Engaging your audience

When planning your event ‘engagement’ is a key element to consider, it should be one of the driving points for you and your team because without engagement you don’t have an event!

Author: Buz Ross   |   Date: 17th September 2018

Why engage?

How do you engage your audience? What sort of engagement do you want?
Do you want to stimulate, create conversation, shared experiences for the audience?
Do you want to create engagement where you as the event organiser is getting feedback and interaction that enables you to develop products/services/ideas with an audience that you might find it difficult to normally engage with?

With the latter, we know that by using audience response systems during events you are more likely to receive a higher level of engagement during the event itself. It will be more likely to get a response than simply sending out a survey via email, with a better reflection of your target audience than a poll created through social media. Part of this is that you will normally know exactly who your audience is at your event, and you can tailor your questions accordingly.

It can be used across many different types and styles of events, including internal company training days, local government events including policy and planning meetings, education-based conferences, conferences for associations, and much more.
For example, if you are running an event where learning is part of the day, by using an audience response system either using a clicker or smartphone based solution you can gauge retention of the information shared during the event. If you are going to repeat the same event you can use this information to potentially deliver the information in a different form to improve the retention of learning material. Receiving this feedback can also enable development of the material to be used at following events if they are part of a series.

Using an Audience Response System

There are many different forms of audience response system, including clickers like our Ombea system, plus many different smartphones/tablet apps. Before you choose the systems to use, you need to decide on what you want to get back from using a responses system and how it can be used to engage your audience.

It should be something that feels natural, not forced, plus not too complicated for people to understand the reason and meaning. Once you have that you can look at the best solution to fit your event, location and audience.
One consideration you must consider prior to the choosing the system you will use at the event is the connectivity at the venue, if you choose to use a system like our clickpads you don’t need anything else to make them work, if you are using a smartphone-based system, you will need a stable Wi-Fi system for all the users to be able to access rather than rely on their own connectivity.
Do consider if your audience will all have smartphones, consider them as a user group rather than just an audience.

If you are looking to use a smartphone-based system, try to avoid asking people to download additional apps on the day, people are often loathed to do this, a system such as Sli.do works well as it is browser based so easier for everyone to access via their phone or tablet.

If you want to use an app consider having one linked or built into your event app. This way if you are asking people to download the event app prior to the event they will already have it built in, keeping it simple, and minimal. If not, consider sending it as a request prior to the event within registration confirmation emails, so everyone is ready to go once they are at the event.

How do you want to use it?

Using an audience response system is not just a way of testing people on retained information, or asking them to vote – yes or no, you can use it more creatively and create excellent engagement and empower your audience. It can also create more social interaction between the people taking part in the event, for example, be an icebreaker at the start of the event. By using it creatively you can build curiosity amongst the people attending and in turn, they will hopefully share their experience and build more engagement.

You might consider using gamification within your engagement plan. Using it in real-time it can help discussion and allow people to be encouraged to become competitive but friendly in either a large group format or smaller groups playing against one another. Adding prizes can increase their engagement further and maximise their experience at your event.

We’ll be looking at gamification soon on the blog, this is an area that is developing further and is moving across all types of events and user groups.

If you are trying to get your event off the ground you might have other people within your company wanting to understand what will you as the company will receive through running the event. By using response and voting systems at the event you can generate specific data quickly within a set user group. You can also use the systems to qualify the success of the event, what the audience have learnt and much more. It gives you clarity during the event, rather than hoping that people will fill in surveys afterwards.

Getting the right answer

Using audience response system engagement, you are maximising the experience for both the audience and the person or group delivering the content. Delivering content to different audiences including location, size and venue can make a large difference in the way that the information is received by the audience.

You must ensure at the start of your event planning that you know what you want to achieve through using an audience response system, you can, of course, be flexible with how you ask the questions, and you might even have to change it on the fly during the event itself, but ensure that you know what you need to hear and how detailed.

Think about how you ask your question, for example, many events start with a question like;

‘How did you get to the event today?’ or ‘What did you have for breakfast?’ They are an icebreaker, but they are a bit dull for any audience! Depending on the type of audience, you could ask ‘What colour is your underwear?’ people will laugh, maybe shift in their seats, but it will break any ice left in the room left after the first cup of coffee!

Another more serious example would be for a multi-day event and gauging the response for upcoming breakout sessions. Prior to the event you have most likely asked people to pre-book all sessions they want to attend during the conference, but once people are at the conference this might change once they have spoken to other attendees and have a better idea of what they are really interested in.

The question would be ‘Which of these sessions do you want to attend today at 3pm?’ with a list of sessions and speakers’ names if appropriate. Depending on the system being used you could have it that once a certain number of people have clicked yes to one session, it is full and closes submissions. By doing this in real time you can gauge how popular sessions are once the event has started, and if you are able to add additional sessions to meet demand, pre-booking will not give you this dynamic information.

Also, take into consideration how your audience will be experiencing the information they need to respond to.
In a large venue, rather than just relying on one projector screen at the front of the audience, you need to consider that everyone has a clear view to be able to take part in the feedback and interaction. This may mean that you need to add additional displays down the side of the venue for the audience to capture and retain information which is being shared with them.
Also consider the sound throughout the venue, like the visuals, ensure that all the audience can clearly hear any instructions.

The key to engagement on any level is listening, by listening to your audience you will be able to learn, develop and create more engaging events and in turn educate, share and potentially sell to them too.

Why not get in touch and see how we can help?

We’d love to have a chat with you about your next event or project, give us a call on 01962 870408, or click to fill in our contact form

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