Don't Make These 3 Event Audience Engagement Mistakes

By: Tim Gass
three exclamation points symbolizing event mistakes

Ask any event marketer about audience engagement and you’ll hear the same thing: 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 not 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. Gen Z makes up the latest wave of young professionals entering the workforce. By 2025, however, Gen Z will grow to become the largest generation at 29% of the population. 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.

Mistake #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 Gen Z 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 the tech-centric Gen Z doesn’t mean you should offer only web communications. 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.

Event marketers now understand the benefit of stretched out engagement periods, community building, content push and on-demand experiences—all meshed with live moments, in person or online.

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.

Mistake #2: Failing to Consider Audience Engagement Motivators

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

  • On the whole, 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.
  • Both millennials and Gen Z prefer experiences over material goods. Collecting memories, meeting new people, and experiencing culture first-hand is what fuels their curiosity. 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.

Mistake #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. According to survey results by The Manifest, 89% of Generation Zers, 88% of millennials, 81% of Generation Xers, and 86% of baby boomers use social media daily. But why? 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.

As travel becomes more valued following global travel restrictions, priorities are shifting on which activities participants see as important, according to the Incentive Travel Industry Index 2020 survey. Luxury or “bucket list” experiences jumped to #1 in 2020, indicating a desire for incentive travel to reach toward reflecting the “intrinsic joy of traveling” with more once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

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 Yammer, Chatter 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 or a company intranet.

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

We find success can come from making connections between goals and measurement—and bring clarity to your big picture. Start making those connections to drive event decisions. This worksheet can help.

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.