Why Event Professionals Need to Focus on Real-Time Engagement to Survive
Picture the scene: you have a packed auditorium of 200 delegates. Your keynote speaker has just delivered an information-packed talk on *insert latest trend*. Now it’s time for the Q&A session, and around 10 or so hands have shot up. As the microphone is passed around, a few more hands go up while questions are being asked and answered.
Of course, some of the questions are not really questions and last forever. Others are relatively obvious, or they ask something that’s already been covered (perhaps they got distracted during the speech). By the end of the session, most people who put their hands up have asked their questions. If you’re lucky, maybe all of them.
Success!… Or is it?
Q&As are seen as a great way to gauge engagement with your audience. It makes your speakers more approachable. The audience gets a chance to ask their questions. And questions must mean your keynote topic was exactly what they wanted, so you decide to do more of the same next year.
The issue with Q&As is that they operate on a first-come-first-served basis, and the vast majority of your audience will be passive. This means that you have a silent majority who either didn’t feel they could speak up or – worse still – didn’t feel engaged enough with the topic to ask a question. Of course, a delegate who isn’t engaged isn’t very likely to attend one of your conferences again.
With the plethora of high quality events and conferences available, retaining delegates and getting recommended for your future conferences is instrumental to an event’s future sustainability. After all, the cost of acquisition for a first-time delegate is more expensive than someone already on your mailing list or who has been referred.
But this means you need to ensure that you understand what your audience really wants, segment them according to behaviours and deliver event topics that meet their needs. What content are engaging positively with? What content didn’t resonate? Is there a marked difference according to country, seniority, department, gender, or other demographic breakdown? Many event organisers have a post-event feedback survey, but you run into the issue of having only those who were most engaged (or most unsatisfied) respond.
This is why it’s so important to be gathering all of these insights and boost real-time engagement using technology – for example, by making Q&As more inclusive by encouraging delegates to ask questions or note feedback throughout the event using a platform like Wisembly. In fact, EventMB’s 2016 Trend Report found that: “planners who have been consistently and gradually adopting technology and digital communications through the past 10 years have been able to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.”
So while introducing technology during events is sometimes seen as a nice-to-have, it has proven to have a huge impact on boosting engagement and gaining audience insights. And for event professionals, collecting this data and delivering on those insights will soon become the only way to survive.