How to Put Together an Engagement Strategy for Your Next Big Event

Event engagement is hard to define. It spans everything from registration to social media activity and session participation. Events should be an active experience, informed by attendee interests, goals, and pain points, not a series of lectures they passively consume.

Ultimately, engagement boils down to making sure that your attendees not only register for your event but that they get excited about being a part of the action.

Free Download: 6 Tips for Driving Engagement from the Trade Show Floor

Get to Know Your Audience

Before you do anything else, make sure you get to know your audience. According to data from Aventri, 56% of event planners cite selecting the right content as their biggest pain point.

By gathering all of the information you can about your attendees and target audience, you’ll be better prepared to select the event content that best aligns with your target audience–as well as the pre-event marketing materials that generate interest.

Analytics sources like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics can help you learn more about the demographic breakdown, interests, and behaviors of your audience, while your CRM and service channels might offer some insights into individual pain points.

Additionally, you’ll want to explore the following areas to learn more about what audiences want from an event:

Dig into Last Year’s Feedback

If you ran the event last year, make sure you review any feedback you collected. This will allow you to offer more of what worked and make changes to the weaker parts of your program.

Ask Your Mailing List for Help

For more qualitative feedback you may want to reach out to attendees via email to gauge interest.

Some questions you might ask to uncover the insights that lead to engagement:

  • Why are you looking forward to this event?
  • What is your primary reason for attending?
  • Who would you like to see speak?
  • What do you hope to learn?
  • What types of activities would you like to take part in?
  • Where do you go to learn about events/keep up with industry news?

Crowdsource Event Content

According to a recent study from Cvent and Edelman Intelligence, 59% of global respondents said they’d like to receive personalized session recommendations based on their interests or past attendance.

Before finalizing your agenda, let your audience have a say in what kind of content will be offered.

Formal methods like focus groups and surveys, combined with informal tools like Instagram and Twitter polls can help you get a sense of what your audience is looking for.

Ask questions about presentation formats, learning styles, and what types of interactive sessions they might be interested in.

Define Your Success Metrics

Before deciding on what engagement strategies to pursue, you’ll need to define what you’ll be measuring.

Engagement metrics span every channel and touchpoint from pre-event promotion content to speaker sessions, app usage, and post-event surveys.

  • Net Promoter Scores (NPS): Measures overall satisfaction with your brand.
  • Social Media Engagement: How do audiences respond to the content you post? Which channels drive registrations/generate the most shares/facilitate the highest volume of conversations?
  • Sponsor Interest: How many sponsorship inquiries came in? Were sponsors enthusiastic about participating or did your team need to discount packages to fill spots?
  • Event Check-ins: What percentage of registrants actually show up?
  • Email Marketing Engagement: Do people click on the links in your emails? How many conversions came from email traffic? Which messages worked best?
  • Content Engagement: What content receives the most shares/likes/downloads/comments?
  • Website Conversion Rate: What percentage of visitors registered for the event?
  • Sales by Marketing Source: Which channels drove the largest share of conversions?

You can measure event engagement in several ways, from sessions attended and connections made to social shares and app adoption.

But here’s the thing: engagement can’t happen unless attendees receive the right information. From registrations to app downloads to joining an online community, if you want your audience to act, make sure you ask.

Tap Your Industry Influencers

Influencer marketing is still a powerful strategy, despite some of the issues that have emerged in recent years due to the rise of #sponcon. You just need to make sure you reach out to the influencers that hold the most sway over your audience and add value to your event.

Consider how you might collaborate with influencers both before and during your event.

Working together on content such as a short YouTube series, live interviews, or a podcast adds an element of social proof to your event marketing strategy and can generate excitement and shares ahead of the event.

During the event, you might work with an industry influencer to create an experience, develop workshops, or co-host a VIP after-party.

According to Eventbrite data, 79% of brand respondents said they were interested in increasing the number of experiential programs during events.

You might also create sessions that facilitate interactions between attendees and expert influencers. Hands-on sessions or the chance to network with top names in your industry can also be a great way to bring real value to your audience.

How to Connect with Influencers

You’ll have a few outreach options, though your best bet depends on who you’re trying to reach.

Paid influencer platforms, such as NeoReach and HYPR, can help you identify and connect with relevant influencers. These types of platforms use algorithms to pool data from all social networks, making it easy for brands to connect with influencers on their target platforms. Typically, these types of tools make more sense for connecting with B2C influencers popular with consumers.

Tools like BuzzStream’s Discovery Tool, LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search, and Moz’s FollowerWonk allow you to identify influencers and thought leaders specific to your niche market.

Here’s a look at how FollowerWonk uses Twitter to find influential users within the “wholesale food distribution niche”:

Keep in mind that you’ll want to keep the actual outreach part of the process personal. The best influencer partnerships come from forming an actual relationship. A personalized email or LinkedIn message that lays out what’s in it for both the influencer and your brand can be a great way to make the connection.

Ideally, partnering on this initial event will serve as the starting point for a long-term, collaborative relationship.

Offer a Great App and Maximize Adoption

Okay, we get it. Recommending that event pros “use an app” sounds a bit passe in 2020.
But apps play a critical role in driving engagement and improving the on-site experience.

Attendees can use them to create their agendas, find answers to basic questions, and opt into receiving alerts and updates for specific sessions. What do attendees want from an app?

Information at their Fingertips. Your app should include everything an attendee might need to know. Answer FAQs, include a map of the venue, the agenda, the rundown of the food situation, etc. Virtually all the information should be immediately accessible to help them to stay engaged and get the most from your event.

A Personalized Agenda. Many event apps now allow attendees to design their own schedule by starring the workshops and speaking sessions they’d most like to attend. This helps attendees keep track of what’s going on.

Real-Time Feedback. The best way to measure attendee engagement in real-time is presenting surveys within the mobile app. Try offering the option to review sessions using both a numerical scoring system and freeform feedback.

Keep in mind, you’ll want to make sure you start promoting the event app early on to drive downloads. Be sure to use multiple channels to maximize your reach.

Keep Things Going After Everyone Heads Home

After the event wraps, there are still a lot of opportunities to engage your attendees.

  • Say “Thanks.” Thank speakers, sponsors, and attendees on social media to show your appreciation and continue your community-building efforts.
  • Recap the High Points. Create a “best of” highlight reel using Instagram Stories. Embed relevant posts in your long-form content. You might post session recordings on your LinkedIn industry group or create a Twitter moment to showcase relevant tweet mentions, or share short attendee interviews recorded on-site. The possibilities are endless.
  • Repurpose Content for Future Marketing Efforts. Use your content to build buzz for next year’s event and keep the conversation going among your attendee community. Video clips, interviews and topics covered during sessions can all be reposted as social media posts or turned into blog content, white papers, and more.
  • Expand on Learning. Facebook or LinkedIn groups that allow attendees to continue to talk shop and share knowledge add value year-round – plus community discussions can be used to inform the agenda next time. Keep the conversation by creating prompts and continuing to share useful information as it comes.

Wrapping Up

Bottom line: an event is nothing without its attendees. And their engagement, in all of its forms, has a massive impact on event ROI and brand perception.

By measuring your performance and listening to your audience, you’ll be able to continuously improve your strategy and offer new ways to surprise, delight, and retain your audience for years to come.

Free Download: 6 Tips for Driving Engagement from the Trade Show Floor

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