How to create more engagement at your next conference event
Conference and event organisers have always had to contend with constant changes in technology that help them engage with their delegates. Never has that been more true than being plunged into a global pandemic that has kept people apart for so long. But what hasn’t changed is the importance of keeping your attendees engaged throughout your entire event lifecycle to increase your ROI and ensure you achieve your objectives. The question is how can you go above and beyond to increase event engagement and overall attendee satisfaction at your next conference?
CREATE PRE-EVENT SURVEYS
Every event organiser knows the importance of collating post-event feedback about the conference, but one of the most common problems for organisers is selecting the right content and speakers to really drive engagement and be relevant to their delegates. Pre-event surveys can give you a valuable insight into what delegates want to get out of the conference and help you craft an experience they'll be more likely to engage with.
Keep your surveys short, to-the-point and easily accessible. Online solutions such as Microsoft Forms allow you to easily distribute to your existing databases, link from social media, and embed in your event website.
SEGMENT YOUR EMAIL LISTS
Creating email campaigns around your event content is important in building anticipation about your conference and is a vital marketing tool. But don't just blast your entire database with the same messaging. Break your data down into segments such as: those who attended last year; those who registered for the event but haven't attended before; those who registered interest but haven't yet registered. You can then send more relevant, targeted emails to each segment that will resonate more with them and get them more interested in your conference content.
Pro Tip: If you have access to email automation software, you can set up nurture campaigns that will monitor who clicked on which links and set up different content to send to people who have engaged with you.
REMOVE BARRIERS TO ENGAGEMENT
Identify your pre-event pain points and on-site pain points that affect delegate satisfaction. Having a seamless registration process that flows through to check-in at the conference venue is absolutely essential to creating positive impressions. Consider event management software that can automate the registration process, send out QR codes, and have self-check-in kiosks to prevent queues and confusion. On-site, make sure that you are communicating with your delegates about the things that matter, whether it's notifications about sessions or networking opportunities that are about to start.
Utilising a delegate app will also help the delegate manage their experience and never miss an announcement or session change. You can also combine the app with audience engagement and voting systems that help delegates to feel valued, rather than being a hand up in a crowded room.
GET SERIOUS ABOUT SOCIAL
The number one post type during events is quotes from speakers. Having done your pre-event research into what speakers get your audience excited, they'll be thrilled to share moments from their inspirational sessions across their social media profiles. So why not curate this type of content, brand it with your event hashtag and be an active participant in the online conversation. Working with speakers in advance to identify key quotes can help you pre-prepare multimedia content to post. Alternatively, tools like Canva can help you create this content in real-time without having to be a designer. Don't forget about interactive content like polls which, if planned in advance, can help to engage delegates and steer the conversation for subsequent panel debates.
DON'T NEGLECT NETWORKING
Perhaps the most fundamental reason why people attend conferences is for their own professional development. Networking sessions are the purest form of that and introducing attendees to new opportunities is a sure-fire way to increase engagement. But beyond the usual break-out sessions, try injecting a little more pizazz into your networking with ideas such as creating 'topic tables' over lunch or dinner, whereby delegates are encouraged to join the table containing the topics that best reflect their personal interests. From our research, over 80% of delegates cite group interaction as the single biggest benefit of face-to-face conferences.
Pro tip: For more information on how to network better, check out our study conducted by Elizabeth Stokoe, Professor of Social Interaction at Loughborough University.How to network better
CREATE A COMMUNITY
Word of mouth is an age-old strategy to promote your content and it's never been easier to leverage the influence of your supporters. By properly segmenting your database and analysing post-event feedback, you can identify your advocates and enlist their help to promote your key messages. Consider using tools like SocialLadder to build brand ambassador programmes such as referrer discounts, rewards incentives and promo codes. Peer influence will really help your audience connect with your content and see it as authentic and relevant, so consider creating specific content for your advocates and influencers to share on their networks.
As well as standard content around the theme of your event make the effort to create more candid and less polished content that engages your audience by letting them in on your organisation and planning. Revealing some of the behind-the-scenes details of your event can make your delegates feel more involved and feel like they’re getting access to VIP insider secrets. You don’t have to use a huge amount of effort to create this content - rough and ready is more authentic. Think about some snippets you could show in a video, such as a tour of the conference venue, or a quick informal interview with a guest speaker so your attendees can get to know them better.
VIRTUAL GOODY BAGS
Everybody loves a swag bag, right? Well actually, more often than not, goodie bags are too much bother for delegates to carry around with them and end up being discarded. So consider using virtual goodie bags instead. The promise of a virtual goodie bag can help show delegates you're thinking of them by not piling them up with "stuff", you can get them to opt-in to sharing their email details in exchange for the goodie bag, and it's a much better way of measuring who has actually engaged with the contents by tracking click-through rates - which is much better for your sponsors. The sort of content to include can range from exclusive video content that wasn't available during the event, access to the recordings of sessions they weren't able to attend, ebooks that go into more depth about one of the topics/speakers covered in a session, or even e-gift cards.
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