June 10, 2016 - As event marketers, attendee engagement is always top of mind. Whether you're planning a 2,000 person conference or a 20,000 attendee tradeshow, there are a lot of moving parts. To help you manage the challenging task of attendee engagement, consider the following tactics, from being mobile focused to properly applying feedback in future years.
1. Use a Mobile App
The rise of mobile usage has made customized apps an imperative part of the event experience. With the number of smartphone users set to surpass two billion by the end of 2016 (and over 50% of all mobile phone users by 2018), apps have become a key component for brands to consider when planning their events. They’re also an easy way to make an event feel more intimate and personalized, with location-based awareness, up-to-the-minute event updates, and social media integration.
The day's activities need to be well publicized and accessible so that your attendees can easily navigate the venue and be exposed to different activities and events. The SXSW app was designed to eliminate common friction during registration, session participation, and networking and provide attendees with a detailed overview of everything going on during the conference.
If you're using an event app, ensure that its infrastructure is scalable and security is multi-layered so that your attendee data is protected. Also encourage attendees to download the app in advance so they come prepared with a schedule and an understanding of how to navigate the event.
2. Capitalize on Social Media
As soon as the idea of hosting an event crosses your mind, you should be thinking about your target audience: who they are, what they want, and how to connect with them.
Depending on your target audience, create groups on LinkedIn, Google+, or Facebook. This creates opportunity for discussion and provides insight into why people are excited about the event or what they are looking to learn. If possible, use social listening and responding software to receive rich analytics and alerts regarding keyword usage and customer inquiries that you can take into consideration beforehand.
This is also a good opportunity to create buzz around the event. Craft a compelling hashtag early on, and use it to announce speakers, registration, and other teaser content. Make sure that what you are creating is enticing enough to encourage people to share (think contests and rich media).
At the event itself, capitalize on the online communities you've built by setting up easily visible screens with Twitter feeds, hashtags, and live streams of happenings around the event. Also, make sure you are replying to questions in real time, and, if possible, allow attendees to address keynote speakers directly via Twitter (just make sure to tell the speaker beforehand so they can be prepared).
3. Apply Feedback to Future Events
It's important for your event attendees to engage with you on social media and provide you with rich feedback through Q&As and Twitter polls, but they'll also expect to see real changes implemented based on their comments. Consider the major pain points mentioned by attendees and decide how to remedy them to encourage return visitors in years to come.
It’s important to request attendee feedback directly through surveys, but you can also search for insights yourself from the wealth of real time data available. In-app surveys help encourage candid responses from attendees, but going a step further and monitoring check-ins and engagement at different sessions reveals when and why your attendees are most active. Combining your attendees feedback with your own insights can help you source and schedule talent more efficiently in the upcoming years.
The event experience doesn't begin and end on the same day. Just as you build online communities in anticipation of the event, it's important to use those communities to follow up after the event. Demonstrate that attendee feedback and metrics related to their preferences are being used to optimize future events and create a better overall experience. In this way, you help build a loyal following that's excited to return year after year.
Photos: Nikola Spasenoski / Shutterstock.com, Jeshoots, Eventbase, Eventbase