If you’re an event planner, does this sound familiar?
- “My client knows best how the event should look.”
- “This event has to be valuable for my client.”
- “I can only listen to what my client wants.”
If these statements sound familiar, then you’re in trouble. Why?
Truth #1: The event you design and plan for your client is worthless if the attendees find no value in it.
Truth #2: If you make your event attendees experience happy, you’ll make your client happy.
While your client is important, you ultimately create the event for the attendees. As expert Event Manager Julia Rutherford Silvers notes, “The audience for your event is the reason your event is taking place.” So, here are three things you must do if you want to add value for the attendees and create an enjoyable event experience.
1. Know the event audience and their needs.
Who is attending the event? Are you promoting the event to millennials? Is this event for baby boomers? Or maybe you’d like to attract a mixed audience? Is this a conference for tech companies or medical researchers? By knowing who the attendees are, you’ll be able to start brainstorming event themes, agendas, content, and speakers, all of which will contribute to the strategy—and success—of the event. You’ll also be able to tailor the event to meet their needs with the right event platform and event apps to personalize the experience.
2. Build a thoughtful agenda.
According to Steve Schwartz, a senior research Policy Manager for the Washington Convention Center, people don’t measure their event experience by comparing their current event experience to their last. Instead, they compare their current event experience to their best event experience.
You must first meet attendees’ expectations to pull off an engaging event. For example, if they attend an event to learn, you might want to stack the agenda with expert-led educational sessions. Alternately, if they attend to have fun, the schedule might incorporate contests, games, and entertainment. And if the attendees’ goal is to meet new people, you’ll want to ensure the agenda includes plenty of networking activities.
Remember that for any event format - an in-person, hybrid, or virtual - content is king. Select exciting speakers, engaging subjects, and timely themes that resonate with the audience. Invite industry experts, customers, and preferably at least one high-profile speaker who can draw a crowd. Some of our best practices for building an agenda include:
- Remember to leave time between sessions. When developing the program agenda leave time between sessions for attendees to network and collaborate.
- Consider shortening the session duration to 20-30 minutes. Shorter presentations, expert panels, breakout sessions, and networking events keep attendees moving between content and activities and create an active event flow.
- Be sure to consider the length of the event schedule. An event agenda of 10:00 – 4:00 might work better than a traditional 8:00 – 6:00 schedule.
- Build agendas that give attendees flexibility. This will prevent high-value content from competing. People increasingly want to be able to customize their own content schedule, so be sure they have that option — selecting between tracks or choosing activities that appeal to them. And make sure everything is available on demand, so if, for example, an attendee foregoes a session to attend a networking event, they can still access the content later.
- Build social and “non-business” activities into the agenda. Events are usually a big part of the corporate social calendar. Whether it’s a chance to socialize off-site with peers, explore a new city, or participate in a unique activity, events offer more than “on message” content. Therefore, satisfying your audience’s desire to socialize and explore is essential. If the event is taking place virtually, or you have virtual attendees as part of a hybrid event, don’t let the lack of a physical presence limit these activities. For example, event planners and marketers can include guided meditation sessions, a virtual kickboxing class, or a Netflix party on the agenda.
3.Map the attendee experience and create technology touch-points.
When planning your client’s event, it’s a good idea to map the end-to-end attendee experience for in-person and virtual participants if you have them. Then, identify “technology touchpoints” in each journey.
- Pro Tip: Prior to the event, think about how to attract attendees to your event. You can use a single registration platform for physical and virtual attendees. Then provide all attendees with a digital badge in the form of a QR code. This QR code can be scanned at sponsor booths, attendee sessions, etc., so you can track all attendee behavior in a like-to-like fashion.
- Pro Tip: During the event, leverage registration and behavior information. Between registration data and behavior data, you can aggregate a lot of information on both your in-person and virtual audiences. You can use this information to your advantage by partnering with an event technology provider that has the necessary AI to recommend activities, content, contacts, etc., to each attendee both before and throughout the event, sending push notifications to their mobile phones and personalizing the event experience to increase engagement.
- Pro Tip: Use technology to stimulate engagement. For example, presenters can encourage physical and digital audience interactivity by using QR codes that drive to polls and surveys throughout a presentation to gather valuable feedback. Or promote the use of apps that work on both desktop and mobile to facilitate content engagement and encourage participants to network. Many event organizers also gamify the experience for virtual and in-person attendees, offering prizes or other rewards for engagement. Remember that regardless of how attendees participate in the event, they’ll remember the content better if they interact with it.
- Pro Tip: Leverage a virtual environment platform that allows 1:1 chat across all audiences during the event to enhance attendee engagement. Attendees should easily find in-person and virtual attendees with similar interests and connect.
- Pro Tip: Don’t overlook event sponsors. Use gamification tools and other strategies to drive in-person and virtual event attendees to sponsor booths and content.
- Pro Tip: Leverage post-event marketing. Re-purpose popular content for a weekly blog series or social media campaign. Encourage frequent and consistent interaction with all event attendees to increase exposure and opportunity. Don't forget about post-event survey questions for attendees either. You can gather crucial feedback from this opportunity.
- Pro Tip: Create virtual chat platforms and keep them open following the event to create a community resource center and continued networking opportunities.
When a client engages in your services, know that the event’s success depends on how the attendees experience it. So, take the time to learn what brings value to your attendees and design the event accordingly. To learn more about best practices for adding attendee value to your next event, contact a 6Connex expert today.