Ah, yes, “engagement”. Yet another one of those murky terms that seems to come up a whole lot in the event planning world. It’s something that everyone wants or thinks they should want, but definitely something not everyone knows how to do.
Let’s start out by defining what exactly engagement is. According to Wikipedia (always my go-to place to find out about stuff I’m not quite sure about), the definition of engagement is:
“A marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate in the evolution of a brand.”
Creative ways to increase engagement at events
Essentially, it just means getting people to interact with your brand.
Now that we’ve got that part squared away, let’s move on to some actionable tips you can use to increase engagement at your next event or conference — or, in non-marketing speak, getting people to interact and participate.
#1 Tease content before the event takes place
Giving your guests little previews of what’s to come is a great way to pique interest. Create small pieces of content, whether that’s a short video clip of the speaker, a movie-style trailer that introduces the event and some its highlights, or even photos of stuff you want to brag about (a well-known speaker, great catering, or an amazing venue).
Share it online via emails to the people signed up to attend plus on your brand or company’s social media channels. Don’t tell them too much, but do let them see just how cool the event you’re planning is going to be.
#2 Create anticipation
We sort of talked about this in our point above, as teasing content can be a great tool to create a sense of anticipation around your event. The real key to creating anticipation is finding the balance between showing people what makes the event interesting without giving away so much information that they don’t need to show up to get it.
You can do this by sharing snippets of content online, creating a countdown that reminds attendees how long they have left until the event and getting in touch with influencers so they can spread the word about your event too. This article has some great ideas for how you can do this and more, from things like creating branded campaigns to creating buzz offline too.
#3 Make sure you know what your audience wants
There is a really simple way to do this — conduct a survey! There are plenty of free or inexpensive tools online you can use to survey people and collect useful information. Try SurveyMonkey to get started, as it’s super simple and lets you get a survey up in just a few minutes (even if you’re not the world’s most internet-savvy person).
One little hint: just asking your audience what they want is probably too general, so try to think of specific questions you’d like answered about your event planning process. Can you ask your survey-takers some of those questions? It’s always good to leave a space for an open response, too, in case they come up with something you hadn’t thought of.
A second little hint: do listen to your audience, but don’t get too caught up in trying to accommodate every single thing people ask for. With online surveys, you’ll almost certainly get two people who ask for exactly the opposite thing. You’ll never be able to make everybody happy down to the last tiny detail, so don’t stress out about it too much.
#4 Ask for feedback
After your event, it’s a good idea to figure out what went well and what you might want to change for next time. Feedback is really important for improving and also for assessing whether you delivered what you were hoping to with your event.
You can ask for feedback in both online or in person situations. Online, it’s easy enough to do with the survey tools lie SurveyMonkey (as we already mentioned) or by posting questions on your brand’s social media channels. You can also send your attendees a follow-up e-mail thanking them for attending and asking them if there’s anything they especially liked or would have done differently. This is an easy way to get responses from a lot of people.
Offline it might be a bit more intimidating, as hearing negative comments in person is not easy. But if it is for the improvements of our careers, we must be brave. Just casually ask a handful of attendees how they thought it went and what they liked and didn’t. Don’t ask friends and family if they attended — as they’re less likely to give an honest opinion. The good thing about in-person feedback is that you’ll be able to get a better sense of people’s tone that you probably won’t get from an online survey.
#5 Provide easy to share content (like videos)
The easiest way to get people to share your content is to create content that is easy to share. Yep, it’s as simple as that — there are no big secrets here!
Catchy videos and pretty pictures are always a hit. Infographics can be good too, if you get a good designer who can create a streamlined one. They can help you to drive home the point about why people should attend your event.
Another not-so-secret tip is to create content that’s tailored to each platform. Let’s say you want to share an image with text on Twitter. Make sure it’ll look good on smartphones as well as laptops, as Twitter is the sort of thing people often take a quick look at on their mobiles.
Canva is a good place to get started, as it has pre-made image templates with the right dimensions for each social media channel.
#6 BONUS: Flat-out ask people to participate and engage
Sometimes the best way to get what you want is to simply ask for it. If your aim is to get people chatting about and interacting with your brand, just ask them to do it! Whether it’s before the event, during, or after, make an effort to directly ask people to participate. Some people are so outgoing they’ll jump right in without being asked to, but others might prefer being given an Okay first.
You can also offer people incentives to interact, like a prize for the person who gets the most retweets or likes on social media posts with your hashtags, or maybe for the first 20 people to answer a trivia question. Get creative and figure out what sorts of things might entice them to start interacting online.
That rounds out our list of five plus one tips you can use to get your guests engaging at an event (plus, now you know what that actually means, too!). If you’re looking for even more ways you can really rock your event, why not head on over to our infographic “The 50 commandments of a modern conference”? It’ll give you tips on everything from how to make your event more sustainable to how to use technology to your advantage at an event.
Now, we’re going to take some of our own advice and ask you to participate! What was your favourite tip from this list? Do you have any other ways to get event attendees to engage that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
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