Why, How and What? Audience engagement in action
Today, it seems the event industry is mostly talking about audience engagement and ways of increasing it. However, only a few are asking the question — WHY increase it in first place? Engaging attendees became the main goal for many meeting organisers. In pursuit of more immersive experiences, more interactions and more of everything, people forget that engagement is only a means to an end and not an end in itself.
The word “engagement” itself is often overused and depending on the meeting goals it could mean completely different things. For example, how do you understand engagement in the context of your particular event? If the primary goal of your meeting is to sell a product, probably an engaged audience will the one that responds to your marketing messages and feels an emotional connection with your brand. Both of which you hope will lead to increased product sales. If you are an association representative you will expect active participation of the stakeholders. For corporate events where the main purpose is to teach and train employees, listening, interpreting and analysing would be synonymous with engagement.
The word “engagement” itself is often overused and depending on the meeting goals it could mean completely different things.
The main point therefore seems is to understand why to engage your attendees and what is it that you are trying to achieve in first place.
Only when you have answered the WHY, can you move on to the next step and think about HOW to increase the audience responsiveness.
How can one get to know their audience better? Get to know your audience demographics, their interests or pain points. Look at your competitors and evaluate their target audience. Get to know your visitors on a personal level, monitor social conversations or think of conducting a pre-event survey.
How are you going to deliver your message? Storytelling is a powerful tool that can be used to effectively communicate your ideas. What is your story going to be about?
How can you increase learning outcomes? Consider changing the format of the conference if appropriate, making it more interactive and enjoyable. Instead of gathering a large number of people for a session, try organising small workshops where the attendees’ can feel more comfortable, free to express their thoughts and get valuable feedback on their opinions and not just theory and dry knowledge.
How can you make the attendees interact more? Reorganise your meeting space, create more opportunities for networking, put up stands with different topics where people could gather around or dedicate rooms for interaction and collaboration.
These are only some examples, but the main idea is to think creatively and come up with a number of fresh and interesting “how to” points.
The next step is to decide what tools will work best for implementing the above ideas.
Once you have identified what engagement means for your event, and how to bring out more of it at your next event, try to think of what increased engagement is going to look like in your particular case.
Do you expect the audience to ask more questions during the sessions?
Are you waiting for the attendees to start communicating online or sharing live experiences on social networks?
What tools can help you to achieve your goals and most importantly what tech tools are you going to use in order to measure the engagement?
Technology has given us the opportunity to measure events performance at unprecedented levels. Event tech facilitates the evaluation of the return on investment and makes it possible to measure the return on engagement.
The data on audience engagement received through event management and communication software can be divided into two groups — quantitative and qualitative. Whereas quantitative data reflects the frequency of audience activity and allows to measure the participation through a number of KPI’s, qualitative data provides organisers with valuable information about the quality of participation. It helps to understand how involved the audience was before and during the event and what topics they were most interested in.
This information allows event organisers to improve the WHY and HOW of the future events and provides them with an opportunity to engage the audience more purposefully.