5 Event Tech Tips to Maximize Engagement in 2016

Jill Anonson
Jill Anonson

If you’ve got a full house of attendees registered for your event—good job! That’s a pretty awesome feat.

The people attending your event found it intriguing enough to check out. Other companies wanted a chance to share their message, but they chose to hear what you have to say instead. Feels good, right?

Congratulations are in order, but don’t rest on your laurels too long. Getting people in the door is only half the battle. The other half is keeping them and their attention in one spot. Lose your audience and you’ll lose an incredible opportunity to communicate your brand—and your investment, too.

So how do you design an event that keeps your attendees wrapped up in your message, rather than distracted? How are you going to create an event that is relevant to your audience, yet different enough to set yourself apart from others in the industry?

If that sounds like a tall order—don’t worry. Follow these event tech recommendations to maximize engagement, get the most out of your investment and turn your event from ho-hum to home run.

Make Sure You Have an Event App

Around your office, waiting in line to get coffee or sitting in a conference room, everyone is on their mobile device—all the time. So why would you focus your event communication anywhere else?

Having an event app is a huge, important step. Communicating with your event attendees on a platform they’re already familiar with is very important to your event success. An app for your event is the central location for all things interactive, including (but in no way limited to):

  • Up-to-date agenda information
  • Polls
  • Q&A Sessions
  • Instant feedback about sessions
  • Photo Gallery
  • And much more

An app that opens the door for interactivity keeps feedback at the forefront of the event and creates an environment where your attendees are communicated with and not at. Strive to create an event app that allows for free and open conversation at all stages of the event: before, during and after.

Event apps are also beneficial because of their push notifications—the pop-ups that come from apps even when they aren’t in use. And the facts about push notifications don’t lie:

  • According to an eMarketer app study, on average, app engagement was 88% higher among mobile app users worldwide who had enabled push messages.
  • Users who had enabled push messages were between two and three times more likely to launch the app over the four months post-download, according to the same eMarketer mobile app study.
  • A Thanx blog post about push notifications said that push notification open rates range between 47% and 80%.

Second-Screen Technology

The second screen your event attendees bring along to the conference can be a double-edged sword. While they can use their tablet or phone to keep involved with the conference—checking out your event app, answering poll questions and the like—that second screen can also be a major distraction.

That’s why tech-savvy events are taking advantage of this second screen by using it to bolster the content being presented in real time. Links, video, notes and other supplementary information can be pushed out to attendees while they’re being discussed on stage, keeping them involved with your message and focused on the presentation.

Images, Videos and Social Media

According to a recent study from Edison Research, 56% of all Americans have a profile on a social networking site. That’s significantly more than half—and up from 52% in 2014. In other words, events should definitely leverage social media.

While social media is primarily a text-based medium—tweets, Facebook posts, etc.— audio and video are a vibrant, dynamic way to share content with your followers. And the numbers don’t lie about that either: Instagram has doubled its use in the past three years, and now boasts over 300 million users.

For events, the key to excelling at social media is by creating and sharing engaging images and video. Designate a member of your team to take photos, and share your participants’ photos on your social media platforms as well.

"Events are now having social media ambassadors who set up command centers on-site that focus on 1:1 contact with participants," said Dan Hanover, Editor and Publisher of Event Marketer magazine.

Also, consider making a social media wall for your event—a live, scrolling board of tweets, images and videos of your event. This is a perfect way of encouraging social media participation and bridging the gap between online and real-life interaction.

Specific Hashtags Bolster Event Social Media Efforts

Social media is a bit like an enormous networking session for your conference, and the hashtags you use divvy participants up into specific rooms. If you have too many rooms designed for specific topics, there won’t be that many participants in each.

With that in mind, your event’s social media strategy should be centered on specific, strategic and event-oriented hashtags.

“The social world is really crowded, so there's not a lot of room for brands,” said Spencer Shireman, ‎Social Media Specialist at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “Strategic, event-oriented hashtags are your best bet in terms of branding an event. People don’t want to follow 10 different accounts, and you can really benefit from having that trusted brand voice.”

For instance, at a recent ITA Group event technology industry conference, we used the hashtag #Event4CAST to keep our attendees engaged and participating along with us. This was also immensely helpful in post-event measurement.

Keep a Pulse on What’s Being Said and Done

Ed Koch, the mayor of New York in the 1970s and 1980s, ditched the ivory tower approach to leadership. He preferred to take feedback not from advisors or yes men, but from everyday New Yorkers.

On the subway, on the sidewalk or in line for a bagel, he was known to ask, “How am I doin’?” When you ask for open feedback, you get it. Same goes with your event.

Via your event app, continually (but not invasively) ask for attendee feedback on how their experience was: which speakers were good, which events resonated with them and more.

And more than what your participants are saying, keep tabs on where they’re spending time, which sessions are more popular and what the results are from interactive elements of your event app. This keeps your event nimble and adaptable, during and after your event.

“Real-time data allows you to make changes to your event,” said Scott Lockey, Managing Director of Strategic Partners of QuickMobile Inc. “After the event, you can really dig in further to understand the event… Most people are saying to their client, ‘Here's your analytics,’ but not adding that insight into what that actually means.”

An expert event solutions partner can understand the success of your program and best guide you on event design. Having an expert event solution partner at the helm can give your event the boost it needs to thrive now—and in the future.

Want to know how to create an incredible, immersive event? We’ll show you.

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson has over 20 years of diverse experience in event management, incentive travel and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Strategy Advisor at ITA Group. Focused on continuous improvement and challenging standards, she consults clients and team members with impactful strategies and innovative ideas that deliver successful business outcomes. She is a Certified Engagement Practitioner, and certified through Pragmatic Marketing.