“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Let’s swap involve for engage and we have the perfect answer as to why audience engagement matters. Considering that Benjamin Franklin wrote the above advice more than two hundred years ago, it’s surprising that audience engagement is still a challenge for planners around the world. Engagement is a complex aspect of marketing and events, holding a variety of meanings that must be understood to remain relevant to audiences in 2017. From pre-event activations to social media shares before, during and after your event, understanding the latest engagement trends will ensure your guests remain active participants and your clients remain repeat customers.
For both planners and clients, audience engagement can mean many different things. Does it mean:
• How many questions were asked at a conference?
• How many Instagram posts were made during an event?
• How many booths were visited at a trade show?
• How many attendees stuck around?
These and other questions are the metrics by which many planners and their clients are judging the success or failure of their events.
What is audience engagement?
It is the deliberate strategy of turning event attendees into active participants in order to meet the goals of organizers, sponsors and attendees.
Why does audience engagement matter?
The younger, premium attendee expects to engage or participate with the speaker or facilitator so that the information is relevant and sticky. What matters is that they leave with a feeling of wanting to share what they have learned with their colleagues and friends.
How do we measure audience engagement?
There are so many new tech tools on the market including apps and online feedback forms that capture the information organizers are looking for to fuel research and improve events in the future.
How can organizers increase audience engagement?
• Speakers with great content
• Proactive facilitation
• Smart meeting design
• User friendly technology tools that are relevant and easy to use
Staying Engaged – A Strategy at Every Stage
To maximize audience engagement, ensure you have this crucial detail front of mind at every stage of the event planning and production process.
• Understand your attendees by reviewing audience rosters to know exactly who you are catering to i.e.: age, gender, location, sector, etc.
• Utilize an event hashtag and digital tracking to track pre-event conversations and conversions online.
• Develop marketing materials that ask questions of your audience rather than providing all the answers. Ask, “What does audience engagement mean to you?”
Day of Event
• Leave the podium and mic behind. Consider unique ways of delivering information beyond traditional formats.
• Be explicit! Attendees won’t know your cups are Earth-friendly unless you tell them and the same goes for the expertise of your speakers, quality of your food and so much more. Don’t be afraid to make your guests aware of the value they receive.
• Geo-fencing: Scan social media for check-ins at locations in and around your event. If your attendance dips during lunchtime, perhaps your attendees checked in next door!
• Provide attendees with a thoughtful handwritten thank-you or email a post-event survey planting the seed for future events and continuing the conversation.
–Janice Cardinale is the owner and “head hunter” at The Idea Hunter. She is the chair of Seneca College’s Event Management Program, and a member of ILEA and MPI Toronto.