Don't Make These Three Event Audience Engagement Mistakes

Tim Gass
Tim Gass

Woman holding a tin can telephone looking disengaged

Ask any event planner: putting together an engaging conference, product launch or incentive trip is hard work. You can have all the right speakers, a meticulous agenda and an incredible event venue—but it all falls flat if you're using the right tactics to get and keep your audience’s attention.

Complicating matters further, event audiences aren’t the same as they once were. Millennials are entering the workforce at a stunning pace—according to a study from The Council of Economic Advisers, Millennials now represent the largest generation in the United States, comprising roughly one-third of the total population in 2013.

With disparate audiences that use different methods of communication, how can event planners keep everyone engaged and in the know? Keeping your audience captivated takes the right strategy, especially when it comes to communications.

Here are three of the most common audience engagement mistakes to avoid.

1.) Focusing on Just One Communication Channel

If you don’t spread out your communications across multiple channels, you’re missing a huge opportunity to fully engage with all generations attending your event.

It’s no secret that millennials are digital natives. They grew up surrounded by electronic communication, so email, apps and other tech-focused platforms are an obvious fit. But while digital communication is what they’re used to, a one-track approach can leave your messaging lost in that clutter.

While it can be tempting to cut corners on communications, a cross-media strategy is the most effective way to demonstrate the value of your experiential event to all generations. For instance, just because your event is targeted to tech-centric millennials doesn’t mean you should offer only web communications—many millennials favor reading print, as it boosts their reading comprehension.

And, likewise, don’t assume that digital communications are ineffective for your boomer audience, either.

In a nutshell: a mixed print and digital approach is the only way to go. Though it can be tempting to stick firmly to one side, you’ll see a negative impact on engagement if you don’t spread your communications out.

2.) Failing to Consider Audience Engagement Motivators

When it comes to what motivates your audience to participate in your trip, the millennial and baby boomer generations can be polar opposites. What motivates one generation may not motivate another:

  • On the whole, Baby boomers enjoy the social aspect of incentive trips—many of the top performers have known each other a long time, and they like to socialize with friends.
  • Millennials like the ability to choose how they spend their time on trips. They appreciate white space in their incentive travel program design.

Just as you wouldn’t focus on one communication channel, focusing on only one motivator is a missed opportunity for audience engagement.

When they check out your communications, your audience is thinking one thing: “What’s in it for me?”

And if they’re not getting an answer to that question that matches what they want from your event, they’ll become less engaged with your event. A balanced approach is best.

3.) Not Giving Your Audience an Opportunity to Share on Social Media

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another platform, everyone’s on social media today, especially millennials. According to The Council of Economic Advisers report, about a third of boomers and three-quarters of millennials have an account on a social networking site.

They’re a great way of connecting with friends from around the world, sharing pictures and keeping up with the news. And, for events, they’re a great way of spreading the word and letting your participants do the same.

A “braggable” event is one that participants can share with their buddies who didn’t come—which creates serious FOMO—on social media. When your travel incentive participants who didn’t quite make the cut see their coworkers’ travel selfies or snapshots boasting their big fishing catch in Costa Rica, they’ll be motivated to keep going.

On the other hand, there are industries and events that could be sensitive about public sharing, especially with internal incentive travel. In these instances, channels such as YammerChatter or a company intranet can create the same motivation and FOMO to those looking to hit their mark.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for situations like this:

  • If your event seeks to build organic growth from an outside, more public audience, an external social media presence on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram could work well.
  • If your event seeks to engage a captured audience, such as an incentive trip targeted at an inside sales team, consider an internal social media channel—such as Yammer or Chatter—or a company intranet.

By creating a strategic blueprint for incredible audience engagement, you’ll get a captivated, engaged audience.

Tim Gass

Tim Gass

Tim is a strategic, multidisciplinary creative director with over 10 years experience. While at ITA Group, he has developed and managed communication campaigns supporting engagement and incentive programs for several Fortune 500 companies. When he’s not helping ITA Group clients develop creative digital and print communications, you can find him enjoying live music with his wife, Erin or rooting for the Chicago Bears with their dog, Buckley.