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4 Surefire Ways to Measure Audience Engagement at Live Events

In this post, we’ll show you how to measure audience engagement using four very different tactics that any planner or event marketer can employ.

Event planning isn’t easy. In fact, it takes our all sometimes: energy, time, effort, ideas, management, and even some sweat and tears. So when it’s all said and done, it’s only natural to that planners want to make sure that all of those efforts are validated. The best way to do that? Measuring audience engagement. In fact, when we ask event planners what they value the most during or after an event, it’s one of the answers that come up the most. But at the end of the day, it’s also tricky to measure in a tangible way.

Why Make the Effort to Measure Audience Engagement?

If attendees are enjoying an event, they’re not only engaged, they want to participate. And that engagement and participation doesn’t just mean a successful event — it means more word of mouth, more repeat attendance, and more return on planning and marketing efforts. Engaged attendees want to get involved, share images from the event, recommend it to their friends, and attend all over again.

And while you can always qualify audience engagement at live events with your gut, it’s a whole lot more effective to quantify it using hard data. Plus, when you know where to look, you can find the numbers you need around every corner — your attendee list, web analytics, social media, and many other places. Just combine them with some savvy methods of analysis and you’ll have an accurate, insightful idea of how engaged the audience is at any live event.

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Brand Awareness

Brand awareness shows how much of a lasting impact an event leaves on the audience, as well as the type of perception that they’ll carry forward in regards to your brand.

How to Measure Brand Awareness

While brand awareness is somewhat intangible and can’t always be measured with 100% accuracy, you can get a pretty good idea if it’s growing (and how fast) by following some numbers.

Start by benchmarking metrics around organic traffic and direct web page visitors. Compare this data to the number of visitors for the period after the event. This gives a pretty good idea of how far the word about an event is spreading. Plus, the numbers indicate how many people have a deep enough interest in a brand as a result of the event to have looked it up, hit the follow button, or visited a brand’s website directly.

By using Google Analytics to monitor traffic to your website, you can track specific metrics that illustrate the growth in awareness with real numbers.

measuring audience engagement with a view of google analytics data for a webpage
  1. Unique pageviews – Track unique pageviews for the period after the event to a specific page (usually your homepage) for an idea of lift.
  2. Serial Content – Create serial content like blog posts about the event or topics from the event, and send them out to your attendee base. Then, track metrics like unique page views, time on page, and bounce rate on those pieces to get an idea of how people are engaging with your content.
  3. Backlinks – Track links back to your site both before and after the event using a tool like Google Search Console or Moz. The more links you have from other sites and blogs, the more it shows that other players consider you an authority in the space.

Pro tip: Always examine the referral links you’re getting and which pages people are linking to. This gives you a good idea of the type of content that gets picked up externally, wins you more traffic, and can help build awareness before the next event.

Social Media Engagement

Great event experiences drive people to share on social media. In fact, when it comes to sharing:

  • About 34% of attendees say they would post about an experience.
  • 33% of attendees will take photos or videos during an event.
  • 71% share their experience with family and peers.
30 Social Media Tips to Drive Engagement

How to Track Engagement on Social Media

Before you carry out your efforts on social media, it’s important to make a plan. By identifying the KPIs (key performance indicators) up front, it will help you tailor your content to get the results you wish to achieve.

  1. Hashtag It – Create and promote an official hashtag for your event so you can easily track the level of conversation across social channels. Make it short, catchy, unique, and easy to remember — then use it, monitor it, and engage with those who are using it to tag their own posts. (Remember: If you’re having an annual event, add a year to your hashtag so you can easily separate data from prior events.)
  2. Communicate & Track – A brand’s social media accounts are one of the first things an attendee visits when they develop a deeper interest. Make your social media handles and links easy to access. Print them on tickets, passes, and banners, and do the same with hashtags. Track followers, comments, likes, and mentions before, during, and after the event to get an idea of engagement levels and brand awareness.
  3. Instagram – Make your event Instagram worthy! Think about the visual setting, the details, the entrance, the time before and after a keynote. Make your attendees want to share their time at your event. Audience engagement is not something that appears by magic and the same goes for social media shares. It all starts by designing your event as an experience that attendees can’t help but share. You can even encourage your attendees to share by adding a live social media feed to your venue using a tool like LiveWall.

Pro tip – You’ll need a way how to keep the track of engagement across social media channels. To set up an alert for your hashtag or keyword, you can use social media tools like Brand24, Hootsuite, or Buffer. If something sticks, make sure to put more emphasis on it in your marketing!

Audience Participation

Think about how you react when you’re stimulated by a conversation or experience: You want to interact, connect, and talk. If your audience is stimulated and involved they’ll join the discussion, ask questions, and share their thoughts in the same way. It’s one of the main differences between a good and a great event.

How to create and measure audience participation

  1. Live Polling – Use live polling features to generate more engagement and give them a chance to impact the event in real time. Events like Open 2017 even use live polling to give attendees control over the agenda. By doing so, they make sure that the next piece of the program is exactly the piece that attendees want to experience.
  2. Throwable Mic – Boost your audience participation with a nifty gadget like Catchbox. It’s a soft wireless microphone that’s designed to be thrown around — no more walking through rows or awkward mic passing. It also breaks the ice, lightens the mood, livens up the discussion, and makes your event more memorable. Plus, it keeps track of everything, including the questions that get asked.
  3. Gamification – Incorporate elements of gamification to turn content delivery into an engaging learning experience that leverages the human proclivity for friendly competition. For example, at Xperience 17 the software company YourMembership created Harry Potter inspired gamification elements to get attendees more involved. They could earn points by checking into sessions, visiting various booths, sharing photos, and more.

Pro tip: Make sure to add breakout sessions to your event that give attendees a chance to let loose and let their minds wander. MPI’s European Meetings & Events Conference did a great job of this by adding “snowball fights” to the agenda. They provided paper and pens and asked attendees to reflect on a topic. Once they were done writing, attendees balled up the paper, engaged in a snowball fight, and paired up with whoever picked up their snowball.

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Attendee Feedback

Who to better tell their experience than your attendees? While surveying might seem archaic in a digital age of big data, it’s still one of the best ways to get feedback about your event. Don’t take it for granted! Use every little thing they have to say about your event.

How to Field Attendee Feedback

  1. Creating the Survey – It’s as easy as just asking… sort of. The hard part is making sure that you’re asking the right questions. Incorporating a solid mix of open-ended questions and rating-based questions can help you make sure that you get unique feedback while still fielding results that are more quantitative and easier to track.
  2. Delivering the survey – Email the survey out soon after the event, while it’s still fresh in people’s minds. For smaller events, using a marketing automation platform like MailChimp can make life a lot easier.

Pro tip: To get as many responses as possible, consider offering a prize to some of the survey participants, like free attendance at next year’s event. Make sure that the survey is simple and straightforward so as not to discourage people from answering.]

Time to Engage

If you observe, structure, gather, analyze and compare the right data you have, you can get an accurate idea of how engaged your audience is. Even more importantly, you can find areas for improvement. No matter how engaged your audience is already, you can always make the event better. Build it and they will engage.

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