Engaging your attendees prior to the event is the best way to ensure participants will be excited during the show and even afterward. Encouraging participation before the event sets the stage for high levels of engagement because your audience will already be invested in your content, competitions, and the conference in general. The key to using social media and event games for pre-conference engagement is having a plan or strategy in place that includes a timeline, tactics and an understanding of how everything works together for ultimate success.
Choosing the right channels
Selecting the best social media channels to promote your event is easy – and critical. Start by taking a close look at your existing audience and determine what channels, groups or hashtags are being used. When you understand where your audience lives and talks, developing your messaging strategy becomes much easier.
Your event needs a hashtag if you intend to promote it on social media properly. Your hashtag should be short, brand-relevant, memorable, and consistent across all channels. Be sure to include it in all social media biographies and your staff email signatures.
Building a community
Starting early, asking questions, and sparking conversations is a great way to start building your online community. Understanding how your audience interacts with you – and one another – will help you craft language and visuals that your attendees relate to and enjoy.
The time for advocacy is now. Leverage advocates, otherwise known as event cheerleaders, from last year’s conference to join in and contribute to the conversation. Enlist sponsors, key stakeholders, speakers, industry influencers, and staff to engage. Provide your advocates with suggested content to post, creating less work for your influential friends.
Get your audience involved in this year’s event by sharing content from last year – especially testimonial videos or sharing quotes. Posting ‘behind the scenes’ content like photos or a video is a great idea to lend a sense of exclusivity to your future attendees. If you have high profile speakers, celebrities or guests of honour attending, ask to use their image and potentially get a quote from them, and use their influence to reach a wider audience. You could also start a social media challenge or competition for the best pre-conference photo. If you have any other media or promotional efforts working in tandem with your social media efforts, be sure to incorporate your hashtag or push your social channels there too.
Timing is everything
Kicking off your conference game well in advance of the event gives you the opportunity to get attendees excited about sessions, activities, speakers, sponsors, vendors, or pretty much anything you want to focus on during the show. Not only are participants excited about being awarded points for completing challenges, but they have the opportunity to connect with one another through friendly rivalries and ignite conversations with key stakeholders prior to being onsite.
Advocacy for the win!
Again, advocates are your best ally in the battle for engagement. A creative solution to get attendees involved comes back to the basic concept of storytelling. Every good game has a great story, and every great story has an exceptional villain or antagonist. The aim for an event game is to make your entire audience feel like the protagonist, which can be accomplished by giving them something or someone to defeat, which could be a staff member or dedicated advocate.