tailor them so they are speaking to the attendees and beckoning them to come on over and get fully involved, then get ready to shout about all you have to offer…
It’s all about the event app
The best way for attendees to engage fully with your event is through the official event app and they need to download, download, download it! Attendees need to be made aware of the app the minute the marketing for the event begins and certainly at the stage of registering. Push the app and get it downloaded for an interactive experience. The power of the hashtag needs to be recognised, so decide on a great hashtag game nice and early and encourage all attendees and visitors to use the hashtag so you can monitor engagement and re-share posts and content.
Get the film crew out- Challenge Anneka style!
Time to take to the silver screen because one thing that works a charm on social media is video content and live feed snippets. Dust off the Facebook and Instagram Live and broadcast minute by minute from your event. An official camera crew at your event not only looks great but everyone likes to get their face on film (“Mum- I’m on TV!”) Get your crew to roam the venue interviewing attendees and speakers and workshop leaders. This is not only great for a live feed for social media channels and loads of sharing and retweets but it can also be great marketing material to use as testimonials and marketing for future events.
Connect your attendees
Link all of your attendees up and connect them in real life. Just like a WhatsApp group chat, the attendees can then liaise and chat about schedules and meetings or one to one catch up sessions amongst themselves and use the event as a networking opportunity- connection+ engagement= sure fire success for your event! Take these new budding relationships one step further and arrange spots where fellow attendees can meet up and use the official app to get attendees together.
Keep your attendees in the loop
Events are exciting. You want to shout about them and get people revved up and ready to go, so don’t keep your attendees in the dark. If you have amazing speakers at your event, or have some great break-out sessions, or amazing demos or talks, then shout about it from the roof tops! Don’t be afraid to brag! Get people excited well before the event on social media and mail outs pre-event. Let attendees know the ways they can participate in the event and when the show begins you’ll have fully engaged attendees who are also shouting all about the event all over social media. It really is time to get your event, “Instagram ready!”
If you have attendees who have been to one of your events in previous years or have friends or colleagues who have, then give them an opportunity to give feedback and suggestions for content, speakers, activities and ways they can get engage at the event. Everyone loves to get involved, so open it up to the people you want to engage with and open up an online suggestions box in the lead up to the event. This can be extended and carried on after the event. A Facebook or social media group means that attendees past and present can share ideas before and after the event and keep the chatter going which can continue to keep the flames of engagement fanned!
Meet the experts/influencers
If you want your attendees to feel super engaged then tap in to what will get them excited. Attendees love meeting the experts and event industry influencers. Attendees want to experience more from an event and a chance to connect with experts and get more of a behind the scenes viewpoint. Booths and stages are all very well but offer a chance to get more of an AAA feel. This can be done through competitions on social media or on site too.
Competitions and contests
Competitions and contests should be ongoing throughout your event. Create fun contests for attendees which are interactive and fun. This could be done as a virtual Easter egg hunt or an events version of ‘Pokémon Go’ throughout the event, checking in on the event app at vendor booths where points mean prizes and suppliers can offer fun gifts like tickets or coupons!
Have a sit down with all your sponsors before the event and chat about how they can provide additional opportunities for attendee engagement. All sponsors will be super keen to get their brand exposed to attendees and may want to set up their own social media contests or competitions or access to experts or influencers.
By Lucy Saxton
Lucy Saxton is a journalist, content creator, social media advisor and broadcaster. Studying Criminology at Leicester Uni and completing an MA In print Journalism at The University of Sheffield, she began her career as Features Editor of the popular teen girls magazine, MIZZ Mag. More recently, Lucy has worked for Cosmopolitan Magazine and Seventeen Magazine. Lucy was previously a Journalist at M&IT Magazine which saw her travelling around the world and launching several social media channels for CAT MEDIA. Lucy is a regular travel correspondent on BBC radio.More articles by Lucy Saxton