Audience engagement is a hot topic in the meeting technology industry. As it should be. Having an engaged audience is key to having a successful meeting that provides value for participants and organizers alike. But I’ve noticed a lot of industry blogs and articles tackling this topic seem to be measuring engagement by whether or not people just download the app or by counting how many views of the agenda or a sponsor page they may get. Providing content is important, but quite simply, event app adoption does not equal audience engagement.
What Your Participants Really Want
When mobile event apps first came to market, it may have been enough to just push content to participants – everything from agendas, speaker bios, venue maps, presentations, etc. It was new, it was cool, and no one had to carry around a bulky conference packet anymore. Then we started to introduce audience response tools, such as voting, to our apps; and participants loved it. It allowed them to not only digest the content, but react to it. This was the beginning of a true and deeper engagement at events. They started to become involved in what was happening. Participants could actually participate.
But these days, in a world where technology allows us to participate in all things, all the time, with instant gratification; participants aren’t happy just participating anymore. Today, participants want to create content. They want their event apps to provide more than just the content you’re delivering or the feedback you want to solicit from them. They want to be heard. They want to be valued and they want more value.
Engagement is Easy-to-Do
Achieving true engagement at your event can seem a bit overwhelming (you already have enough to worry about); but with the right app, it should be easy. Here are some simple features you can add to your event to increase engagement:
- Q&A – This is the simplest feature, by far; but in my 17 years of working in event technology, it’s the one I’ve seen that provides the most value and engagement. It gives participants a simple vehicle to ask their questions and voice their concerns or give their ideas. These questions can be moderated easily and fed to the speaker or panel moderator for real-time reaction.
- Discussion Boards and Activity Feeds – Discussion boards and activity feeds allow participants to pose their ideas and collaborate. By creating topic points around which folks can gather, they’re empowered to create a better networking experience for themselves. But don’t just build it and hope they’ll come. Pose a daily question to the group to get their feedback on a topic that holds value for you and other meeting stakeholders. For example: “As a company, we’re facing _____ (place relevant issue here). What is your idea on how to solve it?” This will lead to increased collaboration that provides value not just for the participants, but for you and your stakeholders.
- Gamification – to incentivize people to use these engagement features, put a game within the app. Unless it’s a sales conference (where team competition is fun and fierce), do not use a points game, but rather a badge game. This allows everyone to participate and feel like they can win.
- “Open Space” Agenda – I can hear your head exploding. Open Space agenda can make meeting owners hyperventilate. Handing over the agenda to the audience sounds like chaos. It doesn’t have to be. If you have 5 topics you’re considering for a breakout session, push those topics out in a survey within the app before the event and let people vote on it. The topic with the most votes is a session in the breakout. That ensures you’re using audience response to meet the desires and needs of your participants while maintaining control.
The Value You’ll Realize
By employing some of the above simple tools and processes, you’ll be able to get the following added value out of your event app:
- Build alignment and increase learning – if people can voice opinions and ask questions, and those questions and concerns are dealt with in real time, they’re walking out the door more aligned behind your message and having learned more about the topic.
- Tap the wisdom of the whole group – Usually, we bring people together and talk at them for the duration of our event. In doing so, we miss out on learning from our audience and having them learn from each other. Whether it’s a user conference, sales meeting or a senior leadership meeting, providing them with the opportunity to give you (and each other) their best ideas, you’re providing a knowledge-sharing platform, not just an event app.
- Make the participant feel valued – If you provide ways for the participant to engage with speakers, content, and meeting stakeholders; if you ask for their opinions; and if you listen to their questions and take them into account; they’re going to feel more valued. This deepens the relationship between meeting organizers and participants and makes them excited for your event. They will go back to their desks and actually use the knowledge they’ve gathered.
So the next time you hear about “engagement”, when it comes to event apps; remember to push past the idea that just because people are flipping through your app, that doesn’t mean they’re engaged. By providing some simple features, you can create an event, from which people walk away saying, “Wow…I’ve never met like that before.”
What Can We Do for You?
SpotMe understands the ever-changing needs of event participants, and offers a trusted technology platform for event organizers. Consider creating an experience that provides true engagement your users, and request a demo today.