“The attention economy is not growing, which means that we have to grab the attention that someone else has today.” – Brent Leary
For years, the common belief by marketing execs was that a live event was all about the brand. Today, the most successful event planners know that the event is actually about – and should be focused toward – the attendees. The more an event is centered on delivering content that has value to attendees, the more successful it will be.
When designing an event, there are a few steps you can take to help you raise the level of attendee engagement.
- Put Yourself In Their Shoes – Try to view the event from your attendees’ perspective. Instead of thinking about what you want someone to get from the event, determine what he or she would like to take away from the event. What will make the event a success in their eyes? How can you customize or personalize the event to the audience?
- Take Your Own Exit Survey – You have likely already created a series of questions designed to gauge the experience of your attendees. Try taking that survey before the event has even occurred. You know your plans for the event. Now imagine that the event has occurred, you attended it, and were asked to take the survey. Be as honest as possible.
- Take a Holistic Approach – Now that you’ve envisioned the potential future of your event, think about those areas where the event may fall short and how you can fix them before opening day. What can you do at all points of the event – that’s before, during, and after – to encourage audience engagement and help ensure return visits?
Yet, even just measuring audience engagement can be a difficult task. In the past, this metric was evaluated almost exclusively on how the organizers felt after the event. However, now it is as easy to measure audience engagement as it is to gauge an event’s return on investment.
Here are six areas where you can utilize data to determine your level of audience engagement. Some tips to expand engagement in these areas are also included.
Maximize Your Website
The first place a person visits when they are interested in your event (or company, in general) is your website. When an event is capturing the interest of the public, you will see an increase in your website traffic.
In addition to the analytics you are already tracking for your site, use these methods to understand the early interest your event is generating.
- Pay attention to the pages that are most important, such as the event landing page, registration form, inquiry, etc. Carefully monitor how many hits these pages earn.
- Once people land on these pages how long are they staying?
- Are visitors landing on just one page and then leaving or are they visiting multiple pages within your site?
- Are visitors engaging with the specific event offerings, such as the sign-up page or downloading a newsletter?
Evaluating website engagement is not simply about numbers. An initial visit is important (essential, really), but what someone does from there is just as important.
Content is valuable. It is essential. A single landing page featuring the dates of your events and, maybe, a list of speakers will not cut it. You’ll find that your bounce rate will nearly equal your visitors, which is a tragic omen of your event’s success.
Give your visitors a reason to stick around. Anything you can present about the upcoming event is welcome: speaker bios, blurbs about past events, highlights from past performances, summaries of the most anticipated presentations, etc. Give them something to become excited about, to anticipate, and you will generate meaningful website traffic and see registrations increase.
Develop an Event App
Yes, your website is essential – and it needs to be optimized for mobile – but you can broaden your visitor’s experience. Not only will an event app allow you to provide your attendees with a wealth of information – it works the other way as well. You will gain valuable insights into your attendees’ behavior simply through the analytics delivered through the app. How fruitful were Q&A sessions? Were the networking events successful? These questions can be answered by analyzing the app data.
You can also utilize various engagement areas throughout the event by adding a QR code. These codes can be placed on flyers, in brochures, on booths, signs for speakers, etc. When attendees scan the barcodes with their smartphone, they will be able to access additional information and materials. All this information can integrate with the app to provide even more value.
You can also add links to additional material, like whitepapers, that add value to your attendees and enable you to track engagement. This is all data that will let you measure attendee interest.
Engage Social Media
Once upon a time hashtags were limited to Twitter. They are now ubiquitous across social media: Facebook, Google+, Instagram, you name it; it has hashtags associated with it. (Fine, not LinkedIn, which experimented with hashtags, but ultimately decided they didn’t work for the platform.)
Creating a hashtag for your event is one of the best ways to help increase your social media engagement and track it. Plus, clicking the hashtag allows people to see everything that has been shared regarding the event. To help ensure that attendees use the hashtag, make sure it is catchy and prominently displayed throughout the event.
You can also create a giant, social media wall that showcases every usage of the hashtag. Attendees love to see themselves on the big screen, and a social media wall is great encouragement to post in real-time.
Once you have folks engaged with your social media platforms, be sure to keep them engaged by posting valuable content regularly. Consistent interaction helps build relationships and can turn them into brand ambassadors who’ll promote your next event.
Measure Audience Numbers
If you compare the number of people who registered for your event with the number who are there near the end of the final day, you can get an initial impression of the success of your event’s engagement.
Attendees who are invested in an event will likely stay to the very end. It will also be helpful to track attendance numbers throughout the event. You can include a check-in / check-out feature to the event app. You can add a benefit to using the feature, such as an entry into a prize drawing.
Conduct a Survey
We’ve come full circle to the survey mentioned at the beginning of this piece. As soon as your event is over, get those surveys into the hands of your attendees. For the most honest answers, do not send an overly complicated survey. Keep it simple and you will get the most returns.
Have a survey for both attendees and speakers. This will give you the widest variety of insights and perspectives.
Continue Updating with Valuable Content
Once the event ends, continue to update your social media feeds and website with content related to the exhibition.
- Summaries of the overall event and specific highpoints
- Video highlights of the most engaging presentations and speakers
- Pictures of attendees
- Quotes of various lecturers
Everything you post also has the benefit of being trackable. By continually engaging with your audience, you are creating an active base and helping to create more leads and subscribers.
To help up the engagement at your next event, give The Trade Group a call at 800-343-2005 and we’ll deliver experiences that will have them sharing and discussing for months to come.