Meeting organizers are in the business of producing great events. They toil, strategize, and execute carefully curated plans. They plan for success and hopefully, achieve it.
While success is certainly the goal, the motivation behind all this planning is often lost: attendee experience.
A remarkable experience should be the central driver of every meeting and event. Overlooking this critical piece can quickly derail the best laid plans.
Bizzabo reports that in 2018, 41% of marketers believed that live events were the single most effective marketing channel, beating out digital advertising, content marketing, and email campaigns. This is a marked increase from the 32% in 2017. It will likely continue to rise as event organizers focus on attendee experience and enlist advanced technology.
In fact, AMEX’s 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast reveals that 33% of marketers would use any additional meeting funds to improve attendee experience.
Bottom line, attendee experience matters. Planning for attendee experience first will pave the way for successful events, no matter what type or who your audience is.
So, how do plan you for an excellent attendee experience?
You plan for engagement.
Engagement takes on many forms, including:
- Active networking
- Interactions with presenters and content
- Repeat attendance
- Social media sharing and noise
- Dwell time at exhibit booths or with digital content
When your attendees are engaged, they care. They learn more, interact more, and glean true value from a live event.
Engagement and attendee experience are intricately untwined. They begin long before a meeting starts at the registration table. They last long after the closing session ends and attendees go home.
Keep reading because we’re about to get to the good stuff. We're going to tell you exactly how to enhance attendee experience before, during, and after your event.
Let's get started.
Before the Meeting
There’s no doubt we live in a digital world. When preparing for a live event, you need to lay a digital groundwork as the foundation for success. Meeting apps and conference websites are the obvious first step in this process. These branded, personalized tools enable you to interact with attendees before they are on-site. You can create hype and establish strong communities. Pushing notifications, surveys and polls will help you preemptively tailor your meeting to fit attendee needs and preferences.
With apps and websites, always focus on convenience and simplicity. If the interface is not user-friendly, attendees won't adopt them (and let’s be honest, app adoption rates are still lower than they should be). Conference apps and websites should deliver valuable information, while being fun and functional.
Social media can also be used to spark engagement prior to your event. By creating a hashtag and producing high-quality videos and promotional material, you will build anticipation and encourage sharing. Learn more about ways to maximize social media here.
Your event’s venue and location are critical aspects of attendee experience. Many organizers are exchanging “first tier” cities like New York, Las Vegas, and Orlando for more mid-sized cities with lower costs, easier logistics, but similarly appealing amenities. Today’s attendees often blur the lines between business and leisure, with 78% reporting that destination is one of the primary factors in their decision to attend.
It's a fact: Registration can make or break an event. Since it sets the tone for the entire in-person experience, it needs to go flawlessly, without the frustrating bottleneck that often occurs. If you haven’t already, consider implementing mobile badge printing and automated check-in with one of the many event registration platforms.
Today’s meeting attendees need more than a one-size-fits-all schedule. To address this, focus on personalized agendas that give attendees multiple options but the same overall messaging. While this creates additional complexity, it will keep attendees interested, engaged, and coming back for more.
Inside the Meeting Room
For most meetings, the crux of the event hinges on what happens in the meeting room itself. Many veteran attendees are conditioned to expect “Death by PowerPoint”. They may pull out their phone and tune out before your first speaker begins.
Want to transform the in-room experience? Try these four strategies:
1. Change the Meeting Space
By altering the expected scenery, you set the stage for a different participant experience when your participants walk into the meeting room. Instead of theater style, conference style, or round table seating, consider crescent rounds or even a horseshoe shape.
Another way to shift expectations and change the meeting space is with second screen technologies like Array. Not only do they add color and emphasize your event theme; they create a visceral human reaction: curiosity. When attendees see a room filled with iPads or tablets, they naturally wonder what exciting things are in store for them.
2. Change the Format
When possible, break larger meeting sessions into smaller breakouts to create more intimacy. Want to do this effectively? Check out Endless Event’s top tips here.
3. Invoke Emotion from the Start
Why is adding an emotional component critical? It’s memorable. Have your presenter start by telling a story or introducing story visually with a video. Doing surveys to understand your audience before your meeting starts will help you decide what kind of emotion you want inspire.
4. Involve Your Audience
Today’s audiences are not interested in attending as mere spectators. They genuinely want to participate; however, there is a lot of competition for their attention. To avoid them spending sessions on their phones doing everything but activities related to your event, add a tactile component with technology. ARS keypads are one option but are limited to surveys and polls. Event apps are another potential solution but many aren’t well suited for in-room engagement.
For an immersive, interactive experience, consider engagement technology.
Second screen platforms like Array® increase audience participation with numerous interactive capabilities and tactile components. Attendees engage with presentations, slides, and content up-close and in real-time. They can save and rate slides, take notes, and ask presenters questions at any point during a session. Here, you'll find some best practices for using engagement technology.
Attendees can also participate in surveys and live polls. Learn more about polling for engagement.
Data captured from audience engagement actions provides meeting organizers with invaluable insights to guide content for future sessions and subsequent events.
Around the Meeting
With an effective event app, you can guide attendees during the event itself. Through this platform, you can push content, messages, and set reminders for sessions or events. You can drive traffic to various locations and deliver personalized recommendations based on attendee profiles.
Tools like Aventri’s Smart Tag capture attendee movement to analyze session tracking, attendee journey, and contact exchange. While this aspect is unseen by attendees, it can help organizers identify what areas of the conference or meeting appeal to their audience and what they find valuable. If certain sessions have standing room only, they can better plan for future events with appropriately-sized meeting rooms.
For industry events like trade shows and sales prospecting, finding ways to seamlessly swap information and capture leads is key. This can be done with mobile check-ins, digital business cards, or tools like the Smart Tag as well. By removing the clunky process of manual exchange, you free attendees up to have real interactions and produce lasting connections.
Remember, millennials now comprise the majority of event attendees. They demand personalized experiences with meaning, innovation, and insight. Ease and personalization are key to achieving a positive attendee experience.
Another thing millennials place a high value on at events are networking opportunities. Surveys in multiple industries confirm a key reasons people attend live meetings is to network with colleagues or peers. Here, you’ll find some awesome examples of ways to create networking opportunities for your audience.
After the Meeting
Although your meeting may be over, the opportunity for attendee engagement is ongoing. Staying connected and remaining relevant is a key way for your event to have lasting impact. You’ll find simple ways to follow up after your meeting here. If you recorded your event’s sessions, sending attendees links to presentations, especially ones they missed, is invaluable.
With engagement technology, you can collect audience participation data to measure your meetings' impact. EM’s cloud-based platform Array Hub™ provides a secure portal to analyze engagement data and delivers insights to improve your sessions.
Be sure to connect with your audience with post-event polls and surveys. With these, you can evaluate post-meeting sentiment and knowledge retention. When combined with your in-session polling data, you’ll create a clear picture of whether your content and presenters produced an impact.
Event diagramming software can also be implemented post-meeting in preparation for the next event. You can create customizable 3D diagrams to streamline events and maximize efficiency in the future. With the data and analytics from your event software, this planning can be informed and intuitive.
To sum things up, finding the right formula for an awesome attendee experience is part science and part art. While there are many moving pieces, audience engagement is central to success. By reverse engineering planning to prioritize attendee experience, you can produce successful events with longevity and lasting impact.
To learn more about how Array can help you improve attendee experience, contact us.