How to Set Up an Engaging Environment for Your Attendees
Here’s a simple question to ask yourself before planning your next event: what kind of attendees do you want to attract?
Are you willing to settle for passive guests who take notes, maybe ask a few questions, and then just go home and forget all about your event? Or you are more into running events for outgoing attendees who interact with others, ask many questions, and co-create their event experience?
The answer is obvious. Nobody wants to deal with a disengaged audience (unless you don’t care at all about your events).
However, most of the time, attendees’ lack of engagement has nothing to with their personal traits. Forget about blaming your guests for being too lazy or inactive: the reason you have passive attendees is because of the way YOU plan your events.
Most people actually love interacting with others and see engagement as an advantage of attending events.
According to the Skift report What Millennials Want in Meetings, “Millennials desire to attend live meetings and events even more than older generations.” Moreover, as mentioned in the report Associations, Generation Y & the Millenials, published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), “The idea that Generation Y and younger cannot or will not engage in face-to-face interaction is part of the popular mythology that has grown up around this demographic. Yes, they are heavily immersed in technology, but they are still humans with just as many needs for sharing and connection as any other generation.”
In other words, event interaction and engagement will remain an actual topic to discuss and improve.
Thus, your responsibility as an event manager is to set up an interactive environment that will encourage your guests to engage more and manifest a proactive attitude.
So how can you do that?
Here’s a list of doable actions that you can apply toward your next event:
Tip #1. Design a powerful social program
Now that summertime is quickly approaching, you have an amazing opportunity to set up a wonderful social program that will delight your attendees and help them connect more with other guests, as well as the environment (the venue or the city). In the warmer months, people are more willing to travel and engage in outdoor activities.
So take advantage of the season: Offer your attendees the possibility to get out of the venue and enjoy each other’s company in outdoor settings, such as a park or sidewalk café. You can also plan a city tour or different activities that require active involvement. Or maybe invite your audience to a nice cocktail evening and introduce them to the local cuisine. These new experiences will make people open up and level up their engagement experience.
Tip #2. Focus on digital engagement
We at Eventory are happy to witness the merge between the event’s digital and analog layers. This means access to new tools, powerful solutions, and innovative ways of engaging attendees during the event. That’s why we decided to develop a gamification module and help your guests enjoy a ludic experience, while interacting with the event’s content and other guests. The biggest secret of gamification is that although it’s digital, it can positively impact real life, improve attendee communication, and encourage them to be more involved in the event.
Tip #3. Make your events conversational
As Donald Getz notes in his book Event Studies: Theory, research and policy for planned events, “Interactive events embody person–setting or person–person interactivity, unlike spectator events which are inherently passive. Interactivity is thought to foster a higher level of involvement or engagement, making it a crucial element in experience design.”
In other words, the traditional event setup is not the way to create truly engaging and interactive experiences. Instead, try to transform your attendees from passive into active content consumers by giving them access to live polls, live quizzes, different Q&A dynamics (such as Ask Me Anything sessions), and different content presentations (PechaKucha, TED-type presentations, round tables, etc.). This will make them more open to conversation and ease their engagement with the environment and other people.
Tip #4. Designate different types of settings
According to Joyce Bromberg, vice president of Innovation and Foresight at Convene, people need alternative options and spaces during events. Think about allocating special places for rest, teamwork and brainstorming, and interaction. The freedom to decide what they want to do with their time and how they want to interact with other people enhances not only the attendees’ event experience, but also increases their engagement level with the environment.
Tip #5. Don’t forget about post-event engagement
As mentioned in the Skift report, “While event apps are growing in popularity worldwide, they’re often ignored a day after the event. This can throw up a log jam in the seamless engagement between the onsite event experience and the workplace back home when attendees want to re-engage with the content and other participants on web-based platforms outside the app.”
Considering this, your responsibility is to provide the technical means and the necessary nudge to encourage people to communicate and connect after the event. To do so, you must provide them access to event presentations, images, or videos. Don’t forget that your event content must be easy to access, but also exclusive for those who attended the event.
If you want to captivate your attendees, you need to figure out the best way to do so well before the event. First, think about engaging them in social activities to encourage their interaction with other guests and with the environment itself. Second, use a powerful event mobile app to set up a few gamified actions, using fun as a tool for engagement.
Third, think about transforming your event into a conversational experience. Nobody likes to sit and take notes feeling completely bored and uninterested. Fourth, focus on setting up friendly venue spaces that will give your attendees the possibility to choose their activities. Finally, don’t forget about post-event engagement. This will help your attendees to form a stronger memory about your event and engage more consistently with the event content.