Ensuring high engagement levels is deemed as a priority by practically all professional event planners worldwide. Investing time, money and a host of other important resources on organizing a high-profile business conference or trade show can be worth it only when: a) awareness level among people about the event is high, and b) the people are actually hooked on to the proceedings at the event. Not surprisingly, marketing strategy-making has become a key component in the grand scheme of event planning. Over the last half a decade or so, the impact of event technology has also been increasing – and a recent study found that over 94% of all organizers either already use tech tools to plan/promote their events, or have plans to do so in the foreseeable future.
The success (or otherwise!) of an event critically hinges on the extent and type of buzz its organizer is able to build up. If you are planning to host an event anytime soon, you will find the following tips useful for driving up the attendee engagement levels:
Be sure about the visitor profile
Events can belong to diverse genres, and they have to be marketed accordingly. More importantly, unless you have a proper idea about who will be attending your event and what will be the things/services/information they will be looking for – it will be impossible to customize the program schedule (keynotes, conference sessions, workshops, etc.). Make a list of the industry verticals from which your visitors will hail from, and their likely designations. Having a targeted audience goes a long way in both marketing your event and ensuring that the latter actually delivers value to the attendees.
Blog about the event
The web platform is an immensely powerful platform for spreading the word about your event to a wide cross-section of people. If your company has an official blog, start posting high-quality and informative posts on it – with basic information about the event. Start with the first post several weeks before the event, and keep posting a series of event-related articles over the time leading up to the event date(s). Provide all the relevant information – right from exhibitor profile and list of exhibitors, to event dates, venue(s), programs and keynotes – in your blog. Ideally, there should also be a ‘call-to-action’ button/tab on the blog post pages, to navigate readers directly to the event registration page.
Work on building up anticipation levels
In an ideal scenario, people should look forward to your event…and simply putting a countdown timer on the event website is not going to be enough for that. You need to pique the interests of the likely attendees – and the best way to do this is by providing teasers about the scheduled programs and sessions at the event. For instance, you can share the names of some of the speakers who will be present (avoid giving out all the names at one go; share maybe the names of one speaker every alternate day, to keep the audience hooked). Highlight on the key benefits your event has on offer, and include some fun, recreational elements as well (maybe booth designs, or receptions, or other customized event swag). Build up the curiosity levels among people gradually – the promotions moving to a crescendo as the first day of the event approaches.
Note: Stay away from giving out all the information about your event. Share only as much as is required to get people interested. If everything becomes known from beforehand, the motivation to actually attend the event goes down.
Utilize the power of hashtags
On microblogging site Twitter, it has been found that tweets with hashtags receive around 2X times more engagement (‘likes’, retweets, etc.) than the ones without any hashtag. The benefits can be immense if you create a unique and easy-to-remember, personalized hashtag for your event. Make sure that there is no ambiguity about the hashtag you create – and it should be directly relatable to the concerned event. Having a Twitter emoji for your hashtag would make things more memorable. Encourage people to use the hashtag on their social media posts (preferably by creating small, fun competitions). Widespread familiarity and usage of your event’s hashtag can bolster its reach in a big way.
Make use of a reliable event app platform
Using mobile event apps is not a particularly new trend. However, problems can arise if you are not a coder and/or do not have a specialist app developer in your team. The best option would be to look for a scalable, end-to-end event app-building platform like Eventify, and create a fully customized, user-friendly application on it. Since most popular app platforms have easy ‘drag-and-drop’ functionality, users do not require prior coding knowledge – and what’s more, the app can be created in a matter of minutes. With smartphone usage going up every quarter, an information-rich, regularly updated mobile app can maximize the reach of your event.
Note: From the platform dashboard, you will also be able to monitor and manage the key metrics from your event real-time.
Involve general people in the planning
You have a dedicated event website as well as a mobile application, right? Leverage the power of the web and mobile platforms, by including interested people in the actual planning of the event. Create interactive online polls and surveys, to get an insight about the things visitors would like to see at your event, the type of sessions they would love to attend, the nature of training workshops and panel discussions that would be most successful. Keep these suggestions in mind while drawing up the schedules. Do not, however, try to incorporate each and every item that the users have expressed preference for – that would make things unnecessarily elaborate and messy. Work with your own plans, and integrate the user-ideas in it as much as practically feasible.
If visitors feel that the business networking opportunities at your event would be excellent, they would automatically be eager to attend. A sure-fire way of making your business event more engaging is by providing high-quality networking scopes to people at every stage. You should have a structure in place that will be able to match people with common interests – enabling them to interact and further their mutual business goals (generating leads, forging partnerships, etc.). Apart from on-site networking, people interested in your event should also be able to interact with each other via the event app/website (both before the event AND after the event is over). The event venue should have special ‘networking zones’. You also need to give the attendees the option to easily set up one-on-one appointments with the speakers and other industry experts at the event.
Liven up the proceedings
Award shows, competitions, games – all of these add extra life and excitement to corporate events. Gamification is, in fact, one of the most effective strategies to pull up the engagement levels of almost all types of events. Include live demonstration sessions during your event, and host an award show (business awards). Fun games, preferably with some learning elements, can also be hosted. You can let your audience start playing these games right from the mobile event app and event website (after registration). Inform people about the booth(s) they have to visit at the event venue, to redeem prizes and rewards.
Incorporate social media at every stage
Last year, the ‘Chewbacca Mom’ video went absolutely viral – all thanks to the power of Facebook Live. You can also use this tool to broadcast ‘behind-the-scenes’ videos and snippets from the venue (and share them via the event app), as well as share regular updates about the event on Twitter and LinkedIn. Use relevant hashtags while uploading event pictures on Instagram, to ensure maximum visibility. On Facebook, create an ‘event’ on your company page – to share the latest information about the actual event (it would give you some idea about the people who mark themselves as ‘interested’ or ‘going’). During the event, visitors should be able to share videos through social media channels as well.
Note: You do not want people to be busy tweeting or posting on FB, during an important speaker session/keynote. To counter that, you can have a giant screen at the venue, displaying the names of every person who post anything on FB/Twitter, with the official event hashtag. Watching their names on the big screen would give an extra thrill to attendees.
Pay attention to the booth designs
Many corporate events are held every month. As an organizer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your event stands out from the ones organized the week before, or the ones scheduled in the next month. A great way to bring in an innovative feel to your event is by getting creative with the exhibitor booth designs (the booth of slack at Dreamforce 2016 is a classic example of how things can be done). You can also plan giveaways and other fun activities at the booths. Simply by looking at an exhibitor stand, a visitor should feel inclined to visit it and check out the things.
Create groups to enhance participation
There are several popular online platforms on the World Wide Web, where you can create dedicated groups for your event. While Facebook, understandably, is the one that comes to mind immediately – there are heavy potential benefits of hosting online event groups on channels like Reddit and Quora (Q&A sessions can be organized on both). Groups can also be created with the users who download and sign up on your event app. The purpose of having these groups is simple: they can serve as platforms for seamless interaction and knowledge transfer among your audience members.
Pay attention to visitor feedback
‘Engagement’ is not something which ceases as soon as an event is over. You can still interact with the visitors, by actively seeking feedback/opinions/ratings on the things they liked the most about the event as well as the venue arrangements (along with the things that did not quite catch their fancy). Thank each user for participating in these feedback surveys, analyze the received information, and use it to make your next event a bigger, better one. If you have recurring editions of the same event, the user-opinions and feedback will help you to improve your planning constantly.
Give your event’s visitors online media content (videos, podcasts, etc.) that can be easily shared. Monitor social media activities, and announce some sort of rewards for the person(s) talking most actively about your event. Get in touch with industry influencers and decision-makers – who can seriously expand the reach and bolster the word-of-mouth publicity of your events.
While each of the above tips for improving your event’s engagement levels are vital – the most important thing, at the end of the day, is the actual quality of the event you organize. Do the necessary research before finalizing the list of sessions, workshops, keynotes and exhibitors – determine the ticket price(s) with care – and make it a point to cater to the visitors at every point. Plan a great event, promote it well, and make sure that its engagement levels are high. That’s the combination that will spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s for the event.