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Madison ShepherdMar 7, 2024 11:09:45 AM14 min read

Elevate Your Events - And How to Cater to the Modern Attendee

Join us as we explore effective strategies to enhance the attendee experience at events and uncover the reasons behind the challenges some events face with attendance.

In this episode, Katie delves into the evolving landscape of attendee behavior at events, drawing insights from virtual and hybrid events that can be applied to today's gatherings.

Katie will also share her personal recommendations on how event managers can boost attendee engagement, along with ways to integrate AI technologies into your events.


About the Expert: Katie Moser

Katie Moser is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at GoGather. She has an extensive background in creating content and branding for events, working with speakers, and managing agendas for conferences. When she's not updating blog posts and sending out social media posts, she helps clients identify areas of opportunity for their events from branding to communications. 


Katie Moser: Hi everybody. Welcome to the Gather Gurus podcast. My name is Katie Moser and I am the Director of Marketing at GoGather. So excited to chat with you all today a little bit about the attendee experience and how to cater to the modern attendee. 

I think we're all noticing that attention spans at conferences and attendee preferences are changing a lot. I mean, we hate to blame it on work from home and all the changes that we went through for the last couple years, but we are definitely seeing the effect on conferences and we’re going to be talking through a little bit about how we can cater to that attendee experience and make sure that we're continuing to engage people and meet them where they're at, and not just serving them three-hour keynote sessions and then hoping that they'll absorb all that information. 

So really excited to have this conversation and think through those things with you all, and we'd love to hear from you, kind of what you're doing to restructure your events if needed and what's really successful for you right now. So thanks so much for tuning in and we will catch you guys on the other side. 

All right, Madison, nice to see you. We're so excited to be in our new podcast studio here in Oceanside. We're hanging out talking a little bit about events, attendee experience, seeing what's out in the world right now in 2024, and what we're going to be looking at for the next couple of years. So Madison's going to be giving me some ideas to talk through, and we'll just go from there. 

Madison Shepherd: Yeah, thank you guys for joining us today. So today we're going to be talking about how to cater to the modern conference attendee. So Katie, can you give us some examples of ways that you've noticed how attendee behavior has shifted at events? 

Katie Moser: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I was at an event a couple weeks ago and it made me laugh because there were so many people standing up at the back of the room after one keynote speaker, and you just start to notice this whenever you go to events now that people are kind of unable to sit through that three-hour long keynote session anymore. 

So we really have noticed this a lot with our clients and events that we're attending that we really want to be aware of how people are dealing with the modern workday and attending events. So yeah, it's definitely changing a lot and we'll be talking through some agenda structures with our clients and how maybe we can adjust those to meet people where they're at. 

Madison Shepherd: Yeah, totally. So do you think this has a reason to do with why some events are struggling with attendance, this shift in behavior? 

Katie Moser: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you think about when the pandemic tapered out and people were getting back into their lives again, and everybody had so many things on their social calendar all of a sudden that they're now thinking through what is actually valuable to me? What should I keep in my day? What should I get rid of? And so they're really evaluating what's important anymore. Whether they want to attend an event is really going to take a lot from their workday, from maybe even their wallets. And so people are very much evaluating whether certain events are worth attending. So we have to be aware of that when we're planning our events. Are we providing value at our events and do attendees actually want what we're trying to give them? So yeah, absolutely. 

Madison Shepherd: Great point. So some people are saying that hybrid is dead. What do you think about this? Do you agree or…?

Katie Moser: I think it's trying to be. We hear some clients are still interested in recording sessions and providing online content. I mean, again, we were talking about how some attendees don't want to go to events or they can't make it to every event that might be on their social calendar. And so some people want to meet them halfway. I really do think that companies have to be very careful in how they leverage hybrid. 

What works in person isn't going to necessarily translate to digital. And so we have to think through, do people want to be sitting at their computer for eight hours consuming the content that you're showing to people live? No, right? How do they get the benefits of the conference without feeling like they're dragging through the day?

And so overall, I don't think hybrid is going to be as prominent as it maybe was a couple of years ago. I think there are still good use cases for it, especially when you want to create content that you can reuse or even content that you want to use to promote your event next year. 

Or having sessions like this at your conference where you can record that and promote it and use it as a podcast, for example. And those types of use cases I think will be very good at events. But I think trying to translate your live event into a hybrid event is not going to be as common. 

Madison Shepherd: Another question going off that, how have the learnings we received from virtual and hybrid events impacted how we should be running events? Why are we going back to 2019 strategies? 

Katie Moser: Yeah, yeah. I mean, we were talking a little bit about long keynote sessions and that was very common for conferences. And I think a lot of people have learned from remote work how to split up their day. 

So you may work for an hour or two and then go take a walk or you may work for a little bit and then go have lunch with somebody. And it's different, the office structure that we may have all been used to prior to the pandemic. And I think the same applies to events. 

So we're trying to go back to those same agenda formats and structures that we had in 2019, but that's not necessarily working anymore. Hence why people are standing up or I see this all the time, people get up in the middle of the keynote and they go to the bathroom, they just leave because we're scheduling a three-hour keynote session right after breakfast and everybody's had a bunch of coffee and that doesn't really mix very well. 

So I always think that it's interesting that we haven't learned from how we've restructured work and how a lot of people are mobile in terms of their work. Now you can work from anywhere in the world. 

Okay, well why am I sitting in a conference space all day? It's not adding up in that regard. So I think companies can start to take a look at how they may have structured their virtual events, for example. So we knew kind of a little bit into the pandemic that the eight-hour session wasn't going to work on your computer, so we broke it up. Or we offered different kinds of networking opportunities or different interactive stuff that would keep people at their computers a little bit longer. 

So why don't we take those learnings and apply them to in-person events, what are people actually wanting when they come to your event? It's typically networking opportunities and interactive sessions, things that they can participate in. So I think those types of things we can really learn from and help structure events in a more effective way. 

Madison Shepherd: Yeah, great points. So if you were to characterize the preferences of today's event attendees, what are some things you would incorporate to make a better event experience for them? 

Katie Moser: I think the big things that we're hearing from people is really participation and being able to be a participant in the conference. So not just sitting there and listening to content for six hours. I mean, obviously we want to provide good content to people and allow them to learn for a bit, but I think people really want to jump in and have round table discussions or even be able to do live content recommendations. 

So if you have a mobile app, for example, you could have attendees send your speaker on stage or your panel host on stage some ideas of what they want to hear and make it a “choose your own adventure” kind of presentation. And then they have a bit of say in where the conversation is going and what they want to hear. And so they feel more engaged. 

But it's really, I think the value aspect and what people want and it's interacting with people. They want those one-on-one connections, those group connections, learning from their peers in the space and sprinkling on top of that, some of those traditional content presentations and things like that. 

Madison Shepherd: So I want to talk about pre-surveying attendees a little. So what are some questions you would encourage those planning events to ask their attendees before creating the event agenda? 

Katie Moser: Good question. It can be really powerful, even if you know your attendees very well, you may not know what they're looking for in this particular conference. And so if you're sitting around scratching your head, trying to figure out how I should format the agenda, what kind of content we should include, you can really learn a lot from your attendees and help them get what they want out of their conference. 

Also, even if you send it (a pre-event survey) prior to people registering, it may encourage them to come to the event if they have a say in what they're doing. So in terms of questions you can ask, I mean obviously asking them about certain topics that they want to hear about, you can always make that a multiple choice instead of an open-ended question, if you want to have them decide specific things that they want to hear about from your kind of list of ideas, or you can make it open-ended and just say, tell us the number one thing you want to learn at this event. 

Katie Moser: And I also understand why they want to come to this event. Is it to learn about the latest trends? Is it to understand what your company vision is? Is it to get tools and resources to make their job better? If that's what they want, then maybe you need to have more workshops in your event, or is it to interact with their peers? And then maybe you need to focus more on networking sessions and other ways to help attendees connect. So yeah, pre-survey questions can be very powerful and structuring them properly so you get answers that are actually useful to you to create your agenda is very important. 

Madison Shepherd: Do you think there are any ways to leverage AI technologies that help with the pre-survey process? Have you heard of any that are useful? 

Katie Moser: Oh yeah. I mean, AI is so powerful. We talk about so many different ways that it's being used in the world, but I think in events even using it to produce some of those pre-survey questions or helping you come up with different agenda structures, the GoGather team has kind of played around with building out our own chat GPT to help give event specific advice to our clients. So trying out different ways to build agendas or even having it review your agenda and saying, what are some gaps here? What are some different ways that we could do this? Making it kind of like your event associate almost, right? Like your partner in crime, helping you figure out what your agenda could look like. 

Madison Shepherd: So what are some examples of some unique things that you have incorporated into events? 

Katie Moser: I love this question. We love building in time for people to move at events. I think that's such an underrated thing when it comes to doing these big conferences. You think about coming to an event and you're there for three days, especially if you're in these big conference centers, you're inside all day, you're sitting, you're listening to things. You may have some time to go walk and take a break, but for the most part you're inside sitting. And we talked at the beginning about how I keep noticing people cannot sit still for three hours, which I can't either. I'm terrible at being on a plane. I can't sit there for more than a couple hours. It's awful.

So thinking through some different ways that you can get people to get up and move around. We've been really successful implementing that into our conferences. So for example, I mean this one's pretty common, having some sort of workout class in the morning where people can come and get up early and get their workout in and have a very dedicated space to do it. 

I'm the worst at making sure that I go work out when I'm traveling. And so having an area where people can go participate in that and have a purposeful environment to be able to do it is really great. But we've also incorporated some more gamification things into our conferences. So for example, having a pushup contest was one of them.

Or even a competition where they're building things on stage or having different kinds of activities built into the agenda can be really fun for attendees, especially if it's an internal conference. So you can create competitions between people and if it's your company's team, they know each other and they want to compete for different prizes or a good way to help people get to know each other is incorporating those kinds of things has been really successful. And obviously you have to have a balance with it. 

You can't have your entire event be like, let's just make it all games. But there are some really fun things that you can do. Bike building is another example. We incorporated this in a charity event as well. So people are put into teams and they can build bikes and they race to see who can build them the fastest or build the most. And it's been a really great way to get people involved, get them out of the kind of typical sitting in a seat, listening to content and helping them feel good about what they're doing too.

So I really love the idea of finding new ways to incorporate movement into conferences, incorporating that kind of wellness factor. I think that's huge right now. And finding new ways to just get people to reset and not just feel like they're trudging through your content all day. Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you Madison, and thank you to everybody for listening. I'm really excited to chat with you a little bit more about events and attendee engagement and how you can find new and different ways to get your attendees involved and make sure that they're not just getting bored of the content you're serving all day.

Thanks so much. We'll chat with you all later.


Madison Shepherd

Madison Shepherd is a Marketing Specialist at GoGather. When she's not writing blogs or sending out social media posts, she enjoys hiking, traveling, or reading at one of the many beautiful beaches in San Diego.