Conference involvement: 7 ways to boost attendee engagement
Jordan Schwartz has the hi-tech strategies to ensure everyone gets the most out of your next conference.
Reading time: 8 minutes
Through conferences, your association provides professional development opportunities for members – from networking to continuing education certifications. Because of this, high attendee engagement is especially important.
If members are mentally checking-out of your events, these events are essentially useless. It’s vital to build a strong strategy for engagement to ensure members get the most out of your next conference.
However, just as great content alone won’t drive education, it also can’t be the only driver for engagement. We’re going to explore the following ways to boost attendee involvement at your next conference:
- Use a mobile event app.
- Make the most of your event’s website.
- Offer robust networking opportunities.
- Provide interesting content and activities.
- Use event app features for direct audience engagement.
- Create a social media-friendly event.
- Allow for easy logging of credentials completed.
Let’s dive in!
1. Use a mobile event app
One of the easiest ways to boost attendee engagement is to use a mobile event app for the duration. Not only do mobile event apps ease the planning process but, as you’ll read, they also help facilitate innovative ways to engage attendees. Check out just a few of the ways you can interest members using event apps:
- Use private messaging and public discussion forums to encourage members to engage with one another.
- Host personalised agendas for each attendee so they’re aware of all possible ways to get involved.
- Provide materials for reference prior to the event so attendees are well prepared to engage with your activities.
- Allow members to easily take notes throughout the event.
- Create processes for attendees to easily provide feedback on your offerings.
One of the easiest ways to boost attendee engagement is to use a mobile event app for the duration
Mobile event apps and microsites can fuel conferences, trade shows, and even corporate meetings. We’ve examined the market and gathered a list of the top mobile event app providers out there – check out that list here.
2. Make the most of your event’s website.
Create a webpage for your specific event, whether as a page on your existing association website or as a stand-alone microsite.
Use this page to convey all the baseline information for a member to attend your event, such as the date, time, and location of the event.
Also, include reference materials regarding topics covered, speakers presenting, and even vendors attending for pre-event review. Provide attendees with all the information they need to make the most of their event experience.
If you work with a mobile event app and create a corresponding event microsite, you can take this website’s audience engagement functionality a step further.
Use this microsite to create a larger community for your attendees to join before the event. Provide an attendee directory, as well as a bulletin and direct messaging features, so attendees can network with one another and schedule meetings beforehand.
For more best practices regarding using your website to the fullest, check out Novi AMS’s guide to association websites.
3. Offer robust networking opportunities.
One of the main functions of your organisation is facilitating the professional development of your members.
Networking is the purest form of that. It introduces members to new opportunities and resources as well as helps build their confidence and self-esteem to continue thriving in their workplace. Consider offering the following innovative networking forms at your next event:
- Speed networking. Use the classic speed dating model to create an opportunity for your association’s members to network.
- Attendee-driven appointments. Allow attendees to schedule their own appointments before, during, and after the event. Simplify the process by allowing them to view other attendees’ free/busy time and propose a meeting time directly within your event tech offerings.
- Ad hoc meetings. Create processes for attendees to create off-the-cuff, ad hoc meetings whenever the need arises.
- Topical lunch tables. Organise your event’s lunch hour by topic, encouraging attendees to sit at the table containing the topic most applicable to their personal interests and network accordingly.
- The hallway track. Provide easy ways for attendees to gather contact information following serendipitous encounters with other attendees, such as an event app with badge scanning capabilities.
By encouraging attendees to network, they’ll be more engaged in your event overall
Further, create a greater community by keeping your event app and microsite, and the forums and directories contained within those, live beyond the event itself. Then, attendees can continue networking year-round.
By encouraging attendees to network, they’ll be more engaged in your event overall.
4. Provide relevant interesting content and activities.
You can hardly ask attendees to engage with your event if you’re not providing relevant material for them to interact with. You can have the most innovative event tech on the market, but if there’s nothing meaningful for attendees to discuss, they’re simply not going to!
Enhance the attendee experience by building content around what your members would like to see. Balance entertaining activities and useful, informational content that relates either directly, or tangentially, to attendees’ workday to give them the most bang for their buck. Consider the following when crafting your event’s content:
- What are the latest innovations in your industry? Provide educational opportunities ensuring members are ahead of the game.
- Who are the key movers and shakers in your industry? Bring these key leaders in to share their expertise as speakers.
- Has your industry been in the news? Stay aware of any industry-wide news stories, from conflicts to celebrations, and make sure to address them in your content offerings.
- Is the content enjoyable? Even if you’re covering less-than-engaging content, you have to keep attendees interested for the duration. Brainstorm ways to make learning enjoyable at your next event.
Providing rich content further engages attendees by encouraging them to share it with their greater networks. Think about it – if you teach an attendee about the latest innovations in their field, they’re going to want to share that via social networks!
5. Use event app features for direct audience engagement.
Event technology is evolving, and the top providers on the market now offer a variety of ways to engage your conference attendees in real-time.
Whether during a keynote speaker session, during which attendees risk stagnation seated in the crowd, or during a breakout session where you have little control over what your members engage with – event apps have the tools so you can regain some of that control. Check it out:
- Live Polling
Use live polling as a quick call-and-response tool at your next event
Use live polling as a quick call-and-response tool at your next event. There are a few different ways this could play out.
First, use this feature event-wide and send polls out to attendees sporadically throughout the duration. Gather feedback on what’s performing well and where there’s room for improvement.
Or, equip speakers and presenters with the ability to poll audience members during their presentation. They can use this to prove points and gather general audience feedback on their presentations.
- Live Q&A
Use a mobile event app during any dedicated Q&A sessions to allow for easy submission of audience questions without having to deal with the disturbance of passing around a microphone.
Further, during any presentation in general, equip audience members with the ability to submit questions regarding the material presented. Allow presenters to review these questions and answer any at their own discretion.
Gamification refers to applying game-based techniques to motivate attendees to engage with your event. It’s the process of rewarding attendees for engaging in your offerings, and it has proven success in motivating them to do so.
In the context of your event, use gamification in challenging attendees to participate in activities such as presentations, networking events, or even visiting a certain number of booths. You can also use it in polling scenarios, such as sending out trivia questions and rewarding attendees for correct answers.
Host a leaderboard displaying the most engaged members to encourage this participation.
6. Create a social media-friendly event.
One way to enhance your conference using event tech is by creating a shareable, social network-friendly event.
Social networks are the latest trending method for sharing information and connecting with peers. From LinkedIn and Facebook to Instagram and Twitter, you want to have all the bases covered to engage a potentially tech-savvy audience.
There are a few ways to optimise your event’s social shareability:
- Use one main event hashtag for attendees to use across their event-related posts.
- Employ a social media manager to live post/tweet/share the top moments from your event.
- Provide a strong wi-fi connection so attendees can easily log on.
- Create photo-friendly environments (and strong content) so attendees want to share the experience.
Engage your attendees by providing shareable content and accessible methods for doing so.
7. Allow for easy logging of credentials completed.
For some association events, professional development takes on a more literal form in providing the needed courses and certifications for members to stay up-to-date with what’s required in their field.
In those situations, ensure any courses and certifications completed by attendees are logged in their professional portfolios. When attendees know they’ll receive credit for the work they complete, they’re more likely to engage with that content.
You’re most likely using an association management software (AMS) to house all of the data surrounding your members, including comprehensive professional portfolios. Choose an event tech provider that both tracks session check-in and check-out (CEU tracking) and integrates with your AMS.
Track course/certification completion metrics and seamlessly upload that data into your AMS. This data then makes its way to the comprehensive portfolios contained within that software.
Check out Fonteva’s guide to association management software to learn more about using an AMS to facilitate your members’ professional development.
So there you have it...
Mentoring, career development, conference events – each is a service your association provides to members, and each requires member engagement to be effective.
Whether extroverted or introverted, ensure each attendee is making the most of your next association conference. While this takes more than just great content, the above strategies will set you off in the right direction.
About the author
Jordan Schwartz is CEO and president of Pathable
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