When planning an event, what do you focus on? The venue? The food? The lineup of speakers and special guests? All of these are important aspects of your event, no doubt, but one thing in particular is necessary to ensure an unforgettable experience: audience engagement.
Audience engagement is important, if only to leave a positive impression. An unengaged audience is an unimpressed audience, and they will most likely be unmotivated to attend your future events. And with distractions like social media, engaging the audience is a doubly difficult task nowadays. But there are simple ways to overcome this hurdle. Here are a few tips.
Create Networking Opportunities
More often than not, it’s up to you as the event organizer to push your audience to interact with their fellow attendees. Set aside an hour or two (or more, if you have a multi-day event) for networking activities like parties or even games. Spread them across the duration of the event, say one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to break the tedium of attending speaker sessions or visiting sponsor booths with fun yet productive activities.
You can use simple items to guide the these networking sessions, especially because you have a clearer picture of the diversity of your audience; the attendees will appreciate the event much better if you give them a chance to establish a business relationship with relevant contacts.
Try printing codes on the event IDs and ask the wearers to find their partners for the upcoming activities through these codes. You can also produce customized wristbands with text or images in sets of four to five to ensure that people can truly connect and not feel the stress of interacting with too many people. Using silicone wristbands to facilitate networking also means you have a more hardworking event souvenir.
Use Social Media
Turn the audience’s main source of distraction into a productive outlet! You can create live Q&A sessions through Twitter by having the audience — both live and off-site — tweet questions to the speakers by tagging their accounts and using the event’s official hashtag. If you have a decent enough internet connection, you can even conduct a Facebook Live session. This Q&A method is especially appealing to audience members who may be a little shy to go to the mic.
Another good idea is broadcasting live social media feeds, displaying photos, videos, text posts like quotes from the speakers, and other uploads related to your event. This brings a more personal touch to digital engagement, and can even motivate your audience to pay more attention. Make sure to have a way to cull the posts for easy organization before, during, and after the event. The aforementioned event hashtags is the easiest ways to do this. It also gives you an opportunity for branding and to essentially “own” that hashtag.
Create a Conducive Environment
For smaller audiences, a boardroom-style seating arrangement, with people facing each other, may be better to encourage participation and discussion without making things seem too formal. For larger groups, try using round tables to help facilitate interaction. A classroom-style layout may be more effective for a venue with limited space, but make sure not to crowd too many people in one table.
You should also allocate an area that’s dedicated for networking and make it as comfortable, inviting, and fun as possible. Some couches and comfortable chairs are a good start. Cocktail tables filled with snacks are also a good option; leave fish bowls for people to place their business cards in, and label them properly based on industry so that people know which bowls to get cards from.
If your event is held in a hotel, you can reserve a section of the in-house restaurant — or the entire place, if your event is big enough — to help people mingle and encourage discussions over foods and drinks.
A well-organized event is good, but a well-organized event with an engaged audience is even better. Hopefully, these simple tips can help convert an uninvolved group into a lively, captivated one.