The event industry is evolving quickly to match the pace at which new technology is penetrating the scene. According to Event Manager Blog (100 Event Statistics, 2020 Edition), 39% of event professionals agree that ‘engaging attendees’ is the most crucial element of a live event. On top of that, 73% of conferences and 50% of trade shows included a collaborative workshop within their agendas. And, given that 52.6% of event professionals are invested more in event tech than the previous year, it’s no surprise live events are in growing competition with each other for attention and attendance.
Look at everything from an attendee’s perspective. What do you see? If your sponsor exhibitor booths blend together, the agenda follows the exact format it always has, and the mainstage has the same tired execs each delivery, you are missing the mark.
So, how do you leave a lasting impression, one that won’t fade as soon as your attendees head back home? Here are six ways to make your next event unforgettable so they’ll keep coming back year after year.
Send personalized messaging to make attendees feel seen, heard, well-cared-for
Personalization is no longer an ambitious goal for modern businesses and events, it’s expected.
Attendees expect that you will leverage technology and tools to anticipate their needs. They expect you to help them along their way to your event, support them during your event, and keep them engaged after they leave your event. They need you to make it easy for them, but that does not mean it has to be difficult for you.
As more emphasis around personalization and customized messaging surfaces in modern marketing, new and more powerful tools to drive the efforts are built and launched into the event landscape. Today, there are countless solutions out there that can help you use the data you already collect (during the registration process, for example) to create personalized and targeted messaging to your attendees.
Book speakers that inspire attendees, challenge their thinking
In an ideal world, not all events are created equal. Your dream as an event organizer is to deliver an event people will remember in a positive light long after attendees have gone home.
When an event experience is so powerful that people are talking about it, reflecting on it, and sharing their thoughts around it, a few amazing things are likely to happen:
- Attendee engagement rates skyrocket.
- Overall attendee satisfaction increases.
- You look like a rock star to your leadership teams and get approved for a higher budget for an even bigger, better event.
Think about it: A bigger budget might give you clout enough to reel in those higher-demand influencers and thought leaders so you can scratch them off your speaker “bucket list.”
Organize demos that show attendees what’s possible
People don’t necessarily attend events to discover the latest products and solutions for their industry; they come for an unforgettable experience, a closer connection to business success, and to find out what’s possible for their teams back home.
Product demonstrations are increasingly celebrated as prime opportunities for brands to leverage experiential marketing at live events. Some of the most successful product demos still resonate with global audiences.
What can you learn from these brands? Consider ways you can apply these ideas to your events:
- Go for bold: showcase a well-known organization facing vulnerability and “save” them using a suite of new tools.
- Put your attendees in the story with live polls and surveys.
- Solve a local challenge to demonstrate global impact: show attendees in the metaphorical driver’s seat.
When you’re planning out who or what to feature onstage at your next event, take a cue from modern marketing— stories will help you curate the experiences attendees will love you for.
Create games to engage and delight your attendees
There is nothing quite like the rush of adrenaline you get from a bit of friendly competition against colleagues. It’s fun and it comes naturally to most people that drive to be and do better. The notion of making work fun doesn’t have to be difficult, either.
Games, simply put, are engagement activities for your attendees. Gamification, more specifically, is a tech-powered concept that allows you to inspire and entertain your attendees at-scale and incent them to participate in simple yet impactful activities: checking in and out of sessions, visiting sponsors, a scavenger hunt that challenges them to step out of their comfort zones and connect with someone or something new. These experiences:
- Play up your attendees’ competitive nature.
- Use incentives (awards, prizes) to drive desired behavior.
- Make results highly visible and easy to find.
For some jaw-dropping examples of events that delivered major WOW factor, take a look at Eventbrite’s list of 77 Event Ideas and Formats to Inspire Your Next Great Event.
Curate shareable moments, stories to help attendees remember
Let’s face it: the traditional informational booth with printed brochures isn’t enough to get and keep attendees’ attention. How can you get them to look up from their mobile devices long enough to even have an experience? If you know they will be glued to their iPhones for most of the time anyway, consider leveraging that to your advantage as an event planner:
- Establish and communicate your official event #hashtag.
- Use signage for contextual experiences, not just wayfinding.
- Incorporate selfie-ready backdrops into your venue decor.
Check out some of these top ideas from 2019 for planning something different and memorable for your next tradeshow or exhibition hall.
Share content to help attendees when they’re back to the grind
Depending on the culture and nature of your conference or event, there are myriad options for keeping the conversation alive post-event. One of the biggest challenges for an attendee is prioritizing sessions and activities to get the most value from their event experience.
Choosing between two equally compelling sessions that occur in the same time slot means they will invariably miss out on something. By sharing relevant content post-event, that speaks to challenges and solutions they face, you enable your attendees to get even more from their onsite experience:
- If your event seeks to educate attendees, consider sharing key takeaways and insights from track or breakout sessions.
- If it’s more of an event for networking and community-building, curate the most impactful anecdotes your attendees share and encourage them to keep in touch.
- If the culture of your event is sales, imagine how excited your attendees (and sponsors!) would be if you knew and shared the number of deals closed at your event.
This level of strategic end-to-end thinking about content and the attendee journey will propel engagement and have people wanting to come back to your event year after year.
You are the only one that knows what’s best for your event, but do remember to listen to your audience. Are attendees happy with the level of interaction and real-world scenarios featured at your event?
If they tell you the coffee was cold or it wasn’t strong enough, take that up with your caterer. But, if you’re looking to leave an impression that outlasts your conference or annual meeting, don’t be afraid to think big. Think bolder. If you consider the experience of your event a journey, take them on a ride they’ll remember. They will thank you for it, and so will your organization.
Author: Maggie Greene
Equal parts voracious reader and passionate writer, Maggie is an expert in communication principles and practices that help drive positive impact for business. As Marketing Manager for Pathable, Inc., she’s customer-obsessed, results-oriented, and dedicated to celebrating the value of highly customizable event app and web solutions for event planners across industries around the globe.