Planning an event is no easy feat, and ensuring that attendees are engaged throughout the event can be an even bigger challenge. However, attendee engagement is critical to the success of any event, whether it’s a conference, trade show, or product launch. In this guide, we will provide you with actionable tips and strategies to boost attendee engagement at your next event.
Why is attendee engagement important?
Attendee engagement is crucial for the success of any event. Engaged attendees are likelier to participate in sessions, network with other attendees, and ultimately feel satisfied with the event. This, in turn, can lead to increased brand awareness, customer loyalty, and business growth.
Pre-event attendee engagement: create buzz before the event
Come up with a hashtag
Hashtags allow you to aggregate everything posted about a topic in one place. By creating a unique hashtag for your event, you’re giving your fans and attendees a straightforward way to interact with you, your event, and each other.
It’s easy to look up everything by clicking on the hashtag. And you yourself can easily find and follow conversations about your event as well. Set up a social media wall to display conversations from different networks in one place.
Track your event hashtag and collect the content on a social media wall
Share everything about your event using your hashtag and encourage others to do the same. You can also get good results by promoting your hashtag cross-media — put it on flyers and other promotional materials, your website, and your newsletter.
Create teasers by sharing images from previous events on social media using your hashtag.
Who’s better to market your event than those you’ve already convinced to buy a ticket? Add a social sharing button to your ticket sales “thank you” page to make it easy for them to convince others.
It’s a low-effort way for your attendees to share your event on their own social media accounts. Include your hashtag in the sharing text as well!
Promote your speakers
Make use of the network your speakers or lecturers already have by making them a part of your social media campaign. Promote speakers in short social media posts, incorporate your hashtag, and tag them. Whenever they repost your content, their own followers will learn about your event.
GIF posts like TEDxLondon has done, or image posts with a speaker photo and a quote overlay relating to their talk topic, work well for this. Visual content offers a compact way of informing people about your event, the speaker, and the talk they’ll be giving. In most cases, speakers will be happy to repost something to their own followers, but make sure you clear it with them first, obviously.
Include your event hashtag in the image posts as well; by clicking on it users will find other speaker introductions and more information about your event.
Run a contest for ultimate attendee engagement
Contests are a good way to spread your message, up your engagement, and expand your reach. Encourage potential attendees to share something to win a prize — a free ticket, a VIP experience, or something else to do with your event.
You can ask them to comment on your Facebook status or share a picture on Twitter or Instagram. Make it part of the contest rules that your event hashtag must be included in the post to spread your event further.
Check out our blog post for various ideas on how to run a giveaway contest on social media.
Make use of videos
It’s no secret that videos make up an essential part of the internet and social media in particular. It’s expected that by 2020 video traffic will make up 82% of all consumer internet traffic!
Even more so than images, videos can transport complex messages in a short time. They are also eye-catchers, easily consumed and readily shared — 1200% more shared than text and images together, in fact.
Create a short but engaging promotional video or GIF for your event and tag it with your hashtag.
Get influencers to use your hashtag
Influencer marketing is a tricky and intimidating field, but when done right, it can do wonders for your event. It’s important to find influencers that are a good fit for your event. Your topic or brand should be within their range of interests, but their followers should ideally be slightly different from your own follower base. That way, you can reach a new target group with their help.
Once you’ve identified the right influencers, invite them to your event and strike a deal with them. If your event repeats yearly, build and maintain a relationship with your influencers. If they show up at your events repeatedly, their support for you will have a greater impact on their followers. Ask them to use your hashtag when sharing your event.
Hold online pre-events for some pre-attendee engagement
Another way to create buzz and boost attendee engagement is to organize a pre-event online. An engaging pre-event will promote your main event and give potential attendees an idea of what to expect. Furthermore, you (and your influencers) get a chance to convince them to buy a ticket.
Use Google Hangouts to set up a discussion between influencers or hold a webinar if it fits the topic of your event. Host a Twitter chat to engage with your audience about your topic, to ask them questions, and answer theirs. Live stream interviews with your speakers using Periscope or Facebook Live for maximum reach since live videos perform three times better than videos that aren’t live.
Remember that your social profiles are often the first point of contact for your audience. They’ll see your tweet or post reshared by someone and will head to your profile to find out more about you. That’s why it’s essential to always keep your profiles current.
Ensure your profile always includes a link to your website and event hashtag. But also use the handy pinning feature on Twitter and Facebook. Pin the most relevant post for your event — that might be your link to ticket sales, your most recent speaker promotion post, or your call for your audience to participate in your contest — and keep it updated.
Your profile information and your pinned post or tweet will be the first thing people see when they head to your profile. Take care to keep it always current!
How to keep attendee engagement going during the event
Live-tweet your event
Live-tweeting adds value to events, both for attendees and for those who would like to follow an event from home. Tweet quotes from talks as they are going on and post pictures from the event, be it on-stage photos, backstage stuff, or impressions of the general goings on and the audience.
Online attendee engagement and interaction
It’s important to not just keep up your own stream of posts but also interact with others posting from or about your event. Engagement on their posts will keep attendees happy and encourage them to keep posting.
Establishing an event hashtag will make it easier for you to follow the posts. Still, it’s always advisable to keep a Twitter search for your event running in case someone tweets without using the official hashtag.
Follow your own hashtag, like, repost and reply to uuser-generated content to keep people motivated and make them feel that their contributions are appreciated.
Collect UGC and make participation easy by using QR codes
QR codes provide a cost-effective and engaging solution for event activation. They allow event organizers to offer attendees an interactive experience while collecting data and tracking attendance. Here are a few ideas for using QR codes for event activation:
QR codes to break the ice: Create funny polls on your event display and enable attendees to participate easily and in real-time by scanning a QR code. Wondering what to ask? Here are 54 fun and inspiring poll question ideas to ask your audience and break the ice.
QR codes to collect UGC: Have a QR code that leads attendees to a dialogue that allows them to post a message or a photo on your social wall display. It’s an easy and engaging way to collect user-generated content from your attendees.
QR codes to collect feedback: Simplifying the feedback process for your attendees is crucial. By incorporating QR codes, you can make the process quick and hassle-free by sending attendees directly to a poll on your social wall resulting in more accurate, timely, and helpful feedback.
Set up a social media wall at a central location at your event and let attendees know about it and your hashtag. Point out your event hashtag and social wall in your program or your event app if you’re using one.
Put the official hashtag on speaker slides and ensure the MC mentions it and encourages people to post. To engage your audience further, you can take questions via social media and have the MC pose them to the speakers on stage.
Put the hashtag on rollups at your event location or if you need a cheaper version, simply put up printouts with the hashtag and the link to your social wall. A signpost or two pointing people towards the physical location of the social wall wouldn’t go amiss either.
Easily create a physical social wall by pulling up your Walls.io URL and displaying your wall on a TV screen or via a beamer. Place a couple of standing tables in front of the screen to encourage attendees to congregate and get to know each. The social wall will function as an icebreaker.
Live-stream your event to increase attendee engagement
As we said before, live-streaming video poses a big draw for audiences, so consider streaming from your event using Periscope or Facebook Live. Even if you want to ensure the main event and what happens on stage stay exclusive to ticket holders, you can still create and stream great content from other parts of the event. Use breaks for interviewing attendees and speakers about their event experience or showing off additional exhibition spaces you might have at your event.
Seeing how awesome your event is will whet people’s appetites for future events you’re organizing. Attendees can also enjoy the extra content since they can watch it on their mobile devices during breaks.
Give people FOMO
Give non-attendees a serious case of FOMO by encouraging attendees and speakers to share their impressions of your event using your hashtag. Their posts will reach their immediate followers and those following your event via the official hashtag.
If you are organizing a regular event series (be it monthly or yearly), stick with the same hashtag so, for example, your potential 2017 attendees can see what went down at the 2016 event. It will give them an idea of what to expect and encourage them to buy a ticket.
Make sharing happen
Sharing rarely happens accidentally. Most of the time, you have to help it and actively create share-worthy occasions at your event. That is the secret to attendee engagement, making it easy.
A photo booth that automatically tweets the photos and adds your hashtag to the posts can be a great way to get your event on social media. Social media voting and giveaways at the event itself also foster social media sharing. Use lanyards, badges, goodie bags, team t-shirts, etc., to promote your event hashtag.
Create lasting relationships after the event
Write a blog post
Create a blog post review of your event, which is informative and sums up the key points of the event. Include a photo slideshow to give readers an impression of what the event was like and the best social media content posted by others. You can also create separate blog posts for each talk.
When you share your blog posts on social media, use your event hashtag and tag the people whose social media posts you included to let them know about it. People are pretty happy to see their tweets included in a roundup and will likely share the blog post with their own followers.
Check it out: Buffer does some nice #bufferchat roundup blog posts!
You can put your social media wall to good use after an event as well. Take some time to curate the wall and make the best content stand out, and then use your social wall to show off your event. Link to it in press releases, future promotions, or when talking to sponsors for your next event.
Get a social wall for your next event
Ask for feedback and deal with it
Don’t let the earth swallow you up after your event but keep talking to your audience, that way you’ll keep attendee engagement going. Ask for their feedback and deal with it accordingly. Don’t ignore negative feedback but reply and do your best to solve the problem to keep your audience happy.
FAQs on attendee engagement
What is attendee engagement?
Attendee engagement refers to the level of involvement, participation, and interaction that attendees have with an event. Engaged attendees are likelier to participate in sessions, network with other attendees, and feel satisfied with the event.
Why is attendee engagement important?
Attendee engagement is critical to the success of any event. Engaged attendees are more likely to have a positive experience, leading to increased brand awareness, customer loyalty, and, ultimately, business growth.
How can I boost attendee engagement at my event?
There are many ways to boost attendee engagement at your event, such as personalizing the experience, creating interactive sessions, leveraging social media, gamifying the event, providing networking opportunities, and offering on-demand content.
What are some examples of interactive sessions?
Interactive sessions can take many forms, such as roundtable discussions, workshops, live polling, and Q&A sessions. These sessions allow attendees to participate actively and engage with the content.
You can use social media to build excitement before the event, engage with attendees during the event, and keep the conversation going after the event. Create event-specific hashtags, encourage attendees to share their experiences on social media, and use social media to provide real-time updates and information.
What is gamification?
Gamification is incorporating game-like elements into non-game contexts, such as events. By adding challenges, rewards, and competition, gamification can increase attendee engagement and motivation.
How can I provide on-demand content?
You can provide on-demand content by recording sessions and keynotes and making them available on your website or through a mobile app. This allows attendees to catch up on any sessions they missed or revisit their favorite sessions at their convenience.
How important is networking to attendee engagement?
Networking is one of the primary reasons attendees go to events. By providing structured networking opportunities, such as speed networking, roundtables, and meet-and-greets, you can help attendees connect with each other and increase their engagement with the event.
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