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How-To: Produce an Engaging Event

This year, On24’s recently-published The Future of Events Report showed that customer engagement is the most important events goal among B2B marketers. It was even ahead of revenue growth.


Bird's eye view of a large conference audience

Engaging an audience is also one of the biggest challenges of virtual meetings according to Amex Global Business Travel. This is important because virtual meetings make up a large portion of the events being held in this post-pandemic society.


Therefore, if you provide B2B events for professionals and companies within your industry, we recommend that you read on to see how you can increase the engagement power of your next corporate event.


Social Tables specifies that there are 4 main types of attendee engagement, which need to be touched on for every event that you plan. These are:


1. Content involving exhibitions, speakers, and other activities that may take place at your event.


2. The connections made between attendees and sponsors, which should be creative and authentic.


3. Communications made about the logistics of the event, including any questions or comments.


4. The ways in which attendees engage with each other through online forums, in-person networking, and community management.


We’ll go through each type of engagement one by one.


A speaker at a conference talks into a microphone in front of a whiteboard projection.

1. Content involving exhibitions, speakers, and other activities that may take place at your event.


First and foremost, the actual content of your event activities must be engaging. People engage best with another person, be that an exhibition holder or a speaker, when they know they’ll get value out of it. Therefore, make sure your speakers and other special guests are influential in and respected by your industry. You should also ensure that they provide a Q&A so that no questions are left unanswered.


Importantly, if this Q&A is provided digitally e.g. via a live chat in a livestream, make sure this Q&A is moderated so you don’t have to worry about spammy messages or trolls putting other people off engaging.


Additionally, ITA Group gives a great tips for encouraging attendees to engage. They state that adapting the room layout to fit the presentation’s content, its theme, or its goal, can actually have an impact on attendees.


For instance, a U-shape/crescent layout may be best for engagement in training courses or other sessions that require interaction. Whereas theatre-style might be more formal and suitable for bigger audiences.


Classroom-style layouts that require 3 or so people to sit at a table together, are quite familiar for attendees and might be best to facilitate small group working.


Classroom-style layout of a room for a CPD event

If you want your breakout rooms to receive substantial contributions, a boardroom-style room might be best for making attendees feel inspired and motivated.


Boardroom-style room layout for a CPD event

Such layouts don’t have to be relegated to physical events alone. ITA Group gives the example of the Networking Lounge, which looks like an actual lounge with chat windows for attendees to interact with. Therefore, design elements of both in-person and remote events can set your event apart and make it something that attendees are eager to interact with.



2. The connections made between attendees and sponsors, which should be creative and authentic.


Corporate events should feel like a two-way experience, whereby attendees don’t feel like they’re just there to passively listen to a lecture or talks by sponsors, unable to add their own input or apply the information they learn to their career.


One method to achieve this, is through a dynamic mobile event app. This app could utilise gamification, such as quizzes, as well as opinion polls, to get attendee feedback throughout the event and encourage them to let your speakers and sponsors know what they want to learn about and what topics or products will bore them or make them unengaged. It might also use questionnaires for these purposes. This can help convey your sponsors’ messages and ensure that attendees get what they want from your event.


If you don’t have the facilities for an app yet, or you want to add to it with more open communication, you could get a live-scrolling Twitter feed, such as one provided by CPD Online livestreams, so attendees can use a branded hashtag to thank sponsors and speakers for their contributions. This is a great engaging feature, which is another reason why your next corporate event should be hosted via a livestream and not a basic Zoom call.


A customer watches a worker on a laptop screen deliver a tutorial

3. Communications made about the logistics of the event, including any questions or comments.


ITA Group stated that a great way to make your event’s guests more receptive to your in-event strategies, and more familiar and comfortable with your brand, is to engage people early.


Before your event, engage your participants – including your audience and your speakers – with messaging that is in line with the tone and voice of your brand. Let them know about any alterations to the event as early as possible, and keep them updated about your COVID safety regulations, travel information, additions to your sessions, and any other relevant tips to help them enjoy the event and feel relaxed. This messaging needs to be vibrant and inspiring as well as clear, so that everyone at your event feels safe and as though they will get as much value as possible from it. They’ll therefore engage back with you, as they’ll feel more like the communication can be more two-way. They won’t go into your event unwilling to interact due to preconceived notions of it being a waste of time for them, due to not having received communications from you or knowing what they’ll get from the event.


A close up of a portion of an audience at a lecture

4. The ways in which attendees engage with each other through online forums, in-person networking, and community management.


In terms of the event itself, you need attendees to interact with each other for them to feel like they’ve attended an engaging and involved event. However, if you overwhelm your more introverted attendees with too much pressure to interact, they may shut themselves off from these opportunities as it’ll be too exhausting. Even your more extroverted attendees may feel fatigued and unengaged if you throw too many interactive activities at them at once. So, striking a balance is key here.


You’ll already have allocated sufficient refreshment and lunch breaks, but ensure that you have sufficient time designated between sessions, where nothing is going on and attendees can chat amongst themselves with no pressure. They might discuss the topics brought up in previous sessions, and this natural ideas-sharing may encourage them to contribute more to future sessions. On the other hand, they may provide your introverted attendees with the chance to take a breather so they’re ready to contribute in the next session.


Furthermore, don’t feel that you have to take up all of the allocated time with sessions. Especially if your event takes place over multiple days, you should have or consider an early wrap-up time at the end of the day so that attendees don’t burn out and they can rest before the next day.


In terms of keeping a balance between interaction and rest, the aforementioned tip of having some sort of live-scrolling Twitter feed (or another live chat option, including via an app) can give you the best of both worlds: participants can feel encouraged to engage and chat with each other, while not having to speak aloud to do this. They can simply type out their thoughts, and be asked further about them only if they’re comfortable.




Conclusion


Overall, there are many facets to event engagement: between speakers, exhibitions, audiences, and sponsors. We hope we’ve given you enough tips to refine your next event to be a resounding success. However, if you have any more engaging corporate event tips, comment them below.

Don’t forget to measure your audience engagement after the event, so you know if the above techniques have helped and how to improve for next time.


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