Congrats, you’ve done it! ? Your content is programmed, your venue and staff are booked and now you’re home free…hang on, not so fast. In order to ensure that your attendees will have the best experience at your event, in order to ensure they will make the most out of the event, and in order to ensure they will return next year and bring their friends, you need to plan to keep your attendees engaged.
Attendee engagement and experience must be at the forefront throughout event planning as they cannot be added in once everything is programmed, settled, and you’re a few weeks away. Looking at your event as a whole, determining the spaces in which you can stimulate engagement and interaction, and then programming around those moments, will allow for an unbeatable attendee experience. With the ultimate goal of keeping attendees happy, talking about your event, and coming back, here are three tips for crafting the perfect attendee experience.
Provide New and Exciting Networking Opportunities
Game night? Game night cocktail hour? Why not? Do away with the boring receptions and “networking breaks” and get creative. Find some games that are easy to learn, quick to play, easy for teams, and that allow attendees to share a little bit of their personality. Giant Jenga, Cards Against Humanity, Monikers, and Codenames are just a few that are easy to find and put together with minimal props.
Use staff and volunteers to encourage and teach attendees how to play various games in the event space. Want to encourage engagement with sponsors in a more natural way? Game stations can be sponsored or set up near exhibits to stimulate natural conversation and give people a reason to talk to each other. Does a sponsor want to stand out? Have them set up video bowling or other AR games that most of us wouldn’t normally have access to.
Games not your thing? Use your event location to amp up the attendee experience. Charter a tour bus and set up a tour of the city under the stars. Monuments after dark or informal architectural tours are great ways to share some history and get attendees talking to new people. Add a drink or two and you’ve got a hit!
Takeaways are Gold
Attendees have a lot of information thrown at them over the course of an event or other in-person event. From chats with sponsors, to breakout speakers, to keynotes, to new people they’ve met…it’s a lot of information to keep straight. But there are few simple ways to help keep that information clear.
If you have an event app there are a number of ways you can share information between attendees, sponsors, and speakers, but If your group isn’t using an app an alternative solution would be giving your attendees a notebook and pen. (You’d be surprised at how many attendees forget a notebook and something to write with.)
Encourage speakers to provide key takeaways at the end of their session, three things that attendees can immediately implement, three things that attendees need to look out for in the coming year, or three things to get excited about. If you are you using event management software, you can have speakers upload these takeaways in a PDF file so that attendees can access them following the presentation. Either method you choose encouraging attendee engagement is key. When they leave, attendees will be full of ideas and plans to take back to the office.
Now, onto keeping track of conversations. Create a few pages in your event notebooks that are set up for recording information. Including spaces for names, companies, contact information, and notes will make it easy to keep track of networking conversations. If you are using an event app that includes lead retrieval, your exhibitors will have access to these features from their smartphone or tablet.
Make sure to prompt attendee to send follow up notes after the event and to make those connections. If you are using an event app you can send push notifications out to all attendees as reminders. Sometimes attendees need an extra push to make connections and reminding them to do so can help foster new relationships. Attendees will be grateful and your event will stick with them as the place they met so many new colleagues.
Shake Up Your Formats
Every event is the same isn’t it? Breakfast, keynote, networking break, breakout, lunch, networking break… It’s hard to break up the monotony of the event agenda. But thinking outside of the box with session formats can help engage attendees and keep them talking long after the event is over.
Utilize the city to engage attendees and create an excuse to break up the day. In Vegas? Start your day in the late morning and avoid the 6AM wake up. In Florida? Give attendees a break in the afternoon to hit the pool and end the day a bit later. Or schedule a half day and organize a quick field trip to the parks. Same old keynote style? Do a hybrid session with a combination of presentation, Q&A, and fireside chat. Schedule a workshop into the middle of the day to help keep attendees on their creative toes.
Taking attendees out of the norm of what they expect from an event creates memorable experiences and keeps them interested and excited far after the event is over. They’ll return to the office raving about how your event gave them a two-hour-long pool break or a dance party.
In the end, it’s about creating memories and experiences for attendees that will last through the year. What is something new and exciting you’ve always wanted to do? Is there a way to implement that activity in your event? Can you augment it and make it cooler? Diverge from your normal thinking and try something new. Your attendees will appreciate it.