Expert insights

13 tips for building audience engagement around live events

5 June 2017 by Alisdair Ross

Organising an event? Alisdair Ross shares some of his top tips on different ways on how to engage your audience before, during and after the big day.

Events are a critical component of any brand’s marketing strategy – and their success depends entirely on audience engagement. While face-to-face interaction is perhaps the best way to reach your desired audience, you can also use online tools to build engagement for your live events through fun, interactive digital experiences. Making sure your audience is engaged every step of the way, including online, not only improves their overall experience, but also allows you to collect useful event data.

And while there’s never been more competition for an audience’s attention, today’s event organisers have more opportunities than ever before to engage with their audience and enhance event experiences online – before, during and after their event. So, how do we connect with online audiences and create added value alongside live events?

Pre-event audience engagement

1. Know your audience

Before an event starts, it is important to fully understand your audience. By knowing all you can about who will be attending the event, you can prepare and execute it well, ultimately increasing engagement.

Start by considering what company they come from; their position in the company; what their company does and how you can help them. This will help you make the event relevant and interesting for your audience. When an event is fun, attendees will want to interact more fully with everything that is going on around them.

2. Use online tools

With an online event presence, you can create a pre-event buzz. Promote future events using email, websites, apps and social media. These channels provide a great way to kick-start audience engagement, allowing delegates to find out key information about sessions and keynote presentations, booth exhibitors, parties, lunches and dinners.

A bespoke event app can also be used as a platform to build content around the event and promote the benefits to delegates. For example, pre-event promotion of benefits could be used to encourage delegates to download material. With an app, you can provide attendees with easy, intuitive access to personal agendas and the ability to customise their event experience.

The cost of building an app can vary hugely, so before investing, make sure you are clear about the audience it’s aimed at, its objectives, and how you will achieve the desired scale of usage.

Our own technology for creating an online event platform, Events Hub, is designed to be modular, so you can build it up in any way that you like. You also have the option of designing it to your own brand guidelines, as well as adding customised content, depending on your specific requirements and your event objectives.

Be sure to link your event registration page to your intranet or social media coverage of the event to boost traffic and attendee sign-ups.

3. Create and promote a Twitter hashtag

Creating a unique Twitter hashtag specifically for your event should be done ahead of time. That way, you can promote the event and start signposting information about it, well in advance. Unique hashtags help audience engagement to skyrocket, letting people who want to talk and tweet about your event find and engage with others.

Although the hashtag use should be started early, keep it in mind on the day itself, and continue to use it to drive the conversation after the event is over. And if you would prefer not to go public with your hashtag, you could use it exclusively within your event app instead of on wider social media.

4. Work the room

Designing a room layout is the cornerstone of event planning. By organising the room strategically, you can encourage peak levels of audience engagement. However, if you are streaming content from the event you need to remember how the set will look to your online audience, too. Additional lighting is usually required for any filming – without it, your online audience won’t be able to see the event! Something that works for a live audience might not be so effective online, so work with professionals to get it right on the day.

Understanding what’s required from your venue in order to stream successfully is also crucial. Without the right levels of connectivity, you run the risk of the event not being streamed efficiently. Questions about WiFi capabilities should form part of a full site inspection. You should also always consider the security of the network you’re using to ensure it complies with company policy, too.

Audience engagement during an event

5. Think about session content and keynote speakers

What good is an event without some first-class speakers and skills sessions? After all, people are attending the event to learn, network, and share experiences, tips or infrmation. They don’t want to go to an event that has nothing to offer them. So, make sure you have compelling and informative sessions, and well-known speakers. The more people you have at your event, the more engaging the event becomes.

6. Consider hosting a webinar

Webcasting and webinars became increasingly commonplace during the recession, when pressures on travel budgets resulted in a higher uptake of alternatives to travel. They are one of many live streaming methods that can be used to bring audiences together for events.

7. Engage key influencers

During the event, it is particularly important to reach out and engage with those who you identify as influencers. Influencers have a wider reach and are more powerful on social media platforms. For example, they may have a wide network within your specific industry.

By engaging with an influencer online, you can spark a larger conversation that can incorporate other attendees. Be sure to make it known to the influencers how much you appreciate their involvement, and continue to engage in discussion with them during and after the event.

8. Stage a live poll

During a session or keynote, have the speakers incorporate a live poll. Not only does this make the session more interactive; it also allows you to collect live data on your attendees’ opinions, which can then be used to make future events more relevant and helpful for delegates, as well as shared online to build engagement.

Social media can also be used to poll delegates on their opinions. Think of it as a platform for answering enquiries throughout the event, and as a real-time feedback channel for delegate experiences. You can transform the style of a Q&A session by asking delegates to tweet their question. This is a great solution to encourage valid input from conference wallflowers.

9. Host a Q&A

If you include a place for attendees to come and get their questions addressed directly at an event, you’ll increase audience engagement and enable your team to track event objectives.

Post-event audience engagement

10. Send a survey

After an event is over, you can run a survey asking questions like: “Was this session helpful? Was it informative? What would you change about the event?”

These will help to improve events in the future, as well as showing attendees that you care about their feedback.

11. Tracking audience behaviour

Track audience behaviour through online analytics to determine who’s watching, where from and when. Understanding their behaviour will help build bigger audiences, as well as evaluating your event objectives to help you plan the next event.

12. Send content after the event

Sharing content online during and after an event helps message and information retention. It’s important to share relevant post-event content quickly, for maximum impact and relevance. For potential delegates, it highlights what they might be missing, encouraging higher attendance level at your next event.

13. Say thank you

Keep the event app live after the event for attendees to post messages and interact with other delegates. Thanking attendees is a great way to sustain a relationship after the event is over. One way of doing this is to send a push notification, telling them how great it was to meet them. Make the message personal and relevant.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit the details below, with an idea of the times that suit you for a call.