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Maximising Event Engagement from Start to Finish

This is a guest post from Jordan McArthur, Guidebook’s Content Marketing Manager.  You can follow Guidebook (@Guidebook) and Jordan (@Jordanmca) on Twitter.

Who cares about event engagement?

Much has been made about “event engagement” in the last several years – to the point that the term may be losing meaning amongst event professionals. The concept might even seem like a no-brainer for most. Of course we want our attendees to be engaged – that’s the whole point of having an event in the first place!

The truth is that the words “event engagement” have been on everyone’s lips recently because of shifting perspectives in the industry and an ability to connect with our attendees in unprecedented ways thanks to the use of mobile technology. More than ever, event attendees are looking to belong to a community that extends beyond the few days of a conference – and they’re turning to the organisers to provide that experience.

Providing comprehensive event engagement doesn’t have to include an overwhelming amount of resources, however. All it takes is an adjustment in planning and some smart use of the tech tools available to us.  Here’s our guide to create a fully engaging event experience.

Develop a Marketing Plan

How can you extend the life of your event beyond the event itself? It starts with your marketing plan. Attendees who feel engaged before the event ever begins are more likely to stay with you for the duration and become the oft-coveted return attendees. The three elements of any great marketing plan are:

1. Channels

Before you begin, make sure that you identify where to communicate with your audience. They may or may not be a Twitter crowd. If they are – great! – consider some targeted ads on that channel. If not, don’t stress with the tweets. Find something else that works.

The important thing is that your communications – no matter the format – give you a clear conversation path, an unexpected angle and the ability to amplify and spread.

2. Assets

Now that you know where you’re engaging your community, it’s time to think about what is going to spark their interest. Is it footage from last year’s event? A really great keynote speaker? The announcement of the session schedule? Find a hook. Hook them right, and they’ll be with you all the way.

3. Timeline

Here’s where the plan part comes in. Think of a timeline for your initial engagement that will lead right up to the start of your event. You’ll want to include a save the date, an early bird sale and a last-minute incentive. The most important aspect, however, is including efforts that foster a sense of excitement and urgency around your event.

Use Event Tools to Your Advantage

It’s a great time to be an event planner. There are more tools than ever to help run engaging and data-driven events. The trick is narrowing them down and then making the most of them.

Check out Eventbrite’s 102 Great Event Marketing Tools!

Curate Your Social Shares

During your event, your attendees have the ability to produce a large amount of content for you. So put them to work! There are a million ways to encourage social sharing, but the most important step you can take is having a well-established event hashtag. A hashtag will automatically curate your content no matter what the channel is. After you establish your hashtag, you can have fun with photo sharing in your event app, gamification and giveaways.

Pay Attention to Data

The best thing about your event tools is that they’re constantly giving you useful data. Tally up tweets to learn what attendees are enjoying the most (or learn quickly when something goes wrong), measure the quality of sessions with your event app, adjust your communication strategy on the fly with email marketing and learn more about who your audience is with your registration platform.

Make Your Sponsors Happy

With all these cool tech toys, you’re also holding in your hands some powerful promotional tools. You can expand your sponsorship packages with scheduled social media posts, prime placement in your app or even a branded wireless network!

Finish Strong With a Survey

Surveys are a huge part of the engagement equation. This is your chance to speak directly with each and every one of your attendees about their experience. And the secret to attendee loyalty is a good faith effort to get better year after year. Make sure, however, that you’re using surveys effectively.

Immediate Feedback

You’ll learn different things about your event if you ask for feedback in the moment. How else will you learn that a room is too cold or that your attendees had a hard time finding the location? Lots of events have successfully baked session-specific feedback into their engagement strategies by including a survey for each session in their event app. All it takes is a short and sweet survey and the presenter reminding people to complete it.

Reflective Feedback

After the conference is a great time to follow up with a survey that focuses on some more of the reflective questions you have for your event attendees. Here’s where you should be including detailed feedback requests and free response questions. What were the event takeaways? Could information have been presented in a clearer way? After your attendees have had a chance to “digest” they’ll be ready to help you improve – especially if you’ve done a good job of engaging them up until this point!

Sending out a post-event survey is also just a great excuse to extend your event’s conversation beyond the conference center. It’s nice to have a real reason to connect with your attendees soon after they’ve made it home and all the great information from your event is still swimming around in their heads.

Check out Eventbrite’s 8-Step Guide To Winning Repeat Attendees

Keep Them Coming Back

If we begin to think of engagement as a strategy that starts well before your event ever does, it will help to foster a community that is excited about your content and keep them coming back year after year. Focus on engagement and you’ll have a growing event that is providing true value to its attendees.

For more information on planning every aspect of your event, check out Guidebook’s comprehensive conference planning guide.

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