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

Before, During, and After: The Complete Guide to Event Engagement

Have you ever tried to teach a class, promote a discussion, or get people to join in on an activity only to be met with blank stares and an awkward silence? Expert planners know that event engagement is vital to an event’s initial success, as well as the success of potential future events. 

But what is event engagement? Better yet, why does it matter?

In this post, we’re providing tips, tricks, tools, resources, and expert advice to help you boost event engagement throughout the entire event process. From pre-event to post-event, we’ll explain why engagement matters and what you can do to make it better.

What is event engagement? 

Event engagement, also known as audience engagement, refers to an event’s ability to hold the attention of its audience as well as promote full participation from event attendees. Engaging events are captivating and compelling; they capture the attention of their audience from the start and hold on tight.

How can I tell if an event is engaging?           

There are a lot of different metrics planners can use to measure engagement, and a lot of it depends on the event setup. At an in-person lecture or conference, engaged attendees participate in discussions, interact with one another, and remain attentive throughout the event. Engaged audience members tend to ask questions and provide input. Participation and engagement can also be tracked by monitoring app activity, chat activity, live polling, and by tracking social media updates

Why does event engagement matter? 

Event engagement is an important component of every stage of the planning process. It could mean the difference between a popular sellout event or a no-show flop. Attendance, audience retention, and future event success are all influenced by levels of engagement. Essentially, the more engaging an event is, the higher the likelihood of attendee satisfaction and participation in similar events in the future.  

The three stages of event engagement

Event planners have three main areas of opportunity to engage with event attendees to ensure overall success: Before, during, and after an event. 

  • Pre-event engagement. This stage, like the other two, is a vital part of the event planning process. It’s during this stage that planners are working to create interest, or a buzz, around the event. Striving to engage regularly with potential attendees can help planners increase web traffic to event pages, spur conversations, and sell more tickets ” helping maximize event attendance and profit. 
  • Audience engagement during an event. This helps keep energy high and attendees interested. Successful event planners know that one of the most important parts of any event is the attendee experience. What better way to gauge how attendees view an event than to engage with them while the event takes place?
  • Post-event engagement. This stage plays a key role in event planning, forecasting, marketing strategy, and audience growth. Planners engage with attendees after events in the hopes of increasing loyalty, improving the lifetime value of each event attendee, and so on.

Strategies to boost pre-event engagement

Regularly engaging with audiences prior to an event is a crucial part of promoting event attendance and building excitement. Before the event, planners have the opportunity to build a relationship with their audience and create a deeper connection.   

Offering audiences a platform on which to socialize and learn prior to the event can create a better attended event, and an on-site experience attendees spend more time in, said Kristy Elisano, the VP of Marketing for Sparks Marketing.

  • Maximize event communications. Make it easy for attendees and potential attendees to communicate with the event planning team. Respond to questions on your social media accounts, send regular email reminders, and make it easy for attendees to sign up for updates. Allow attendees to sign up for SMS updates and reminders. In fact, 75% of consumers are open to receiving text updates from brands and events they opted-in for. 
  • Prepare for and market event registration. Outline the entire registration process in great detail. Planners should know exactly when registration will open, how long it will be open, and precisely how many tickets or spaces are available. Will you be running different registration promotions, such as an early bird registration period? If so, have a plan that details the length and limits of each promotion to make sure the registration process runs smoothly. 
  • Utilize social media. Seventy-four percent of event planners agree that social media is the most powerful marketing tool at their disposal. Create a Facebook event page, invite members of your target audience, tag companies with related content and promote engaging, interactive content on the event page. Share high-resolution video content on Instagram to provide event updates or showcase exclusive behind-the-scenes information. Make it easy for your audience members to register right from your social media accounts. 
  • Coordinate a countdown. Create a non-invasive social media countdown timer or email campaign that runs as the registration deadline approaches for the event. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a powerful consumer motivator. Create marketing content that outlines the powerful benefits that attendees will gain from the event.
  • Listen to your audience. Look for conversations on your Facebook event page, mobile apps, or in other places where audience members might chat with one another. What topics are they discussing? Are they asking questions about the event topic or specific event details?  Pay attention to their feedback to get a better understanding of your target audience and create more informed event marketing

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Strategies to improve engagement during an event

Kick off the event with high-energy entertainment or a group icebreaker depending on the size of your audience. Use mobile-friendly check-in software to keep track of attendees who have arrived. 

“Consumers are hungry to be engaged and involved in the overall event experience,” Elisano said. “They want to participate, and they are willing to try new things.”

Pay attention to the energy and participation level of the audience throughout the event. Incorporate a mix of activities and strategies to help maintain strong levels of engagement, especially if your event is fairly lengthy. 

  • Incorporate seating arrangements that promote engagement and person-to-person conversation. Making attendees sit alone can greatly influence the atmosphere of the event and the engagement levels of attendees. Encourage guests to get to know one another by choosing a seating arrangement type that promotes communication. Consider your audience before deciding if open or assigned seating is best for your event. 
  • Include participatory activities. Get your audience up and moving to help boost energy levels and alertness. Include challenges and encourage healthy competition with pop quizzes, team events, and games. Announce winners on social media and include event-related prizes for contest winners. Plan your setup needs in advance with free event diagram software for smooth activity transitions.
  • Measure engagement live in your event app or on social media. Keep track of analytics measuring activity, content updates, and other helpful real-time KPIs. Market event hashtags and promote online discussions prior to the event and keep an eye on drastic usage changes during the event. Ask attendees to participate in live polls, answer trivia questions, or vote on outcomes while you track overall attendee participation. 
  • Use a mobile app to communicate with event attendees. Send session and event reminders, registration deadline alerts, and communicate changes
  • Provide swag bags to your event attendees. Allow vendors and brand-related companies to set-up trade show-style booths where they are able to provide informational materials and give event attendees promotional items. Tech-savvy planners, or planners working with a mobile-loving audience, may opt to provide attendees with virtual event bags. Virtual swag bags allow attendees to take home digital coupons or promotional codes for free items, software trials, and other giveaways. 

Strategies to improve post-event engagement

Keep the communication loop open by following up with audience members after the event. There are a variety of different ways to stay in touch with attendees.

  • Send thank yous to all attendees after the event. A quick email or thank-you note from the event staff can leave a lasting impression by making attendees feel valued and appreciated. 
  • Request responses to a follow-up survey. Keep it short and simple, but ask valuable questions. Ask attendees what their favorite and least favorite parts of the event were, as well as what they would like to see included at similar events in the future. Use their post-event survey feedback to show your dedication to improvement and to make future events even better. 
  • Start a marketing campaign to promote the next event. Send an exclusive discount for your next event to recent attendees only. Show your appreciation for their participation, build brand loyalty, and start creating buzz for upcoming events all at the same time.
  • Send attendees a highlight reel of the event’s best moments. Have a member of the event team capture video of event highlights and take photos throughout. Consider creating an online photo album or Facebook Group specifically for attendees to discuss and share their experiences. 
  • Ask attendees to share their experiences on social media. Encourage feedback and the posting of event content and photos. Create a post-event hashtag for event attendees to use so that you can easily view and track their post-event engagement. 

Strategies to boost virtual event engagement

The popularity of virtual events has greatly increased over the last couple of years, and planners are adapting accordingly. If you’re one of many modern planners working to improve your virtual event engagement, we’ve outlined some helpful strategies.

  • Find the right software to accommodate your event. Will there be high-resolution live-streaming content? Will multiple video feeds display at once? Look for a virtual event software that provides the setup options you need to be successful: message boards, chat rooms, and drawing tools if needed. Cvent’s online event management software includes powerful planning tools that allow planners to manage their entire event in one location. 
  • Set the rules of engagement and explain them in detail prior to the start of the event. Explain software features like chat options, muting, and video streaming. Outline which sections of the event will be participatory. Let your audience know when they can ask questions and where they can find tech support if they encounter an issue. 
  • Take frequent breaks. Unfortunately, Zoom fatigue is a very real issue that many of us are facing these days. Provide attendees with ample breaks and set clear expectations for the duration of each break, as well as any instructions they may need to follow to put the meeting into break mode.
  • Schedule time for interactive activities such as small group discussions or team exercises. Mixing up session styles and including regular opportunities for attendees to express their thoughts can help them stay attentive and connected throughout the event.
  • Have reliable tech support at the ready. Ensure that attendees have contact information and instruction for tech support before the event begins. Allow attendees to access support through a variety of channels such as live chat and email. 
  • Track how long attendees are viewing the event or actively participating. Was there a specific point where you lost members of your audience? What do you think influenced the change? Use this information to tweak the setup, contents, or duration of future virtual events. 

Frequently asked questions about event engagement

How do you engage an audience? 

One of the easiest ways to engage an audience is to appeal to their passions or interests. Get them to listen. Tell a story or share an experience they can relate to. Provide them with information and content that is important to them.

What tools help improve event engagement? 

Mobile apps can be incredibly helpful for improving and measuring attendee engagement. Live polls and collaboration tools can help planners monitor and work with event staff to boost engagement levels when the event starts to lull.

How do you make an event engaging? 

Make your event engaging by giving audience members different things to do. Include surprises and unexpected events or do something truly unique. Help your attendees feel more involved by providing them with multiple opportunities to communicate and engage throughout the event.

How do you improve engagement in online meetings?

Be mindful of the length of virtual events. It’s not uncommon for modern workers to spend a significant portion of their work-life in Zoom conferences or on video calls. Break up longer virtual events with regular breaks. Give audience members plenty of opportunities to get up, stretch, make a call, or grab refreshments. 

How do you measure audience engagement?

Event planners can track audience engagement by monitoring the open-rate of event emails, tracking event hashtags, or with the assistance of a mobile event app. Track new and returning visitors. Monitor how long visitors stay on your event website or how many different pages they view while on your site. 

Event engagement made simple!

Remember, an engaging event is usually a successful event. Make use of the strategies above and continue to follow this blog to stay ahead of the curve and put the attendee experience first.

Up next, check out our guide on how to get sponsors for an event.