Audience Engagement Lessons from the World’s Largest Non-Profit

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.
- Benjamin Franklin

Today, UX designers, web content developers and marketing strategists, everyone has difficulty in engaging their audience. What is worse, it could be hard to identify the factors that drive and measure it. Here, we continue with our audience engagement lessons series by learning from the Art of Living, world’s largest non-profit.

To borrow from theater, audience engagement is just a process whereby your spectator becomes an active participant. Sounds simple, right? But when implementing even the best UX design and marketing strategies fall short. So, to drive the lessons home I dug up some fundamentals as practiced by the Art of Living teachers.

Workshops conducted by the Art of Living organization are a good mix of learning meditation, yoga and life skills. The loyalty they develop amongst the attendees, by just applying some simple techniques, are noteworthy.

Here we list three effective audience engagement lessons. They may sound simple but, when applied, can work wonders for your user experience, marketing, PR or whatever quarterly goal you are chasing right now.

Let the Audience Feel they Belong

The best way to break the ice and help your audience gel in is to make them feel this is where they belong. The Art of Living drives home this lesson right at the start. The very first activity in their workshop makes the environment welcoming and encourages open communication.

Give a lot of freedom for uninhibited communication or rather actively encourage conversation. Once your audience is speaking freely you are driving an immense amount of trust home and you also have a lot of information to take inputs and feedback.

When was the last time you had such actively engaged customers?

Starbucks is a case in point. Starbucks utilizes something what they call My Starbucks Idea. The whole concept is to provide a space for its customers to interact and give their own inputs and ideas about product, experiences. The website maintains a leaderboard, rewards those who submit ideas and implements the best ideas. The whole community coming together is a strong way to build a bond. Starbucks has very well managed to develop a sense of belonging among its consumers. The customers are deeply connected and feel valued. This adds more power to the brand. not only helps Starbucks to adapt and develop their product service but also to keep up with the trends, all just by utilizing their audience and making them feel comfortable enough to share.

When was the last time you saw your customers so passionately worrying about giving you ideas?

Develop a Connect. Be Relevant. Add Value

It is understood that your audience may have a lot of diverse interests, but the moment you understand the crux of what connects with all of your audience, you are in the driver’s seat.

The Art of Living has various workshops in yoga, meditation and well-being. Each of these is specifically designed to be relevant to its target audience of people who are interested in learning practical meditation techniques to improve their lives. They address the real issues of the participants, thus adding tremendous value and generating a deep bond.

Know what your audience is looking for. Why are they visiting your website or reading your blog? Learn to add value to them and be relevant. Once you have highlighted your importance they will want more of it and even turn into paying customers.

Why do People Love Apple products so much?

This is exactly how Apple became so popular and successful as a brand. They knew their niche audience and what it is that connects them. It marketed its products to exactly touch those aspects and rather than just making a sale, their marketing focused on adding value.

That is why even today, owning an iPhone gives that different feel, even though there are several competitors providing a lot better specs at the same price. Apple managed to stay relevant and ahead of the pack.

Let the Audience Drive the Process

The Art of Living workshops are completely interaction based. So even when the discussion is being subtly guided by the instructors, it is actually the audience that is driving it.

Don’t you love your own doodling, singing, dancing or poetry!?

I would also like a mention about Dan Ariely’s IKEA effect. Dan is professor of psychology and behavioral economics. This experimentally proven phenomena suggests that we love whatever we build. Even if it might not seem as good to others, but we feel great about our own creation.

The best case-study to study about this is Local Motors. This company managed to design, develop and build a full fledged off-the road car just by engaging its online community.

Would Local Motors have any trouble marketing this car?

The online community came together to completely develop this customizable car from scratch. This car has all the amenities and luxuries of an every-day on road vehicle and passes all safety standards.

Allowing your audience to feel that they have a say, the power to create, to make a difference is a very potent tool. Whether it be the ability to kickstart a conversation or letting them have a say in the product/process, it will very strongly drive audience loyalty and also give a sense of personal attachment.

If an audience can be encouraged to build a car by themselves, just imagine what all other possibilities lie within the spectrum. What would you have your community build for you?

Conclusion: Audience Engagement Lessons

Thus, it becomes quite clear, the difference, engaging your audience can make. Although the source of the insight comes from the Art of Living, the illustrated examples also demonstrate the various ways it can be done.

These three critical audience engagement lessons if well understood, adapted and implemented have the ability to tremendously change the way you look at audience engagement.

Not only can they highly enhance the engagement and build a loyal following but will also generate trust to a much higher degree and make you stand out from the herd. After that you can apply whatever metrics you want but the main issue will have already be addressed.

Originally published at on April 4, 2017.