The last three years have fundamentally changed how people interact and attend events.
If you're hosting a conference or meeting, keeping your audience engaged is both more challenging and more critical than ever. Event attendees don't want to sit through 3-hour presentations anymore.
Your old strategies simply won't work.
But how can you ensure that your attendees remain captivated and involved throughout?
In this blog post, we'll explore captivating event engagement examples, essential components of audience engagement, strategies for measuring audience engagement, and tips for maintaining audience engagement throughout your event. By the end of this article, you'll be able to master audience engagement at your next event.
Engage your audience with captivating activities & strategies such as interactive workshops, gamification elements, and social media contests.
Personalize experiences to resonate with the audience & use effective communication techniques for successful engagement.
Utilize icebreakers, energizers, dynamic presentations, and varied session formats to maintain engagement throughout events.
Strategies for Maintaining Audience Engagement
Creating an engaged audience can be difficult. But with the right mix of activities and strategies, you can successfully capture and enhance that engagement for a successful event.
Let's dive into some ways to drive engagement, including interactive workshops, gamification elements, and varied content formats.
Interactive workshops are an excellent way to encourage participants to take part in discussions and interact with each other.
By offering hands-on activities, group discussions, and opportunities for collaboration, interactive workshops can keep your audience engaged and provide valuable learning experiences.
How do you create a successful interactive workshop? Here are some ideas:
Choose a speaker that can interact one-on-one with attendees and provide hands-on teachings throughout the session.
Pick a topic that attendees want to solve or dive further into; pre-event surveys can help you determine what would be best.
Leverage technology tools throughout like polling or interactive whiteboards.
Get people out of their seats and collaborating. Activities like group brainstorms on the wall can be helpful to not only get the blood moving but also get their brains thinking.
Gamification is an innovative approach to audience engagement that involves incorporating game-like elements into non-game contexts.
By adding elements such as challenges, competition, and rewards, gamification can significantly boost engagement and motivation among your audience.
Things you can consider adding to your event:
Point systems, where attending certain sessions or visiting certain booths can help people gain points to win prizes.
Competitive sessions where attendees participate in games or other challenges for recognition. This is also a great way to get people off their feet and interacting.
Polls or other app-based games that people can participate in throughout the event.
Social media competitions can be a great way to spread awareness of your event while getting attendees involved. You can also leverage a branded hashtag here to encourage more sharing.
One thing to remember here: don't let your gamification distract from the core of your event.
Adding in too many elements can muddle the purpose of your event and leave your attendees unsure of the point. Consider how you can layer in gamification smartly and explain it well to your audience.
We all hate the word "icebreakers". We usually hate the types of games they're associated with, too.
But leveraging icebreakers during small group breakout discussions or networking events can make a significant impact on attendees' levels of participation.
Icebreakers help your attendees get to know each other, which can help them feel more connected to the event and each other. This in turn can lead to higher levels of participation and engagement.
Instead of doing icebreakers as a large-group exercise, consider breaking people into smaller groups to get to know each other better before transitioning into your larger session. You can also consider things like roundtables where attendees get to know smaller groups and then switch to meet more people.
Variety in Session Formats
Sessions need to be varied, especially in an age where attention spans are waning.
Consider shortened sessions (20-minutes max), TED-talk style. Or panel sessions interspersed throughout. Get people moving between the main room and breakout sessions.
Roundtables can be a great way to get more content in during times like lunch. Or offering optional "deep dive" sessions can be a great way to engage audience members that want to learn more, while giving other attendees the option to do other things.
Also consider learning styles. Some participants may want to sit and listen, while others will want to get hands-on. By accounting for these different styles, you can help keep everyone engaged throughout the entire event.
The foundation of any successful event is engaging content.
To capture your audience's attention, your content should be original, relevant, and visually appealing. You can consider incorporating things like quizzes, interactive infographics, games, and interactive videos.
But we recommend first laying the foundation with your event theme and potentially surveying audience members prior to the event. Learn about their challenges and preferences, and then work to tie those into your overall event theme.
Also make sure to review your speakers' content prior to the event and provide edits where needed. Make sure presentations are easy to read, attractive, and interesting. Images go a long way to keep people engaged.
Then work with your speaker to ensure their speech is engaging. From varying tone to telling the right stories, you'll want to make sure your speakers are set up for success. This is especially important for your keynote speaker, who sets the tone for your entire event.
Get your attendees off their feet and moving between sessions.
The physical stimulus can help them refocus better for additional sessions, plus it can help facilitate additional connections between attendees. Some examples of energizers include:
Competitions. We've hosted events like push-up competitions or cup-stacking competitions that attendees can choose to partake in or simply watch.
Exercise. Some of our clients choose to host early morning workouts or midday workouts. You can also simply have everyone stand up from their seats and stretch or do jumping jacks. Even this small amount of movement can help them reset.
Breathing or Yoga Sessions. For longer relaxation and reset sessions, consider offering yoga or breathing exercises throughout the day.
Walking Tours. You can also offer longer sessions such as walking tours, where attendees get outside the conference location and explore the surrounding areas. You can also make this a sponsored session, giving your partners a chance to interact with your attendees in a more low-key environment.
Ways to Enhance Audience Engagement
Each audience engagement strategy above can be enhanced by things like personalization and communication. Let's dive into a couple of ideas to really elevate your event engagement.
One of the keys to successful audience engagement is personalization. By creating tailored experiences for each attendee, you can ensure that your event resonates with your audience and keeps them engaged throughout.
An excellent example of personalization in action is offering customizable session paths, which give your audience the freedom to attend the sessions they're passionate about and skip the ones they're not interested in.
Your event app can help your attendees navigate their session choices and decide on the best fit for them.
You can also provide personalized touches throughout, from the gifts you offer to the suggestions you provide each attendee. Giving thought to things like food and drink preferences can also make your attendees feel extra special, giving them more reason to feel connected to and engaged with your event.
Effective communication throughout your event goes a long way to enhance audience engagement.
Think about any event you've been to. If you're greeted on the way into the event and given an overview of the event upon registration, you're much more likely to participate than if you have to figure it out yourself.
Communication throughout the event, such as lunch times or session locations, can help immensely in getting people to the right places. We recommend having an emcee that provides information (and even hypes up certain aspects of the event) after each keynote.
You can also consider leveraging your app for communications, with push notifications going out for certain session start times or about games throughout the event.
Ample Networking Opportunities
People get people engaged.
If your audience doesn't have ample time to connect with each other, there's a high likelihood that your event will not succeed.
Providing ample networking opportunities throughout will help improve your attendee engagement, as attendees will be able to build relationships with each other, share ideas, and build knowledge.
In addition to traditional networking events, consider incorporating small group breakout discussions, roundtables, or symposiums into your event agenda, which can foster attendee-to-attendee interaction and create a more engaging experience.
The Question of the Phone
Phones are the ultimate attention-sucker. Attendees can surf the internet, view social media, read emails, text, etc. during your session, and it's nearly impossible to grab their attention back from their phones.
How do you address this?
You could consider a no-phones rule (extreme). This could be a fun experiment to try for smaller breakout sessions, where people leave their phones in a protected box or area for a short time. This would need to be well-communicated prior to the sessions, so as not to make angry attendees.
Or you could try to incorporate the phones into your sessions in a way that keeps people engaged. Whether that's encouraging poll participation or note-taking, providing a healthy way for people to both engage in your sessions while being on their phones may help the issue.
How to Measure Audience Engagement
Measuring audience engagement is crucial for refining your event strategies and ensuring that your attendees remain engaged throughout.
But how do you gain these valuable insights?
In this section, we'll explore three key strategies to measure engagement: data-driven insights, attendee feedback, and social media monitoring.
Data-driven insights can provide valuable information about your audience engagement. These numbers help you uncover patterns, inferences, and insights to make informed decisions for your next event.
Some of the metrics you can track to measure audience engagement include the number of registrants, attendees in sessions, number of questions asked, and poll results.
Note that these numbers only give you part of the story. Make sure you're also collecting feedback to get a better picture of engagement.
(e.g. perhaps only a few people show up to one session. If you're only looking at the numbers, this session would be a flop. But perhaps everyone who attended absolutely loved it and found incredible value. That would inform you that maybe you just need to advertise the session better.)
Attendee feedback is the best way to measure success.
Gather feedback through feedback surveys after the event or informational interviews throughout the event.
Grab this template for specific questions you should ask after your event. But for questions related to engagement, you can consider asking:
How would you rate the content of the event?
How engaged did you feel throughout the event?
What did you like about the event? What did you dislike?
Which session did you feel was the most valuable?
What did you think about the engagement sessions such as icebreakers or workouts?
You can ask these questions in a formatted or open-ended way. Make sure to ask a variety so you can get enough data to analyze properly.
Asking questions of attendees during your event can also be effective. Consider interviews before and after sessions or after activities to gauge people's immediate reactions and thoughts. This may also reveal issues that you can address in real-time (such as - the mic was too quiet).
Mastering audience engagement is crucial for the success of any event, especially when attention spans are waning and phones are becoming even more distracting.
By incorporating different types of content and interactive sessions, you can create a truly immersive and unforgettable event experience for your attendees.
Remember, the key to successful audience engagement lies in personalization, effective communication, and providing a variety of networking opportunities, session formats, and engaging content. With these tools and strategies at your disposal, you're well on your way to unlocking the secrets of audience engagement success and creating events that leave a lasting impression.
Want to talk through how to enhance your next event? Let's chat about your ideas and put together a strategy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an example of engaging an audience?
An example of engaging an audience is to create interactive elements in your presentation. This could include polls, quizzes, or surveys that involve audience participation and engagement.
You can also ask for feedback from the audience and make sure that you actively listen to their responses. Doing so will show them that you care about their opinion and thoughts.
What is the best way to engage an audience?
The best way to engage an audience is to capture and keep their interest with an enticing topic, interactive dialogue, sharing, content that resonates with them, Q&A sessions, and a motivating tone. Make sure you explain why they should listen and create a flow throughout your presentation while also incorporating stories, personal experiences, and current events.
You can also use stories, personal experiences, and current events to illustrate your points.
How do you tell if an audience is engaged?
To tell if an audience is engaged with your public speaking, observe for signs of active listening like note-taking, eye contact, and body language like leaning in, nodding heads, or asking questions.
Why is audience engagement important?
Audience engagement provides an opportunity to show that your organization values and appreciates its attendees. Through effective engagement, you create lasting impressions and meaningful relationships with your audience.