Over the last decade, marketers’ opinions of events have gone up and down. To some, events can be a monumental waste of money. But to many others, there’s an increasing sense of value in running expos and conferences. They bring your best customers together and attract a wider audience from your target market.
It’s what happens at the event that matters. In fact, according to Event Manager Blog, 91% of event organizers and marketers believe that increasing engagement is an important priority during events.
In this blog, I’ll outline five strategies to boost event engagement. Each technique uses technology and event marketing trends to keep attendees engaged, boost social proof, and improve the content around your event.
1. Engage With Influencers
Influencer marketing is a hot topic across many marketing channels. Your event marketing strategy is no exception. By engaging with thought leaders across content marketing and social channels, ticket sales can receive an unprecedented increase.
The approach you choose will depend on your objectives:
- Content & awareness: Collaborating with influencers to create content before and after your event. This approach adds an element of social proof and helps tap into a wider audience.
- Advocacy: This long-term goal means working exclusively with influencers to create content, letting them tell their story about your brand.
Start by listing out the target influencers you wish to collaborate with on content. There are different kinds of influencers that range in difficulty to reach.
For example, micro-influencers usually have a follower size of 1,000 to 100,000 but have a highly engaged audience. Then there are those who can be considered “celebrities,” with follower numbers in the millions. These are sought-after by brands who wish to boost brand awareness. Paid influencer platforms, such as NeoReach and HYPR, can help you identify and connect with relevant influencers. They use algorithms that pool data from all social networks, which makes finding the right influencers easy. Manual outreach is also effective, as you’re building a relationship directly with your target influencers. Do this by engaging with them on social media first. Contribute to the content they create, and help them share it.
You can also take advantage of the media buzz and borrow social proof with publications. WebEngage does this on the front page of their website:
Get your influencers involved in the entire event organization and promotion process. Thanks to the open nature of social media, this is now easier than ever before.
2. Gamification & Contests
People love to test their luck. Contests are a creative way of leveraging this desire, offering relevant prizes to get attendees to interact and contribute to your event. Giving away free Apple products used to be exciting and engaging. But this form of incentive has suffered the same fate as banner blindness. People are simply no longer excited by fancy gadgets.
The best prizes, therefore, are relevant to your event topic or value proposition. Work with exhibitors and speakers, encouraging them to contribute prizes. These could include:
- Free access to software for three to six months
- Consultation with experts on a specific topic (such as a “30-minute call to analyze your content marketing strategy”)
- Tickets for next year’s event
The question then comes down to using this to inspire engagement. One of the best ways to do this is to ask for submissions in the form of tweets or Instagram posts. There are many benefits to this. First, you create a ton of buzz around the event on third-party channels, which builds upon your credibility. Social proof is imperative for securing attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors for future events. Furthermore, you now have a host of user-generated content (UGC) to use in future marketing collateral. Again, this helps build social proof for your brand while adding visual and multimedia formats to your content.
T-Mobile ran a contest like this on social media, offering to pay the cancellation fees of their current provider. Entrants were encouraged to write a breakup letter to their provider for the chance to win:
The result? Over 80,000 “letters” were submitted. A huge amount of buzz was generated on social media while attracting new customers at the same time.
Look for creative ways to encourage the creation of UGC while adding value to your attendees. Social media and media buzz are two event promotion channels that will benefit as a result.
3. Use Live Polls
Asking for a show of hands or doing a manual headcount can turn people off. It’s also an ineffective way to get a dynamic depth of opinions.
This is where live polling comes in. It lets your audience engage with keynotes and speeches as they happen. It turns a one-way stream of content into a conversation, which is key for engagement on a wide scale and makes your presentations more memorable.
Ask thought-provoking questions to get your attendees opinions on a topic. For example, speakers can poll attendees, providing the rest of the audience with insights into the challenges of their peers.
While this adds a social aspect to your event, the real value is in the feedback. Using the answers from this poll, speakers can direct their content accordingly. The feedback can be used to direct sessions towards topics the audience finds most interesting.
Polls can even provide insight and value for marketers after the event is over. The feedback it generates is a great source of content, giving you insights on blog topics and ideas for long-form content, such as ebooks. Of course, you can then use this to inform the content of future events.
Simon Puleo used live polling when training HP’s sales teams on presenting new products to clients. This involves attending large sales conferences all over the world with up to 800 attendees each. To keep sales professionals engaged, he encouraged individuals to come on stage and give their best pitch. Other attendees voted which they thought was most effective, adding a competitive element to the event.
When trying this yourself, run a poll at the beginning of your sessions. This approach will get the audience comfortable with the way voting works and the system itself. Keep it fun, so it’s easy to participate. From here, use it to generate feedback, direct the flow of the session and collect metrics for optimization of future events.
4. Create a Mobile App
The entire event engagement process, from your website to registration, can feel disjointed. Even the collateral that your attendees pick up on the day can be a little clunky. What if you could house your entire event marketing funnel under one roof? With mobile apps, you can.
What you include in our app depends on the nature of the event. Here are some typical features that most event apps include:
- Rich media: A steady stream of relevant content, often in the form of an activity stream
- Push notifications: Keeping attendees updated with relevant information
- Social media: Integrate with your social campaigns (perfect when accompanied by the UGC technique explained earlier)
- Interactive maps: Allows attendees to create a schedule that suits them
One of the most powerful features your app provides is analytics. Optimize your future events by providing the right insights.
South by Southwest (SXSW) created SXSW GO, an app that helped festival attendees navigate the huge annual event in Austin. Their objective was to improve the overall experience and eliminate friction when registering and networking during the event.
Using iBeacons, introduced in 2014, attendees can see users that were around them to facilitate a richer networking experience. This technology allows attendees to reach out and arrange meetups during the event, providing flexible and targeted networking opportunities.
This level of integration also generated a huge amount of data. Attendee behavior, popular sessions, and content engagement are all insights that can optimize future events.
5. Virtual Event Bags
How much money do you and your sponsors spend on event swag each year? More importantly, do you know the ROI and where all those tote bags, booklets, pens, and badges end up?
There’s a lot of potential for waste. Not only that, this physical collateral is very hard to measure, which is why marketers and event organizers are moving over to “virtual event bags.”
These online goody bags help deliver measurable results while removing the clunky process of managing digital assets. With the right platform, it can be a collaborative process that gives your sponsors complete control over what they include.
Consumer Expo used virtual event bags to showcase sponsors, drive downloads to their event app and offer discounts:
The layout is simple but effective. Everything is laid out in an easy-to-use format. Friction is minimal, and attendees aren’t overwhelmed with the amount of “stuff” filling up their desks the next day. Furthermore, organizers can see which offers work better than others. This will let them prove their worth to sponsors when selling future events, while also optimizing copy and creative for higher conversions.
The possibilities for improving your event engagement are endless—and exciting! What methods are you currently employing to engage with your event attendees? Join the conversation in the comments section below.