The success of an event includes many factors. One major aspect is the engagement among attendees. Where event profs hope to give event attendees a vibrant, appealing and informative session, it may come off more as an information dump for some. Smart Meetings spoke with several event experts whose main goal is to craft a personalized, engaging and educational experience.

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Make Your Attendees Feel Like Co-creators

For the most part, when event planners engage with attendees it is primarily after the event, in the form of surveys to see how attendees felt about the event. However, Naomi Clare, founder and CEO of Storycraft Lab, believes planners should be reaching out much earlier to the event’s kick off, at least six to eight weeks prior.

“We were able to identify that the audience was looking for a hands-on kind of workshop, quick sprint type of activities where they got to articulate what they had learned,” said Clare, “People are telling us what they want. If we introduce this into the program, then that’s a win-win. We’re giving people what they’re here for.”

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Clare also notes the importance of allowing attendees to feel like they had a part in the experience. “If you’re asking those questions ahead of time, people feel like they’re engaged as co-creators. If you can demonstrate that you’re listening to what they’re telling you they’re super psyched about it. They turn up and they’re fully engaged because they feel like they’ve had some involvement in the design of that event.”

Remote Flexibility and Autonomy

According to Greg Bogue, chief experience architect at Maritz Global Events, event professionals need to break from the traditional linear way of looking at event planning. “We force remote people into this linear experience when maybe that’s not the best thing,” Bogue offered, “[Attendees] desire flexibility. Don’t make me sit in front of a computer for four and a half hours.”

Bogue points that the hybrid experience has not allowed attendees a sense of autonomy in their meetings experience and that event planners should seek to find those key event moments that they want remote attendees to feel a part of that promote “Those emotional elements that really connect people and allow that connection to occur regardless of where you might be.”

Engage and Listen

Liz Lathan, co-founder of The Community Factory, advises meeting organizers to be more conscious of the small group blueprint when hosting larger events saying, “When you’re going to be a big mega conference and you have all your people in the room, maybe don’t make that room for all hundred thousand people.” Lathan suggests offering the small studio audience, for example. “Have other areas around the event where groups can hear and listen. If it gets livestreamed out to them so they can have conversation pods; areas where they want to talk about the keynote.”

Re-imagine the General Session

Knowing the audiences’ wants and needs gives meeting planners the chance to reconfigure the usual general session. “All of the information that we would have traditionally shared in a general session was shared pre-event in a nine-minute video,” Bogue said. “We focused on what people are really looking for, and that’s connecting, having rich conversations.”

More Space, More Engagement

Lathan believes that giving attendees more leeway with the day’s events will ultimately work out in everyone’s favor.

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“Give people more space, more white space,” Lathan said. “The engagement in the sessions will go up more when the people out of the sessions are bringing their own energy back up through conversation. The more they sit in a room the more the energy is going to lag.”

Human Invitation Is Vital to Engagement

Clare highlighted how important and effective it is to engage attendees when it is a human-to-human interaction. “Human invitation is very rare that you can just plunk something in the middle of the floor and without any facilitation people will volunteer. When you’re investing in making it interactive, you got to have humans there to actually say, ‘Hey come on this is a fun activity,’” Clare continued, “I’m a human face. It’s not just kind of printed on an 8 ½ by 11” stuck on a frame. The power of invitation, or participation is so important.”