By Peta Moore, managing director, Nectar Creative Communications

With access to personalised and relevant content literally at their fingertips, the challenge for event planners is to keep up with the ever-changing rules of engagement when it comes to event audiences.

Audience engagement has been a buzzword in the industry for a while now, but it’s way more than just a passing trend.  It’s at the core of a successful event and can be the proof of ROI for your client and a tangible way to measure the impact of your event.

Recently, we’ve been looking into ways we can increase interactivity with our event audiences and what is likely to impact audience engagement in order to increase attendance, message retention and the outcomes of the events we are planning for the next 12 months.

Here’s what we think are the top three things to consider:

Technology

By now we are all probably using event apps at our conferences, which is a great way to have the audience interact with the speakers and each other.  However, consider leveraging them for more gamification to really make the event come alive.  Yes, gamification has been around for a while, but it is getting more sophisticated.  When choosing your app look into what event game ideas it can offer like:

  • Leaderboards
  • Icebreakers / Networking games
  • Competitions
  • Collaboration tools

Ensure you have a clear objective in mind for any technology you incorporate at your event so you can track and measure its success, and gather valuable audience insights along the way.

Also, consider ways you can get the audience involved before the event – hashtags, blogs and competitions create a sense of excitement and community even before attendees arrive!  You could even use social channels to get input into the program, speakers and themes. If an audience feels involved in the event planning they are more likely to attend and also share the information with their colleagues and friends.

Personalisation

More and more audiences want a personalised experience.  Don’t panic though. Although this may seem near impossible, especially when you have hundreds or thousands of attendees, this is not necessarily about creating individual experiences for each delegate.  Use your event data to create audience segments, dividing your audience into groups with similar characteristics and demographics.  Identify their needs and shape your event content to meet them.

If you create targeted experiences for each segment within your event program, people will feel like the event has been personalised just for them.  For example, choose your speakers to ensure there are some specifically for different audience personas.  You could have two networking events that target the different age groups in your audience (EG: a dinner and an after party).  Are your audience health nuts? Having an interactive juice bar in the registration area could be a great icebreaker.  Make sure you have a designated quiet area for the introverts in your audience to recharge during the event.

Environment

Think about the space your delegates are going to inhabit for the duration of your event.  Is it inviting, comfortable, easy to access and will it encourage interaction and maximise audience involvement?

When planning your event, consider different room layouts and stage set ups.  Remember it’s always good to create an impact when attendees walk into the room, especially one that is ‘shareable’ across social channels.  Think about how a room can set a mood and tone, whether it’s a restaurant, bar or perhaps even a hotel foyer.  This is the same with our conference rooms – how you have them set up can determine how engaged your audience will be from the get go.

So consider seating in the round or having the stage come out into the audience for greater audience engagement with the speaker.  Always have the Q&A mic visible and ready to go at all times encouraging audience participation.   Incorporate different seating styles, or event theming into the room. Can you do smaller breakouts in outdoor areas to mix things up a little? There are numerous ways you can have an impact without a huge budget.

If we just consider these three areas, we will see significant improvements in our audience engagement this year, and have some fun along the way!

Peta Moore is the founder and managing director of Nectar Creative Communications.  Email her on peta@nectarcc.com.au or visit www.nectarcc.com.au.