In events, engaging your audience is something that is needed more than ever. If your event is not engaging your delegates with its speakers and its content, you can be assured that there won’t be a repeat of your event and makes it tougher for you to get more sponsors onboard.
There are three components that need to be entwined to bring about successful audience engagement. These are:
• Meeting design
It begins with creativity followed by technology and meeting design to bring you audience engagement success. Meeting design includes all the people elements that includes speakers, hosts, facilitators, chairs, panel and audience members.
Why is engagement important?
1. It helps learning – In most Western schools, kids are encouraged to share their thoughts and raise questions. In Asia, it’s a little different. We are taught to listen to the teacher and not make any noise. When asked questions, only the ones sitting in front are usually the ones answering them. However, if the teacher made the lesson exciting with less talking and being more activity based, I’m pretty sure the engagement rate and number of hands going up will increase. We want the same to happen with our delegates at events.
2. It makes people think – They listen, ponder and contribute. They provide constructive criticism and a space for more ideas to be created.
3. It’s fun – People enjoy it. People like to try out new things, consider new ideas and generally become active in some way.
When people are engaged in your session(s), you get data. Using data from the sessions will help with the ongoing improvement of your sessions and upcoming events. You’ll be able to understand your audience, viewpoints and sentiments better. You can anticipate what their next actions are likely to be. Are they likely to
buy a product or service from you? Engagement leads to valuable data.
A lot of event engagement takes place only during the event when it really should start when tickets are being promoted.
If the event session involves using technology for voting and asking questions, have you factored in a little time for your delegates to become familiar with how to operate the app – perhaps with a practice question? It’s really not that long, but worth doing properly.
Interactive tech-driven Q&A yields eight times as many questions as a roving mic (people like being anonymous in a crowded room) – so make sure you account for more audience participation.
How much content will be shared prior to and during the event? Too much content and it will be easy for delegates to become overloaded and overwhelmed which is not the result that you would be wanting to achieve. However, too little content and you will be asked questions about why there wasn’t more.
People have different learning styles. Some are drawn more to visuals, some to audio and some to kinaesthetic. Having content delivered to cater to the three types of learners will help your session delivery and engagement levels.
Choosing the right speakers
If you attend many events within an industry, you will notice that some of the speakers are regularly invited either because they have a lot of experience and practical advice to share or because they are deemed popular and represent established companies.
There is no point in choosing a speaker based on a title. You need to choose your speaker based on what needs to be delivered. This means knowing what delegates want to learn, what delegates want to understand and what
delegates want to be able to do.
Choosing a speaker should be based on:
• Their knowledge, the value of the material they deliver
• Their willingness to understand the needs of the organisation
• Their willingness to work with you to ensure an outcome that meets
• Their ability to present it in a meaningful way
Five Important questions when deciding on your speaker
1. Is this speaker going to give your delegates something they’ll not get from anywhere else?
2. Will the speaker add value that makes the cost a worthwhile investment?
3. Can you cope with this slot not being covered if the speaker doesn’t show?
4. Will you achieve your objectives without the right speaker?
5. How can you maximise the value of your investment, for example, using the speaker’s own
social media network?
The questions apply to chairpersons or moderator and panellists.
At a basic level, can your delegates see and hear all that is going on? You have chosen the speakers, chairs and panel members and now you need to make sure your audience has no difficulty with being fully included in the session.
WiFi and connectivity
Wi-Fi and connectivity are important for all delegates regardless of what they want to use it for. You will need to understand the speed and stability of the network. If it is slow then you are likely to have unhappy delegates on your hands. If it is unstable then again you will face criticism.
Having time for speakers to become familiar with the technology they will use is important. If you can help them to become comfortable with it then your session will be more engaging as your speaker will come across as being confident and happy.
Other than speakers, chairs, hosts, facilitators and panel members becoming familiar with the technology they will be using, you would be wise to ask a couple of people to use the ‘event app’ or similar to ensure that delegates will be able to use the technology with confidence.
Sending an email with a short tutorial for your delegates to become familiar with the technology before you begin the session is a good idea. Usually, delegates will be using it for the first time at the event and it’s important to allow enough time for them to understand it, use it and contribute.
It’s common for the organizing committee to keep communication within the team and only updating the speakers and emcee a week or two before the event. Just remember to get everyone involved updated on any changes so that they don’t get caught off guard. Have a dry run at the event site, if possible.
If you are using social media, then use one single hashtag not many. Keep it simple. Make it visible everywhere. On your event app, on your marketing material and on name badges. You can think of more ideas on increasing
the visibility of it. Ask your speakers to include it on their e-mail signatures. Tell everyone. Be sure to let your audience know what the event hashtag is or else they will make up their own.
Remember to keep your sponsors’ branding visible and a good way is via a Twitter or Instagram wall on a big screen or wall or projector screens around the venue. You will find that some delegates will automatically get involved as some people always do. However, some may need to understand why they should
get involved. Maybe you can let them know that it is to help drive the agenda, help with some research, or be awarded a prize of some kind. Or you could use something as simple as “everyone who participates automatically gets the presentation slides.”
Some delegates travel miles to attend an event and some may be travelling alone and feeling shy to introduce themselves to others. Getting ready for the speaker is an ideal opportunity for you to do something and get your audience engaged with each other.
You can use live polling just before the session starts to quickly capture (and
potentially visualise) these audience goals, including:
• Education: What do they want to learn? Have they come for networking,
some ideas, business relationships or just ‘be seen’ with other delegates?
• Networking: Where are they from? What are they trying to do by networking
at your event?
• Results: What does success look like to your attendees?
You have all sorts of technology to help with this. Now is the time to use it.
The more you can discover about what your audience wants and the more you can help fulfil that the more successful your engagement will be.
Using games on site will also help get people on their feet and moving, creating an energy you need to kick off the event with a bang.
Next: Engaging your audience during and after the event