Audience engagement is pivotal in determining the success of an event.
A statement we all know to be true. However, when planning an event, people tend to flip perspectives and focus on things from a sales point of view (Occupational hazard when working in sales and marketing, right?).
But let’s not focus on that for a moment. Let’s focus on the moments that count when you’re at an event.
When you’re attending, what is it that truly elevates your experience at an event?
Is it the attendees?
What are those intangible elements which leave an impression and eager for more?
Chances are, those moments where you felt like you connected with an event didn’t consist of just one thing. It’s usually a combination of elements that work together to create that feeling that makes an event stand out and become memorable.
And if you want your event to be successful, replicating those feelings and maximising your audience engagement should be your highest priority.
The good news is that events naturally provide a space for engagement to flow effortlessly, both with the way brands and customers interact with one another, and the way attendees interact with their environment.
But if you truly want to maximise your audience engagement, there are things you can do, pre and post-event, to ensure you keep the conversations (and momentum!) going.
Get To Know Your Audience
We know that you would have already dove into this to discover where your attendees work, what their position is and what their company does. But do you know how you can help them?
What are their needs? Their wants? Their pain points?
By taking the time to understand your audience and what problems they’re looking to solve, you can prepare and execute your event to speak to your attendees rather than at them. Making it not only fun and interesting, but relevant—and it’s this relevancy that will help to increase your overall engagement, both short and long-term.
So how do you do it?
Open up the dialogue!
Send out surveys, ask attendees directly, run polls on social media, look at the terms which generate traffic towards your site, use forums and utilise your networks. There are so many ways to discover what your audience needs, and when you open up the conversation you’d be surprised how forward people become with sharing their perspectives. Then, once you have this information you can evaluate if your event speakers, services or sponsors can help attendees to solve that problem.
Invest In A Solid Content Strategy
Content is vital for building brand and event awareness, creating interest, driving sales and sharing information about your event. Whether you’re looking to utilise the company’s social media platforms, an email newsletter, blog, or advertising campaign, having a solid content strategy is paramount for creating engagement.
With a well-planned strategy in place, you can set goals, stay on track and analyse how best to share your content so that your audience is taken on the journey with you—helping to kickstart engagement by sparking conversations at each stage of your event.
Create A Personalised Hashtag
Nowadays, it seems like everybody and their dog has a custom hashtag… And it’s easy to see why! Hashtags have a proven track record of increasing organic reach and audience engagement, in addition to making it easier for people to find posts relevant to that subject.
Whether wedding guests are using a hashtag to share photos, a brand is tracking a promotion, or an event wants to inform attendees: a personalised hashtag provides the opportunity for both growth and conversation.
But before you go creating a snazzy new hashtag for yourself, you should take the time to get clear on your reasons for doing so. What is it you want to achieve and is a personalised hashtag the best option for helping you to achieve it? For example, sharing important information with your audience will yield better results through direct communication (such as email). However, if you’re doing it to create a space where people searching for commonality can connect and communicate, then a hashtag is the right technique for you. Especially when utilising it for an event, as it enables event attendees and those following along from home to watch, connect and network with like-minded people.
An important thing to know before implementing a personalised hashtag is that hashtags are used very differently on different social media platforms. For example, Instagram uses hashtags on grid posts and stories, and audiences can follow hashtags without following the creator of that hashtag. The same with Tiktok. Whereas on Facebook, whilst hashtags are a function, they are used less frequently. The same applies to Twitter where the hashtag originated and is still largely used, but is becoming less common as Twitter’s search function has become increasingly intuitive in picking up on what a user is searching for.
Most social platforms have built-in analytics so you can see the surrounding data to track a hashtag’s reach, visibility, engagement and click-through rates. But one thing you should always keep in mind, is that when you’re using a personalised hashtag, ensure it reads well without capitalised letters. You don’t want a repeat of Susan Boyles’ An Album Party hashtag!
Provide Games and Competition
There’s nothing quite like a little healthy competition to get people out of their comfort zones. Incorporating a competition into your event, whether through games, awards, or incentives, can help to engage your audience’s interest—and ignite their competitive streak.
Whether you have electronic games, interactive games or group games such as treasure hunts, it creates fun (when done right!) and opportunity across all demographics, enabling attendees to connect in new ways.
Using games can help attendees to relax and settle into their environment, often more than they would in a typical “meet and greet” style setting. Outside of this, it also provides new opportunities for increasing engagement between event attendees and sponsors in a more natural way. We all know that storytelling is the pillar of content marketing—and introducing a little competition helps to position the audience as the main characters, especially when done so in a gamified way, as the audience has more control over how they engage, play and ultimately… win!
Leverage The Room By Utilising Technology
When it comes to room design, the majority of thought goes into the layout. After all, positioning attendees can have a huge impact on their cognitive engagement and how they engage with you, so you want the space optimised for sound and visuals, in addition to aesthetics, foot traffic, and audience flow. But introducing new technology into the space can help you leverage the benefits and increase audience engagement and participation.
For example, if you’re hosting a Q&A, why not introduce the implementation of live polls? Each attendee can have a buzzer to vote and live statistics could be used by the speakers. Something which is not only beneficial to the audience in helping them feel more involved but provides valuable data for marketers to utilise for future events or services.
Other elements you can include may be less visible but can change how the event is marketed. For example, content distribution tools, live feeds of what people are saying on social media, interactive games and forums.
Influencer marketing has been around for a while, but as the landscape has grown so has their reach. Nowadays you can find influencers in almost every niche, spanning every industry and a great way to maximise your audience engagement is to get some relevant influencers involved in your event.
Influencers are known for staying on top of the latest news and trends and for having built their own audience in their chosen industry. As a result, an influencer’s audience tends to be hyper-engaged and involved in what that influencer is posting. Because of this, it not only provides an opportunity for you to expand your reach and share more of what’s happening live from your event, but it enables you to engage with existing and new audiences. For example, if an influencer is live streaming from your event, microblogging or hosting live Q&As, it provides numerous opportunities to invite people in and spark conversation, both inside and out of your event.
Plan Captivating Sessions and Speakers
People attend events to network, learn and partake in a shared experience that’s filled with information, and the right speaker can elevate or isolate a person’s experience. Therefore it’s vital that you book speakers which are not only relevant to your event, whether that’s in niche, perspective or personal story, but that they have experience with drawing the audience in.
Booking well-known speakers can be a huge draw, especially to ticket sales and registrations, but planning sessions that captivate isn’t always about booking the biggest name: it’s about finding the best match and booking the talent that suits your audience, energy and event objectives.
Microblog Your Event
Microblogging during your event is a great way to boost engagement as it provides a live-stream of information directly from your event. Unlike traditional blogging, where posts are usually dense or lengthy, and written after the event, microblogging provides the opportunity to share snippets of live action and key information on elements your audience may find interesting.
For example; you could share “end of day takeaways” behind-the-scenes pictures and write ups on Instagram or create a thread on Twitter with event highlights, live quotes from speakers or key takeaways from sessions. This could be further built upon by sharing useful visuals such as graphs, data or presentation slides to engage your audience, especially those who were unable to attend in person.
Host a Q&A
Hosting a question and answer session helps to increase audience engagement in an incredibly useful way. By providing an opportunity to connect with speakers, the audience can have their questions answered directly, and hear from like-minded individuals. This can be beneficial in two ways. The short term benefits are that as the Q&A takes place live, it entertains and engages audiences directly whilst also providing you with an opportunity to see what the most commonly asked questions are. This fuels the long term benefits, as you can adapt marketing strategies and content plans, in addition to repurposing the content and distributing it amongst the platforms of your choice.
Engage With Your Audience
We know, we know, it sounds simple. But when an event is in full swing it can be easy to miss catching up with the audience during an event. After-event communications are popular, usually with surveys for feedback and asking your audience a predetermined set of questions to gauge the overall response. But if you only wait until after the event to obtain feedback, you miss a huge opportunity. Post-event your audience may be fatigued from the event and, due to the sheer volume of information, may only be able to recall some elements of the event. Whereas if you engage with your audience during the event, you are provided with an opportunity to open dialogue, obtain live feedback, testimonials and knowledge about how the experience feels to them at that exact moment in time.
Follow Up After The Event
Following up after the event is a great way to keep communication channels open with your audience. Whether you want to send out a survey for feedback, thank you notes for attendees, or share supplementary information from the event, taking the time to reach out and continue the conversation can help engage your audience whilst shaping future events.
Overall, it’s about showing your audience that you care about their needs deeper than registration and ticket numbers and showing them you want to help equip them with the tools and resources to solve their problems. By taking the time to reach out and start or continue the conversation, you’ll be able to see which aspects missed the mark, what areas exceeded expectations and truly celebrate your team’s success.
Make It Fun
And last, but by no means least—ensure your event is fun! When your audience can relax and enjoy their surroundings, you’ll notice that conversations and atmosphere develop naturally, and you’ll be able to enjoy it more too!
So, if you’re about to start planning your next event and need a killer strategy to accompany it, get in touch and let’s make it happen!