Tools and tactics to create more emotional engagement and encourage greater overall participation and higher stakeholder satisfaction
Business events these days are shifting. Attendees no longer want the same old snooze fest they’ve attended in past years. With technology changing and new generations taking over, one must keep their events interesting and flexible, allowing for attendees to connect with the event and enjoy their overall experience.
There is no one-size-fits-all anymore. With four generations in the workforce, our events must accommodate all backgrounds and learning styles in order for attendees to stay engaged, encourage participation, and ultimately lead to stakeholder satisfaction. Understand your audience and know that different formats work for different people. So when you are planning your next conference or event session, think out-side the box and get creative.
Venue and location
In order to inspire a creative event, we should start with the event location. Selecting the right venue is crucial in order to influence your audience and spark the emotion you want them to experience. Do you want attendees to concentrate and stay focused on the message? Or do you want them to get creative for brainstorming? Different venues will cause different emotions in attendees.
- Try selecting venues with outdoor spaces, lots of natural light and/or large windows. These are sure to keep attendees awake and let their creative juices flowing, while helping them retain more information.
- A unique venue may inspire and excite attendees before they even walk in the door. Anything that is out of the norm will be sure to create a buzz.
- Look for flexible event spaces that can change constantly as your agenda develops. Venues with multiple split walls, unique seating arrangements, and spaces that can be used in more than one way will help you in creating an environment that is versatile and that will appeal to different audiences.
Ambiance and seating
Make attendees feel comfortable. Understand your audience and create and environment they are familiar with, while still sparking a shift in their thought process.
- Rather than using standard seating arrangements, focus on the objective of the session and rearrange accordingly. For example, round seating plans make for a cozier and intimate feel, putting the focus on a conversation rather than a talking head.
- Try adding a variety of seating options. Include a mixture of regular chairs and round tables, high tops and stools, or more soft seating near the front. This way you can appeal to a variety of audiences and make them open up for collaboration.
- Add some colour and foliage. Décor during a general session is uncommon. However, by adding a few bright linens, some lighting or nice flowers, you create certain emotions in attendees and allow them to feel comfortable in the space and remain engaged.
- Put the beat on! Music can create so many emotions in people, and a conference environment should be no different. Do you want attendees to wake up? Then upbeat music upon entering and throughout may just do the trick.
- How about a standing session? Standing meetings are gaining popularity, and as they say, “Sitting is the new smoking.” If you really want to throw your attendees for a loop, keep them standing, but make sure the sessions are quick and interactive.
Technology is ever changing, and although we do not want it to take away from real conversations, we can use it to enhance them.
- An event app is always great to spark discussion during a session. You can do a team challenge with an intro quiz to get the table talking and working together. A ‘submit a question’ feature on the app is also great, especially for those who dread speaking in public.
- Gamification is on the rise. Create an app that can pose different challenges, questions, and puzzles that attendees can do throughout your session or event. They can collect points and win challenges. Also, gamification is a great way to bring your stakeholders to the forefront with lots of branding, sponsorship and engagement options.
- Boring presentations no more! There are several new presentation tools and formats out there such as Prezi that speakers can use. Break away from the overloaded PowerPoint and encourage speakers to minimize their content, try new visuals such as videos or charts, and introduce smart boards.
Meeting format and content
Long gone are the days where attendees look forward to attending a meeting and watch a talking head. These days, attendees want in on the action. They want to participate, engage and collaborate. Switch up the meeting format and surprise people.
- The health craze is on the rise. Why not start your session with a meditation class or physical warm-up to set the mood and create good energy? Or perhaps you can do it during break? Get the heart pumping to keep attendees awake and connected.
- Limit the timing of your presentations. It has been proven that we have a short attention span, so 20-30 minute TED-Style talks are much more effective, as they deliver the message concisely and in a way that guests will remember.
- Why not ask attendees to place their topics of interest on a wall of post-its, or a chalk wall? Then gather them all and discuss the most popular ones. Adults learn by doing, so provide them with the opportunity to collaborate and make them part of your session.
- Unconference. In this style session that is gaining popularity, the audience leads the discussion and topics, and participants learn from each other instead of a single speaker or panel.
- Break it up. Large general sessions are harder for engagement. Break them into smaller groups to make them feel comfortable.
- Play. Provide attendees with different activity stations; whether it’s a writing wall, doing a charitable activity, or practicing some sort of team building. When guests have fun, it creates positive emotions and shoots up engagement levels. Because of this, they will remember and share their experiences.
It is our job as meeting professionals to create an environment that is conducive to collaboration and engagement from participants. When attendees are emotionally invested in the event, you see higher levels or participation and takeaways. Through this, stakeholders are able to see the benefits of creative formats and how they can positively affect the bottom line.