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4 Drivers of Audience Engagement and Other Invaluable Tips

Three Perspectives On Audience Engagement

How are you managing communication and engagement with the four generations that are attending your events? How do you invite the spirit of co-creation? How do you get  adults with a 20 minute attention span to listen to a 60 minute presentation?

Those are a few of the questions that were tackled in the Tips to Maximize Audience Engagement Webinar organized by Best Events Magazine and IML Interactive. This interactive webinar brought together three different perspectives on audience engagement: Business Leader/Agency perspective, the technology perspective and the speaker perspective. Here were the speakers:

  • Fay Beauchine, President, Events & Engagement, Carlson Marketing Group
  • Ray Hansen, Director, IML Worldwide
  • Dan Rose, President, Omakase Group

I thought this webinar was packed with valuable content. Below you will find a summary of the Four Drivers of Audience Engagement and some other invaluable tips that I thought you could start implementing immediately.

Blue Man Audience Engagement

Driver of Engagement #1: Encourage a Great Experience

When it comes to creating experiences, events are experiential.  Fay recommends that you touch all 5 senses. Her company focuses a lot of its thinking on the emotions. She suggests that you do the same.

Equally important, Fay suggests that you make the experiences immersive AND don’t go halfway. As an example, Fay described an event where a technology company that wanted to encourage Eco-Responsibility and Global Citizenship. To make the experience complete, they distributed 2000 mobile phones that contained the agendas, conference guide, and messaging capabilities. This solution reduced the printed material by 75%. Attendees sent over 20,000 messages to each other.

Driver of Engagement #2: Encourage Participation

Carlson Marketing Group maximizes the application of technology to encourage participation. Using social technologies, they are expanding event experiences to 3-4 months in length and a maximum of 9 months. Also, by getting the attendees comfortable with engagement before the event – attendees are more comfortable with interacting onsite. Some of the tools that they are using include – webinars, surveys, videos, voting and mobile messaging.

When it comes to using technology Fay offered the following crucial advice:

  • You need to empower people to opt-in and opt-out of the technology
  • Focus the technology tools on content – make it central to the business so people use the tools.

Driver of Engagement #3: Target Communication

You need to explore communication and engagement strategies that are aligned against your audience demographics. Right now, there are four generations attending events. Each group wants to engage and communicate on their own terms. When you are designing your content – you need to ask yourself how will you communicate with this group? and how will you connect them? Here Fay had an excellent slide that laid out the differences in attitudes between each group. You need to consider how these different attitudes influence your event design.

Driver of Engagement #4: Provide Value

Providing value means making the event relevant to the audience and to the community at large. As programs trend smaller – make them passionate, honest and make it seem like a smart choice.  Amplify – yet simplify. As an example, Fay pointed out that team building exercises are still happening – but they are BBQs & chili cook-offs.

We have 20 Minute Minds in a 60 Minute World

In building a case for moving beyond bullet points, Ray Hansen used audience response technology to ask the audience two questions: how long is the average adult attention span? AND how long is your average conference session? The answer to the first question was 20 minutes and the answer to the 2nd question was 60 minutes. Then he asked a rhetorical question — if adults have an attention span of 20 minutes – why are we asking them to sit through 60 minute conference sessions?  Great Question – I thought this was an excellent application of ARS to help the audience arrive at the speaker’s point on their own.

Creating 60 Minute Minds

In order to expand the audience attention and retention during the session – Ray offered the following ARS tips:

  • Engage the audience with an ARS question at least once every 10 15-20 minutes.
  • Use discovery questions to learn about the audience and discover misconceptions at the beginning of the presentation.
  • Ask verification questions to manage attention and retention during the presentation.
  • Ask questions to make sure that participants get the key messages at the end of the presentation.

Building the Spirit of Co-Creation

Dan Rose took the speaker’s point of view. He suggested that the speaker can create a spirit of co-creation in the way that he/her engages the audience. Dan highlighted the following benefits of co-creation:

  1. Puts part of the investment in the final results and takeaways on the audience.
  2. Allows the speaker to create the presentation based on things common to the people in the room.
  3. Allows the audience to prioritize the order of the discussion.

Equally important, Dan suggested that leading the audience through an exercise and having them create some artifacts on their own helps them engage in the presentation. Also, he suggests ask the attendees to compare notes from their exercises before the speaker makes the main point.

Bottom Line

There are several ways to engage the audience, put your community into motion and move them from passive listeners to active participants.  Hopefully you found one or two new ideas in this post that you can implement in your next event.

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Photo Credit: Kaptain Kobald

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is the Managing Director of Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC. He wakes up every morning to save the world from stuffing attendees in chairs for hours on end at events. Oh, and he has small children who usually want some breakfast.