8 lessons learned from 2021 to increase engagement at events
Engagement is not a new concept, especially amongst event industry professionals. Engagement can be achieved in three areas (EventMB Studio Team & Sparkup, 2020):
Cognitive (immersion) - This refers to how much someone is focused and immersed in what is occurring.
Emotional - This involves how enthusiastic or apathetic your audience is about what is going on.
Behavioral - This includes describing the actions the audience took as a response to what is happening in their environment.
Anticipating your attendees' cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses can support your plan for the desired level of engagement. As a result, you can come up with ideas that can provide the best event experience possible under these three pillars.
In this blog, we would discuss some lessons learned from 2021 that maximized attendees’ cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses. The aim is to provide evidence-based tactics that can help you drive engagement in your next events.
1. Co-produce content with attendees
Event organizers often place a lot of emphasis on the content prepared to ensure a successful event. Good event content has to be relevant in the modern era today, and a way to accomplish this is by allowing attendees to influence it. According to EventMB, 91% of event organizers measure the event's success based on attendee satisfaction. Plus, 85% of marketers consider attendee satisfaction a success factor. Attendees are more likely to be satisfied with the experience if they engage in it. Thus, By allowing attendees to influence the event content you can almost guarantee a successful event (Wolff, 2021).
For instance, presenters can prepare information and materials that directly address attendees’ pain points by asking them a set of questions pre-event (Weatherly, 2021). People want solutions to their challenges and a set of concrete actions to deal with them. Thus, verifying content creation before the event will ensure your attendees’ cognitive engagement and satisfaction.
2. Ensure Proper Onboarding
As virtual and hybrid events become the future of the events industry, there will be increased usage of tech integrations. Presuming your entire audience is tech-savvy was a common mistake event organizers made in 2021. Since events include attendees from different technical backgrounds, it is essential to ensure proper onboarding before the event to secure a homologous experience for everyone.
For example, ensuring that attendees have proper guidance on how to navigate around the platform will ensure a smooth experience for your audience(Copans, 2020). Smooth experiences lead to participants’ having a positive emotional response and consequently increase satisfaction levels.
3. Choose the Right Platform
According to the State of Virtual Events 2021 Report, the primary reason (45.3%) for hosting online experiences is to develop engagement opportunities (AnyBook, 2021).
The platforms must have adequate tools and features that provoke your attendees to engage. Thus, a vital step that sets you up for success is choosing the right platform to ignite attendees’ cognitive, emotional and behavioral engagement.
Today, hosting events that engage your audiences throughout the entire duration is significantly more challenging, regardless of whether it's an in-person, virtual or hybrid event, due to the increased expectations. For instance, in research done by Markletic, a knowledge hub for B2B companies, the biggest annoyance of virtual events is a bad connection. The second-largest frustration comes from bad microphones (Wolff, 2021). Thus, the platform you choose must have adequate features and support to avoid the typical glitches and setbacks.
If you would like further guidance, read our blog on How to Choose the Best Event Platform?
1. Establish Effective Communication Channels with Attendees
Establishing effective communication is crucial to keeping your attendees engaged. Whether it's sending out reminders or adjusting program participants should always be kept in the loop with up-to-date information. This can be done via tools such as emailing or messaging or even an event application. In a study by Markletic, 78% of businesses reported that using event management applications contributed to a positive event ROI (Wolff, 2021).
Event management platforms like Deal Room, utilize built-in email integrations to send out reminders of meetings or events programs you scheduled in your agenda. Increasing changes of attendance and thus, engagement.
2. Incorporate Personalization
Whether you have 100 or 10,000 guests, personalization remains a daunting task (EventMB Studio Team & Sparkup, 2020). Yet, it is a crucial aspect of building engagement.
A tip we give you is to group your attendees into several attendee personas. Attendee personas are profiles that depict a certain target customer and their preferences - also provide relevant information such as their preferred communication channel. If you group attendees into these personas based on data collected pre-event you can deliver personalized messages whilst reducing workload.
And let's face it if you have an event we know you are VERY busy.
3. Ensure an Interactive Experience
Building engagement through experience interactive has proven to be successful (Copans, 2020) as your attendee builds their own unique experience with you and other attendees. The former can be achieved by using strategies such as gamification. For instance, participants are connecting by competing to be on the leaderboard. More novel concepts like the ‘empty chair panel’ can also be incorporated. This method involves leaving the speaker's panel open for speakers to pick someone from the audience to fill the "chair". Participants get to share their thoughts and experiences which can lead to energized conversations.
4. Understand Attendees’ Attention Span
When preparing for the future of the events industry (Virtual and Hybrid events) it is important to acknowledge how these formats affect attendees’ attention span. For example, considering the “#VirtualFatigue” trend, virtual audiences are likely to have a shorter attention span than in-person attendees (Lenhart, 2021). Hence, 45% of event organizers opt for shorter multi-day events to combat virtual event fatigue (Wolff, 2021). Event organizers need to plan agendas with short sessions and frequent breaks to avoid losing audiences’ attention (Weatherly, 2021). With shorter and more interactive sessions, attendees will feel less compromised and less likely to avoid sessions.
5. Plan Networking Opportunities
Networking was one of the best ways to keep the audience engaged in 2021 as it fostered interactions between online and offline attendees. Thus, how to ensure good networking?
You can plan Virtual Breakout Sessions for group discussions so the on-site and virtual audiences have a common slot where they can connect. In a study done by Markletic, 68% of marketers say that one-on-one meetings at large virtual events help to improve audience satisfaction. Also, 73% of companies had better financial performance than their peers with above-average customer experience. Further proof that engagement leads to higher audience satisfaction and positive ROI (Wolff, 2021).
A Recap of the Event to allow further engagement opportunities and discussion topics or receive feedback from speakers and attendees
In conclusion, the most important lesson to take away from 2021 is to keep your participants engaged to ensure your event is successful. True engagement has a physical, mental, and emotional impact on your participants. These may take various forms, from meaningful connections to digital participation. To make sure your participants are always engaged, figure out which strategic aspects will have the biggest impact based on the aims and objectives of your participants.
AnyBook. (2021). (rep.). State of Virtual Events 2021. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.mediapost.com/uploads/StateOfVirtualEvents2021.pdf.
Copans, V. (2020, October 29). Keeping attendees engaged is the biggest challenge for virtual events. EventMB. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.eventmanagerblog.com/attendee-engagement-virtual-eventsThe State of Virtual Events 2021
EventMB Studio Team, & Sparkup. (2020). (rep.). THE NEW RULES OF Attendee Engagement + POWERING THE AUDIENCE VOICE. Retrieved 2022, from https://info.skift.com/e3t/Btc/ZO+113/c2TbP04/VWxcDd3tjXxcW5yjg0K3g0l9dW2bnPc74D8XWtN56dXj93lLCfV1-WJV7CgMr2W3yn49v6xL3XQW5bSN4G5D6YNBW4lGgzh7YdRhVN6GR9pxqZLjDW8GwKBx999jKhW86R1vT6vSH5lW3xMSFX5x0ZMRN5jYdx5rqG5DW1bgDpK3pq1R1W6b-Q2l7T7gc0W53r_KH6RP_vRW1nv-4h5lYslsW4989n-2mY8MBW3NmG6w5tGgw0W35-R-22GJlTfW82_MG75DT9QyW4kZbY_5fZfsMN1rPz16WN7tpW8dsmHD9dpkd9W7YzDTs4mnpWsW8Stkm46T5RRYW3kCfbn8HPQk1W6-pW6c8qjcvFW83znYq8jr3HXW5Jn4WH6rqxmrW82rwCS7xr0bNVJqsT64WZfpLW6dNpVN4HyqjS36wQ1.
Lenhart, M. (2021, September 29). Hybrid events – 15 mistakes to avoid. EventMB. Retrieved December 7, 2021, from https://www.eventmanagerblog.com/hybrid-mistakes.
Panel®, E. (2021, December 10). Council post: 15 ways to boost participation and engagement in remote events. Forbes. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2020/12/14/15-ways-to-boost-participation-and-engagement-in-remote-events/?sh=26a0f3957eac
Weatherly, L. (2021, April 14). Council post: How to boost attendance and engagement at virtual events. Forbes. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2021/04/14/how-to-boost-attendance-and-engagement-at-virtual-events/?sh=4a50fb796683
Wolff, R. (2021, June 29). 60 incredible virtual event statistics! (2021 research). Markletic. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://www.markletic.com/blog/virtual-event-statistics/