Events are not the same after COVID-19, and they will likely never be the same again. But everybody expects event planners to have the magic potion that makes it all work. We get it — it's grueling.
Over 12 months into the pandemic, you may still feel its effects, but with a straighter face. Months of learning how to adapt have transformed the industry, but there's still a lot to deal with.
How do you remain relevant? How will you navigate the intersection of digital and in-person events without failing to reach your goals? What is a good event engagement strategy in the new normal?
More importantly, 40% of your virtual meetings will experience technical disruption and cause audience fatigue. How will you keep them glued? We're here to help you discover the past, present, and future of event engagement and the strategies tied to it that will help you move forward.
What Is an Event Engagement Strategy?
The point of an event engagement strategy is to engage attendees so that your event strategy continues to thrive. It drives the conversations that develop between your attendees and your brand during and following an event. These conversations form the data you need to measure your ROI.
Without an event strategy, you have nothing to measure the outcome of the event against. It's like working on a guessing game, only that your clients soon find out and leave. A good engagement strategy will produce impressive ROI and increase client retention.
Games and brainstorming breaks during a speech, teaming up people in small groups to answer a question, live polls, keynotes — they all play a role in making any event interactive and memorable.
A Picture of the Past
Event engagement strategies before COVID-19 were woven around activities. After creating a buzz before the event using social media, event planners used activities to keep the event interactive.
Speakers would present information in short presentations before attendees could engage in dynamic Q&A and breakout sessions. There were in-person activities that would excite attendees, and sponsorships could team up with organizations to improve overall promotions.
Executive retreats had brainstorming breaks where industry leaders would discuss ways to solve issues in their spheres. There were mind maps, storyboards, idea chains, force fields, etc. to help the attendees enjoy the brainstorming session and come up with practical solutions.
Networking was much easier, and not just because you could hand out a business card, but in-person events actually promoted opportunities for thought leaders to meet and interact, sans social distancing. There was ample time to talk, exchange ideas, and make lasting connections.
Then March of 2020 happened. As you well know, this in-person engagement became non-existent in a matter of weeks as the corporate event world was turned on its head.
After the shutdown of our country and much of the world, the industry quickly shifted to virtual events to survive. A recurring struggle in the past year has been how to recreate those in-person engagement opportunities, something event teams are still working to solve.
Digital fatigue remains high among attendees, further stressing the importance of creating an engaging experience that prevents visitors from simply leaving a digital event with the click of a button.
We have discussed at length some of the best engagement strategies that have developed in the past year throughout our Digital Event Forecasts, and the exciting truth is that we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel — the return of in-person events in some capacity.
Although the switch to digital events was mandatory, it has come with some undeniable positive aspects that mark the future of event engagement strategy. Attendance is at an all-time high with 80% of organizers reporting an increase in attendee numbers. The catch is understanding which type of engagement suits digital events and which ones suit in-person events.
Your ability to incorporate digital elements into your in-person event or as a supplement to boost engagement and satisfaction will be crucial to your survival in the future. The better you handle it, the more demand you'll see for your events, making it easier to land sponsors and generate revenue. Check out how different engagement techniques apply in different scenarios.
Engagement Techniques for In-Person
The more you know your audience, the better you know about how to engage them.
- Product demos — These are a great engagement technique during in-person events. It gives you a chance to allow attendees to personally interact with products and build a relationship with attendees.
- Networking opportunities — In this case, networking goes beyond exchanging contacts to assessing personalities, reading body language, and actually connecting with industry leaders face-to-face.
- Sponsorship engagements — Just like interviews hold more weight when held in-person, so do sponsorship engagements. Attendees and sponsors are able to interact more naturally when the engagement is in-person.
Engagement Techniques for Digital
- Customer involvement and case studies — With these, you have the luxury of engaging prospects at any time on multiple platforms.
- Executive-level engagement and activities — Executives are busy. Even if they don't access your event in real-time, they can access it later on their own schedule. This is one of the biggest advantages of digital engagement strategies.
- Live polls — They turn the keynotes and speeches from monologues to a two-way conversation. Engaging through polls is even more memorable when you use thought-provoking questions.
Hybrid Engagement Techniques
- Curated content — Curating content adds value to audiences, makes them feel valued, and allows you to showcase your expertise. An attendee can choose activities and parts of an event they want to participate in. Your job is to customize the content based on which activities they choose.
- Q&A chats — Properly organized Q&A is successfully digitally and in person, allowing you to engage with audience members in both formats.
- Celebrity Appearance — Digital events created never-before-seen access to celebrities, and in-person performances and speeches are always some of the most anticipated activities of an event.
Master Your Event Engagement Strategy
The past year has forced event teams to be creative, think differently, and incorporate techniques never tried before to not just keep the industry afloat, but advance it more than any other year in the past.
Our team at Impact Point Group is ready to lend a strategic hand to your event planning and event engagement process. Download our free Digital Event Forecast or contact us today to master our event engagement strategy.