Don't you just hate watching someone fall asleep during a conference session? Their head nods slightly, but they catch themselves. They look around to see if anyone has noticed. They're embarrassed and you're embarrassed for them. You've invested a lot in planning your live event and the last thing you want to see is bored participants. Unfortunately, it's a common problem. Make no mistake about it, boredom and digital distraction of any kind can be detrimental to your event. How? It prevents participants from hearing, learning, deciding, or taking the actions required for your event to succeed. So how can you prevent boredom and encourage attendees to participate? For starters, you'll need the right meeting technology and a strategy.
Which Technology Can Enhance Audience Engagement?
As a first step towards having a fully engaged audience, you'll need to secure second-screen technology. Second screen technology like Array™ is an interactive meeting tool specifically designed to capture and keep your audience's attention. Wondering how second screen with iPads works and how it's different than a conference app? Check out this resource. Now that you know what meeting engagement technology is and that you need it, it's time to learn how to use it. Next, I'm going to walk you through some audience engagement techniques that work great in any live event.
Know What Goals You Want to Accomplish.
It was Stephen Covey who famously said, "Begin with the end in mind." Building and audience engagement strategy is no different. Just as you create objectives for other components of your live meeting, it's important to determine the goals of audience participation from the start. For example, you may want to increase participation to improve knowledge retention or you might hope to learn more about each attendee’s learning style, personality, or thought process. Regardless of what you want to accomplish, you should define your goals at the beginning to ensure that you utilize your technology effectively.
Build Creative Audience Participation into Key Slides
When you build your presentation, identify content that is best for audience engagement. For example, build some slides that could be saved for reference and mark them with a “save slide” emblem. Your recommendation will go a long way toward prompting action at key points. After the meeting, look at the data and see if your audience responded the way you expected. Consider designing some slides with blank spaces and crafting activities during the meeting where participants can type in notes or draw a picture with a stylus. Strategically place polling questions at the points where you know interaction will drive discussion. Why? Your objective here is to wake up the minds of the participants and pave the way for more important content.
Actively Encourage Audience Participation
Never underestimate the power of a simple nudge and remember that repetition elicits response. It sounds simple. And it is. When you cover critical information, tell the audience to hit the save slide button. Slides that include a presenter’s original research should always come with a reminder. If you sense confusion or consternation in the room, stop to remind participants to enter questions into the system. Don’t hesitate to build in instant polling questions or open text questions to gauge what the listeners are thinking and feeling at various points during a long session. For slides that were difficult to create, ask for a simple one to five-star rating. Find out what works and make improvements next time you go to bat.
Make the most of the between session air-time. Along with a quick introduction of the next speaker, be sure to remind the audience that all saved slides and notes will be sent to them after the meeting so they can spend more time participating and less time taking photos of the content. All humans have a short attention span, so it’s important to have multiple reminders throughout the event. Mention how second screen technology can make their meeting experience more valuable. Utilize any individual who might be taking the stage as a channel to encourage participation.
Encourage Continuous Q&A
One of the best keynotes I’ve seen was delivered by Michael Dominguez, chief sales officer at MGM Resorts International, at the 2017 Global Pharmaceutical and Medical Meetings Summit. Instead of the typical Q&A at the end of his session, he paused to take questions several times throughout his talk. This was particularly impactful because it gave the attendees a chance to digest highly relevant information in smaller chunks. Here’s all you have to do to achieve the same great impact: If presentations are technical or long, your audience may forget their questions by the end of the meeting. If you goal is to gain as much insight into your audience as possible, you don't want them forgetting their questions. Most sessions will have natural break points. Take advantage of them!
And you’re set! These tips are a starting point for inspiring more participation in your meetings. There is no perfect formula, but second screen technology offers you a variety of options for turning ordinary meetings into extraordinary experiences. What are some of ways you’ve utilized meeting technology to engage your audience? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.