It used to be large events or conferences were evaluated for success based on attendance and word of mouth. If there was a decent turn-out and people seemed generally pleased with how things went, event organizers could pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
Those days have gone the way of the fax machine and VCR.
Today the buzzword for gauging event success is “engagement.” It’s no longer enough to simply have people show up to your event, you need to have them actively engaged with the sessions and key sponsors. But how do you go about achieving this and what exactly is meant by engagement?
In their 2011 article “Customer Engagement” published in the Journal of Service Research, Roderick J. Brodie, Linda D. Hollebeek, Biljana Jurić, and Ana Ilić define it as “A psychological state that occurs by virtue of interactive, co-creative customer experiences with a focal agent object in focal service relationships.” They go on to identify three ways in which full engagement needs to occur:
- Cognitive. This is often referred to as immersion. How much you are focussed on what is being presented and how involved you are.
- Emotional. This usually implies the passion and enthusiasm you feel about what is happening.
- Behavioural. This often refers to the action or activation you take as a result of your engagement.
Here are three ways to achieve effective engagement at your next major event:
- Set Up a Social Media Wall – The key to this tactic is first establishing one hashtag that all attendees will use. They can use this hashtag to comment on presentations, offer first-hand experiences and share media. A social media wall has been shown to increase online engagement as people want to see their tweets and posts appear on the projector screen or TV. The wall can also be used to stream event video and share custom information about the event such as schedules and maps. By establishing one central hub that connects all aspects of the event, you will almost certainly increase attendee engagement as they will feel a need to “plug-in” to this hub.
- Weave Matchmaking into the DNA of Your Event – There are always two aspects to attending any event: the scheduled presentations and sessions and the networking that occurs during the off-hours. Many people come back from events saying they got more out of the networking and wish it could be easier to find certain people. This can now be accomplished by incorporating smart badges into your event. Smart badges have chips in them that can not only allow you to track what events and booths they visited, they can also alert attendees when someone in their field of interest is nearby. Be sure to schedule matchmaking mixers into your event lineup. Some events have partnered with the municipal public transportation system to have the smart badges double as transit passes to encourage people to attend off-campus events. This creates buy-in and exposure within the community and provides a much appreciate service for attendees.
- Target & Engage Influencers – This strategy is really no different than what many of us did in middle school – figure out who the most popular kids are and try to be their friend. Now the most popular kids are social media influencers who are those with the biggest social media followings. By approaching them and finding ways to get them to comment or otherwise engage in the event, you are instantly increasing your social media reach. As well, when people see the influencers engage, it makes everyone else want to join in too. The strategy may seem simplistic but it’s proven effectiveness can not be denied.