3D illustration of speaker engaging with audience during event presentation on stage

15 Audience Engagement Strategies That Actually Work

Audience engagement plays a significant role in the success of any event. Whether in-person or online, event organizers want attendees to pay attention and participate. In fact, more than 80% of marketing professionals believe that audience engagement is a key indicator of an event’s success. Expert event planners and organizers understand that choosing the right audience engagement strategies can make or break an event. 

In this post, we look at various audience engagement strategies for event planners, organizers, and industry professionals that actually work. Whether you’re a new planner working on your first event or a seasoned professional looking for the latest tips, this list can help.

Boost enthusiasm at your next event with these 15 audience engagement strategies

1. Understand your audience.

Surprise, surprise: Getting to know event attendees is one of the most helpful audience engagement strategies event organizers can utilize. Having a thorough understanding of your audience — who they are and what they care about — can help event planners anticipate audience needs and create an event catered to their interests. By doing so, you’ll help ensure that attendees are excited about the event’s content, which can lead to increased engagement.

To better understand your audience, use event planning software that tracks attendee behavior trends and visitor activity on event websites. Identify the types of content that visitors engage with and incorporate those same content types into event presentations. In addition, knowing which company attendees are representing, what the company does, and the attendees’ position can help event organizers and presenters alike connect with members of their audience.

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2. Determine which metrics you will use to measure engagement. 

Before an event, determine which audience engagement strategies you’ll employ and which metrics you’ll use to measure success. Put the proper measurement protocols and procedures in place ahead of time to accurately track audience engagement throughout the event. 

There are a variety of KPIs event planners can use to measure audience engagement before, during, and after an event. These include:

  • Live participation. Pay attention to how the audience is responding in real-time at in-person events. Look for reactions, note interesting discussions, and track participation levels during various activities to determine which sessions attendees found most engaging. Planners can also use live chats or polling to measure engagement at in-person, virtual, or hybrid events. 
  • Audience retention. Track retention levels to see how many audience members attend virtual and hybrid events. Retention measures how long individuals are viewing your content or are active in your virtual event room. If you notice a gradual decline during your event, audience members likely became less engaged over time. A sudden decline in audience retention could indicate that attendees disliked event content. 
  • Download rates. Offer free and relevant downloads to registrants prior to your event. Track download rates prior to in-person events to measure pre-event enthusiasm or during virtual events to measure real-time audience engagement.
  • Ratings and reviews. How satisfied were attendees with your event? Send a short survey with post-event evaluation questions to find out. Ask attendees which parts of the event were the most (and least) engaging, and what they’d like to see next time. 

3. Incorporate the use of a mobile event app. 

Beneficial for both event planners and audience members, mobile apps can be used to streamline communication, provide valuable insights, and promote event engagement. Choose a mobile event app that allows organizers to easily communicate with event attendees quickly. Upload the agenda for the event, a map of the layout, detailed information for each session, and encourage audience members to use the app during your event. Invite attendees to opt-in for push notifications to receive agenda updates, session reminders, parking alerts, or other pertinent information. 

4. Encourage attendees to “choose their own adventure!”

Customizable session paths give your audience the choice to attend the sessions they’re interested in and skip the one’s they’re not. This event style can also help promote engagement by encouraging participants to choose event sessions and topics they’re passionate about and eliminating the fear of missing out on back-to-back events. 

Additionally, make navigating from session to session easy for attendees. Working with an app or customizable agenda templates, provide each attendee with a detailed layout of their personalized schedule. Provide virtual and hybrid attendees with detailed and easy-to-follow event information that includes individual session links, login credentials, and fast access to technical support. 

5. Choose the right speakers. 

Pacing, enunciation, tone, and cadence are just as important as substance, so look for confident and experienced speakers and presenters. Find a keynote speaker who is enthusiastic, charismatic, and credible. They should be viewed as reliable experts on the topic of discussion and should excel when interacting with a crowd.

6. Open with an icebreaker. 

Kick-off your event with an icebreaker to ease tension, promote engagement, and energize your audience. Explore games, challenges, or discussion prompts, and choose an event icebreaker that members of your audience are likely to enjoy.

7. Invite skilled moderators to participate. 

Bring in expert moderators who understand what your event is trying to achieve. Moderators facilitate attendee participation, encourage audience engagement, and can have a significant impact on the tone of your event. Involve moderators at the beginning of your event to help shape the format, flow, and audience energy. 

8. Create a thoughtful event design. 

Put thought into your event design and think about how the layout could impact interaction between audience members and presenters. Avoid cutting the audience off from speakers by limiting walking paths, overbooking your space, or making it difficult for attendees to move around. 

Try seating audience members in a way that encourages attendee-to-attendee interaction, such as in crescent rounds allowing them to converse or by setting up a separate area of breakout pods for intimate discussions. Smaller events may benefit from hollow-square or U-shaped style seating, as these setups promote discussion and engagement. 

RELATED: 8 Must-Know Types of Seating Arrangement for Events

9. Study the event layout.

If you’re not in charge of planning or executing an event’s setup, study the floorplan ahead of time. Will speakers be able to weave through the audience, engaging with individuals as they pass? Or, will they be limited to the space available onstage? If movement is limited, presenters may want to incorporate additional engagement tools into their event plans.

10. Incorporate interactive event technology.

Advances in digital event technology have event planners switching up their audience engagement strategies. Create an interactive presentation that will wow your audience and stimulate engagement using innovative digital tools. 

Event planners can use touchscreen menus, digital kiosks, and even video wall displays to engage with their audience. A few ideas include:

  • Install digital touchscreens that attendees can interact with throughout the event venue. Use touchscreen menus to display real-time polling results or event session schedules.
  • Speed up the check-in process and boost attendee satisfaction levels with digital kiosks. Use digital kiosks to mitigate long lines, entertain attendees during breaks, or guide guests with an interactive map of the venue.
  • Display a PowerPoint presentation on a large interactive monitor or digital video wall. Feature detailed graphics, charts, reporting, or live-polling results to make other detailed information more accessible to audience members. 

11. Offer swag or special perks to attendees. 

Show event attendees your appreciation with event swag, digital coupons, and other perks. Surprise audience members with freebies as they arrive to build up energy and enthusiasm for kick-off. Include pop-in perks like a tee-shirt cannon, which can be used to amp the crowd up if engagement levels drop. 

Perks can also be used to promote engagement before or after an event. For example, generate buzz for larger events by offering VIP seating, free raffle entry, or other exclusive rewards to the first 100 attendees. Or, offer free or reduced admission to your next event to build your repeat customer base and improve attendee satisfaction. 

12. Utilize live-polling technology. 

2022 Markletic reporting shows that 81.8% of virtual event planners use live-polling to improve their audience’s engagement levels. By including live opinion polls, event organizers can connect audience members to the material being discussed. Ask attendees to rank ideas, opinions, or answer questions. Display live-polling results to the audience to promote discussion and help audience members discover how they connect with one another. 

In addition to boosting live audience engagement, polling is a helpful tool for measuring real-time attendee engagement during virtual events. Incorporating real-time virtual polling can help keep online retention rates high, as attendees may feel as if their participation is being tracked. 

13. Livestream events on social media. 

Stream your event live on social media and invite members of your online audience to join. Research shows that 80% of consumers would rather encounter product information through video content than a blog, so use your event as an opportunity to widen your audience reach and drive engagement. Instead of simply viewing the live event, allow attendees to share content and participate in the event in real-time. 

14. Pay attention to your surroundings. 

Stay present during the event so you’re aware of what’s working and what’s not. Having situational awareness allows speakers, presenters, and event organizers to evaluate engagement levels and make adjustments as needed. By changing the tone, pacing, or energy of an event, presenters and speakers can recapture the attention of a distant audience. 

15.  Include a networking session in your event agenda. 

According to reporting from Apollo Technical, around 41% of professionals would like to attend networking events more frequently. Invite experts, leaders, and innovators to attend a networking session at the end of your event. Whip up attendee engagement and stimulate audience members with the promise of an inspirational post-event networking session. 

Bookmark this list of audience engagement strategies!

Save this list for easy access and reference it whenever you’re in need of audience engagement strategies. With tools, tips, and motivational tricks at your disposal, your next event will be set up to be engaging and successful.

In the next post, we discuss marketing styles and techniques that planners can use to improve their event marketing strategy. Join us as we review amazing event marketing examples and explore what makes them so great.