“Engagement” is such a big topic these days in the events industry. It has always been important, but it seems to have risen to the surface now that there are so many new tools and technologies promising major breakthroughs in engagement.
A lot of what I see getting the most attention as it relates to these awe-inspiring, interest-grabbing technologies are things that your attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors get to interact with and see. This is great – I’m all for it! But, let’s not forget that some of the most powerful technology that can help with engagement is found behind the scenes, too.
More importantly, no matter what type of technology you use – whether your audience sees it or not – it has to fulfill your mission of providing your attendee, exhibitor, or sponsor with real value. Just as recently discussed in Associations Now, engagement and satisfaction come when value is delivered.
With that, I would like to offer the following 5 rules of event engagement so that you can deliver true value to your stakeholders:
Rule #1 – Really, truly know who your attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors are.
Is there anything worse than feeling that somebody just doesn’t get you? Especially if that somebody is going to be capturing some of your time or money. In order to really know who your audience is, you need to manage the information you have about them wisely. You need a system that your entire organization is using to stay on the same page, and even consider investing in technology that can help you efficiently and effectively manage your contacts, automate marketing activities, and report on data so your efforts are appropriately targeted.
Rule #2 – Show them that you know them.
Don’t take for granted that an attendee, association member, or potential exhibitor or sponsor believes that you understand their needs. Help them feel connected to you by consistently offering valuable insight that has nothing to do with your event. When speaking with them, use the information you have about them to rearticulate their business objectives and make sure nothing has changed. Get them engaged in the value your event provides well before the event has even started.
Rule #3 – Prove that your event is valuable.
Sorry, but nobody wants to just take your word for it when you tell them they need to be at your event. There’s a lot of competition out there, budgets are tight, travel is tedious, etc. You really have to prove that your event is worthwhile by collecting data about previous events and sharing that information with them. Provide insight related to attendee profiles. Offer them stats and figures that they can take to their management team for buy-in.
Rule #4 – Get them invested before, during and after the event.
Here’s where I’ll really connect the dots between attendee-facing and behind-the-scenes technology. Imagine how engaged your audience will be if you use data from your contact management system to understand what your attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors value, and then build that value into every facet of your event, from speakers selected to what you feature in your event app. Showcase your understanding of that value in your event website, and use that website as a central hub for communication before, during, and after the event.
Rule # 5 – Help them grow new revenues.
When it really comes down to it, the biggest driving factor for most people attending your event is financial gain. They are often attending your event to either identify sales opportunities for their business or acquire education that will help them advance professionally (and, thus, earn a higher salary). Exhibitors are often there for financial gain. Sponsors are obviously investing with hopes of making a return. So, when evaluating your event’s value proposition, ask yourself how your event will help these stakeholders generate revenue. And, if you have the right tools in place to provide ROI data, you win.
No matter what technology you invest in to help drive engagement and satisfaction, make sure that the ultimate motivating factor lies in the value you will be providing.