How to improve event audience engagement

The Complete Guide to Improving Event Audience Engagement

Learn how to use metrics to create a successful event! Retain audience engagement with the help of entertainment, storytelling and networking!
November 12, 2022

Audience engagement is the main key to having a successful event and hosting any future events! With both virtual and hybrid events on the rise, audience engagement can be tough to capture and maintain. This guide will help event organizers gain audience engagement and how to retain it for future events. 

What Is Event Engagement?

Event engagement is the way your audience directly interacts with other participants, as well as vendors, the panel and the main event team. Audience engagement begins before the event starts and runs all the way through the end of the event, usually ending with feedback and post event surveys. The way your audience engages with each other as well as the speakers, vendors and partners will set the tone for your whole event. 

Why Does Event Engagement Matter?

Event engagement from your audience helps to provide feedback in real time! You, as the event organizer, try to plan successful events for your audience. Having an audience that truly engages with your event and provides constructive feedback, whether positive or negative, will help event organizers plan future events. If the majority of your audience provided feedback and they didn’t care for a particular part of your event, you wouldn’t want to put that part into any future events. Parts of an event that receive great feedback from your audience can be used again! 

The 3 Stages Of Event Engagement

When planning an event, organizers should focus on the 3 main stages of creating event engagement. Following these 3 stages will help you create a successful event that will ensure audience engagement.

1. Pre Event Engagement

Help build a deeper connection with your audience even before the event begins! The ability to engage your audience throughout your event will ensure participation from everyone involved! The use of social media can help to generate a buzz around your event, as well as let potential guests know the details of the event!  

  • Planning - Events require a theme, marketing strategy and branding. Creating a buzz around your event will ensure guests will get excited about your event! Creating marketing tools such as email marketing and social media to promote your event will pique the interest of potential guests. When creating the marketing, providing your guests with as much information as possible will leave no room for questions. 
  • Selling Tickets - Most events usually require their guests to purchase tickets ahead of time, usually to main capacity limits and have an accurate headcount. When selling tickets for your event, running ticket specials such as an early bird special or discounted tickets will generate a buzz within your audience. Setting a final date to buy tickets for these early bird specials will ensure that your guests will get their tickets early at a discounted price; it’s a win-win for everyone! 
  • Keeping Communication Open - Events can be ever changing, and event organizers need to be adaptive to the changes. If changes to your event do happen, expressing these changes to your audience needs to be done immediately and efficiently. Sending out SMS text messages to your audience will let them know of any changes right away. 

2. Audience Engagement During An Event

Once you have your audience members at your event, now you need to successfully keep them engaged with your content! Kicking off the event with a high energy icebreaker will get your audience in their comfort zone and will make them want to engage with their colleagues throughout the event. Breaking up the day with small breaks and activities will keep your audience’s minds refreshed and eager to learn!

  • Keep Energy High - Everyone knows how exciting an event can be, even if the event is meant to be educational. Event organizers can maintain engagement by having upbeat energy from the moment their guests enter the event! Organizers who are friendly, comforting and easy to talk to will help to create an event that guests will want to attend, and guests will feel that they can be themselves! 
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  • Chat With Guests - Throughout the event, be sure to take breaks so your guests can take a breather, stretch their legs or use the restroom. During these breaks, event organizers should be circulating the room, making small conversations with their guests. Having these conversations with your guests can bring event organizers closer together with their guests and make a personal connection. 
  • Chat Reactions - If your event uses an app, you are able to see in real time the engagement guests are having. A “chat reaction” portion of the app will allow your guests to give a live reaction into how they’re feeling about certain portions of the event. Either a thumbs up or thumbs down reaction will give insight to the event organizers, to let them know what works for their event and what doesn’t. 

3. Post Event Engagement

Keeping the lines of communication open between event organizers and audience members is the best way to engage with your audience! By sending thank you notes, surveys and feedback questionnaires, event organizers will be able to communicate and engage with their audience long after the event is over. 

  • Feedback And Surveys - As we have seen in the past, feedback and surveys from your audience is the best way to determine the success of your event. Your guests are the ones who the event is geared towards, and sending out surveys after the event will allow them to express how they truly felt about the event. The planning of any future events can be determined by the feedback you receive from your guests, vendors and speakers. 
  • Send A Highlight Reel - Throughout your event, be sure to capture pictures and videos of your event. Make sure to get both posed pictures and candid ones, showcasing your guests in every light. Making a slideshow of these pictures and videos will highlight the best parts of the event, and will be a great memento for everyone to have! 
  • Have Audience Share Experiences - We all know how big social media is today, and most everyone belongs to at least one platform. Encouraging your guests to share their experiences on their social media channels is the best way to reach a larger audience than ever before. Your guests may be friends with people from all over the world, and the outreach that their feedback provides may influence future guests to attend an event! 

Strategies To Boost Pre-Event Engagement

Engaging with your guests months in advance will give event organizers a clear picture on what guests are going to expect from your event. Building a relationship with your guests and understanding the demographics will build excitement for the event. 

1. Use Social Media 

Using social media to promote the event will help to spread the word about your event and any future events. Heading over to the event Facebook page will give you all of the information regarding the event. Event organizers can tag any companies your event will be partnering with, letting your guests know who is going to be there. Social media is the best way to have all of your event information in one place, while also sharing the event with everyone. 

2. Listening To Your Audience 

Within the social media world, your guests are going to be talking about your event. As event organizers, you should be monitoring these social media channels to see what your guests are saying. If your guests express any concerns about your event, be sure to handle the issue with dignity and respect. If your guests are speaking about a particular part of the event, be sure to communicate your excitement for the event. 

3. Registration 

Events require registration to know how many guests will be joining the event. Registration also gives event organizers a metric to use later against actual audience attendance. If your event has guests who registered but did not attend, you can use those metrics later when trying to determine if the event was a success or not. 

4. Maximize Event Communications

From the moment an audience member registers for your event, they should be able to have a clear line of communication with event organizers! If your event plans on using an app, that app should have a tab for communication, on both ends! Event organizers should use either email or the event app to send out any notifications to their audience! This is the best way to ensure that any event notifications are sent to their audience members in a timely manner. 

5. Create Urgency

When selling tickets or having an open registration portal for your event, it will likely have a cutoff date for purchasing tickets or signing up! By creating a sense of urgency, this will allow your potential attendees to sign up for the event or register by a certain date! This will ensure that your guests will register in time for the event, so event organizers have an accurate headcount and have their information ready for any other needs for the event.

Strategies To Improve Engagement During An Event

Once the event begins, keeping your audience engaged now becomes the top priority. Keeping the energy high and allowing your guests to be themselves and have a good time will help keep them engaged. 

1. Encourage Participating In Activities 

It can be nerve wracking to enter an event and begin participating in activities. If you allow your guests to be themselves and be comfortable, the event is going to run smoothly and everyone will have a great time. Using games and icebreaker activities is a great way to have your guests loosen up and be ready for a day of learning! Getting up and moving around after a few talking sessions will also let your guests stretch their legs after sitting for a while.  

2. Use Of A Mobile App 

Most everyone has a smartphone, and many events will have an app that’s available to download. This event app can alert your guests of any changes, the schedule of events and reminders. The app can also be the home of any communication that may happen between guests and event organizers. Questions can be asked and answered right in the app, and all of the answers will be right at the fingertips of your guests! 

3. Seating Arrangements 

The seating arrangement for your guests can totally help with audience engagement. If your event has speakers or a panel discussion, the seating arrangement can be done with rows of seating, all forward facing. If your event focuses on smaller groups, tables and chairs is the best way for your guests to engage with one another. In situations like these, having groups rotate is another great way for all of your guests to meet one another and engage in conversation. 

4. Swag Bags

Swag bags are a great way to boost engagement for your audience members! The bags can be filled with items that your guests will use both at the event and once the event concludes! Reusable water bottled, t-shirts, pens and small notebooks all branded with your company logo will serve as a great memento for your guests! 

Event swag bags

5. Expand Sponsor Engagement

When reaching out to sponsors for your event, try to select sponsors who are more than willing to engage with your audience! If you have guest speakers who are also a sponsor, be sure to include a time in the agenda for your guest speakers to have a Q&A session with your audience! Event attendees like to feel like they can relate to the guest speaker; it builds more of a personal connection!

6. Networking

Everyone in the corporate world knows how important networking is. It creates connections that you may not ordinarily make! Networking also brings together your audience members, and finds out more about one another. As they begin to chat, they can learn details about each other, both professionally and personally. The opportunities that can come from networking are endless!

Strategies To Improve Post-Event Engagement

Once the event is over, event organizers still need to ensure their guests remain engaged, especially for future events. There are many ways to keep in touch with your audience after the conclusion of your event. 

1. Follow Up Surveys 

Asking questions to your guests will only help you understand how well the event was. Don’t be afraid to ask in depth questions about your event; the feedback is only going to help! Keep in mind that not every guest is going to have good things to say about your event, and that’s okay! Constructive feedback helps you plan better for events in the future, and if something isn’t working for your event, making changes will only make the next event better. 

2. Send Thank Yous

Thank you notes go such a long way, and sending thank yous to not only your vendors but also your guests will show them how much you appreciated them attending your event! Sending a thank you note to everyone in attendance will make them feel appreciated and will make them a returning guest. 

3. Encourage Guests To Send In Pictures And Videos

During your event, encourage your guests to take pictures and photos. Not only will this be a fun memento for your guests, they can also be sent to event organizers after the event! Your guests can take pictures at all different points of the event, both candid and posed pictures. After the event is over, have your guests send in any pictures and videos they took, and make a highlight reel! Once the reel is finished, sending it to all guests and vendors will show the event from all different perspectives, which will be a great memory for years to come! 

Strategies to boost virtual event engagement

Strategies To Boost Virtual Event Engagement 

Fully virtual and hybrid events have grown in popularity over the past few years. While guests are at home attending your event, it is still important to gain the engagement of them. Following these steps will help with retaining audience engagement. 

1. Take Breaks 

As we all know, sitting for hours in front of a computer screen can take a toll on you. When scheduling your event timeline, be sure to add in time for breaks! These breaks can be for stretching, coffee or even getting some fresh air. Removing yourself from the event for a few minutes can help to reset your mind and then you can return to the event fresh and focused! 

2. Breakout Sessions 

Breakout sessions within your virtual event allow for groups to work together and brainstorm ideas. Sometimes, with large events, some guests may become lost in the shuffle of large groups, and their thoughts and ideas might not be heard. With breakout sessions, everyone will be able to share their thoughts and ideas! If you plan to gather back together in a large group, each smaller group will be able to share their ideas through a round robin technique. 

3. Tracking Activity

With virtual events, event organizers are able to use the event hosting platform to monitor the guest’s usage! If there is a technical issue, event organizers can see where the problem is and try to fix it right away! Event organizers are also able to see if the guest’s aren’t interacting with the event and use that data for planning the next event. If guests aren’t actively participating in a certain aspect of the event, you may want to eliminate that portion of the event for next time. 

4. Gamification

Gamification has become extremely popular over the past few years, with the switch to online events becoming even more popular. In order to increase virtual engagement, encouraging your guests to take breaks and play games will help them relax and refresh their minds! The use of virtual games creates a friendly competition between your audience members! 

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5. Live Streaming

Live streaming is a great way to engage your audience, even if they are at home and not attending in person! Just because they can’t attend your event in person, it doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the fun! Providing a link to your event so people can log in virtually will ensure the at home attendees can be immersed in all the fun!

Here’s a few additional open secrets to driving high audience engagement at both in-person and virtual events.

Measuring Event Engagement To Show Event Success

Tracking and understanding the data from your event will help event organizers to determine what works for your event and what doesn’t. Using this data at the conclusion of your event will help you plan future events. Partnering with companies who specialize in event metrics will make the data collection process even easier. 

1. Session Attendance 

Collecting data from your event is a great way to understand if your event was successful. One of the ways to collect data is by cross referencing guests registration versus guest check ins. Using this method can give you a better understanding of who didn’t attend your event. Your event will likely have capacity limits, be sure to understand those limits. If your event seems to be going over the capacity limit, have a backup plan. Having a second room for guests or even capping the ticket sales will help with attendance! 

2. Booth Traffic 

In order to accurately gauge how popular your event booths are, try pairing with a company that specializes in tracking that information! Beacons are able to be set up at your event and track which booths are popular and which ones aren’t! Beacons are able to be worn as bracelets, necklaces or even badges. These beacons can track where your guests go within your event. If a particular booth is gaining more traffic than others, you will definitely want to have that booth return in the future! Peak times can also be tracked using these beacons! 

3. Networking

We all know how important networking events are! They generate leads and help people connect with one another. The use of an event app can help people network with ease; event organizers can see how many guests are using the app and have the ability to collect each other’s information. Virtual events can even have a spot for networking as well! Guests can enter a “room” with other guests and get to know each other on both a personal and professional level. 

4. Lead Capture

With the rise in technology, capturing leads and networking has completely changed! Guests are able to create a unique QR code with all of their information attached, and guests can scan the code with their smartphone. This QR code can bring up a LinkedIn page for each guest, and they are able to instantly connect. Another form of lead capture is the use of DOT cards. These cards are able to be synched with a guest’s information, just like the QR code. All a guest needs to do is tap the card to the back of another guest’s smartphone, and the guest’s social media channels as well as their LinkedIn will pop up! Using this technology to your advantage will help generate leads and make connections. 

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Virtual events opened up new opportunities for data that event organizers could use to measure audience engagement to the last detail. Here’s an exhaustive list of metrics that can be used to measure audience engagement for virtual events.

How to measure event audience engagement

5 Event Engagement Tips From Industry Experts 

Planning events of any kind can be a long, drawn out process. Securing guests, panel speakers, a venue, a theme, etc. are all small pieces that eventually fall into place. Guest engagement is such an important part of hosting an event and making sure that they have a good enough time that they will want to return to events in the future! These 6 tips will ensure that your event will be engaging and fun for everyone involved! 

1. Virtual Suggestion Box

Event organizers know how important the opinions of their guests are, and they should value them! If you don’t have loyal guests, they are going to be more willing to return! Asking the right questions to your guests will give event organizers a better idea of what the guests want to see from an event! Guests may want to have smaller breakout sessions with their peers, and having that information will help event organizers make those suggestions become a reality. 

2. Create Compelling Content

Creating content for events can be done in a variety of ways! If your event is directed to be more information based, try and think of fun and exciting ways to deliver the information. If your budget allows, reaching out to high profile guests to deliver the content will capture the attention of your audience! If your company can acquire a high profile guest, using their name and picture to promote your event will generate more interest in potential attendees! 

3. Storytelling 

Storytelling is a great way to connect with your audience and make them want to attend your event! If you have guest speakers, allowing them to share their personal or professional stories will help to gather a larger audience. People like when they can relate to guest speakers or high profile guests; it creates more of a personal connection between them. If a guest knows that their story is like or similar to the guest speaker, they will be more inclined to attend your event. 

4. Add Entertainment

Events come in all different forms, and most events have a large number of guests attending them. If your budget allows, look into providing entertainment for your guests. This doesn’t mean you have to reach out to a popular band or singer and invite them to your event. Bringing in entertainment could mean themed food trucks, magicians, a mixologist or sports simulators. Having any form of entertainment to have at your event will give your guests a nice break and they will be able to relax and unwind with their colleagues. You want your guests to feel comfortable, and you want them to return to your event year after year. Asking your guests what kind of entertainment they would like to see at an event can help you plan for events in the future. 

5. Virtual Swag Bags 

As we have discussed, swag bags are a fantastic way to say thank you to your guests for attending your event, and they become a great memento and keepsake. The great thing about swag bags is that they can be given out virtually or in person. If you want to have virtual swag bags, they may include things such as: discount codes, a pass for a virtual workout class, or gift cards. Virtual swag bags can also be customized to the theme of your event as well! 

Let’s face it, audience engagement is vitally important to the overall success of your event! If you can’t capture your audience engagement, the event won’t be as successful as you hoped it would be. Corporate events happen every year, and you need to ensure that you have a loyal audience! Listening to your audience, understanding their wants and needs will help you build that loyal guest list! 

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