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Increasing audience engagement at events

Gerard Crowley co-director of Team Challenge Company

Gerard Crowley co-director of Team Challenge Company shares his top five tips

There is little more dreaded in the business world than a dreary work event or conference. Delegates want to be engaged intellectually and emotionally at events, and if they aren’t then a connection or lasting impression is unlikely.  
Event organisers should not wait until delegates are pinning on their name badges to begin a conversation. Engagement and indeed an air of excitement should be created before, during and after an event and an enduring impact should be the sign of success and value, rather than the number of bodies in the room.

Here are my five top tips on engaging delegates;
  Get creative early. Employees receive around 80 emails per day so if you choose to email your invitations, make the message personal and make it count, or to the spam folder your email may go. If budget allows, make delegates feel special with a ‘sensory box’ as an invitation which can be filled with tastes, scents and information on the upcoming event or send a link to a personalised website with interactive content such as a video fly through of the venue. A little creativity and personalisation will help foster a sense of connection to the event and go towards making the delegate feel invested before they even arrive. Include relevant social media sites in your invitation and use these sites to build momentum with teaser content such as quotes from keynote speakers or behind the scenes photos.  

Feed off feedback. Using social media effectively can boost engagement during events by enabling delegates to share their experiences and let you know what they think. Everyone likes to feel that their opinions are heard so a Twitter wall or screens displaying delegates’ Tweets will encourage interaction. Alternatively, an advanced app such as GoTeam, exclusively provided in Scotland by Team Challenge Company, enables an unlimited number of delegates to feedback instantly as well as ask and answer questions such as those set by a key speaker. Ask for post event feedback, this will make delegate feel valued and again connected to the event experience.  

Shepherd your delegates. Though many professionals won’t admit it, walking into a room and networking can be hard work. Creating a structure, for example, a ‘speed-dating’ style of meeting can make the experience far less intimidating and awkward, and ultimately more effective. The act of equal participation works as a way of breaking the ice: ‘We both know why we’re here, let’s talk’. Given networking is one of the top reasons people attend events, your delegates will be grateful for the opportunity to cut to the chase.  

Create experiences, not gimmicks. Whilst everyone likes the idea of a goodie bag, they are rarely memorable. Rather than spend money on a few products for your attendees to take home, aim to create an experience for them. Delegates are far more likely to remember an experience than a product and therefore more likely to feel engaged, remember why they were at the event and what happened.  

Communities are key. Bringing likeminded people together, online and offline, means you’ve started a conversation in a community of individuals with a shared interests. Facilitate communication and connections by making access easier, for example print Twitter handles on name badges. To help make guests feel valued send a personalised email after the event to thank them for attending and use the opportunity to encourage them to continue networking and engaging by sharing content, key discussion points and photos on relevant social media platforms.

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