If you want to engage your guests, there are also other ways to do it than through event management apps. Many digital tools promise flawless and immediate attendee interaction and engagement, yet some 'traditional' strategies with a little twist can work better than you think.
One of these overlooked strategies is knowing how to 'pack' and deliver the content. It's a common mistake to think that assuring and providing high-quality content (presentations, round tables, discussions, etc.) for your event is enough. But you can invite a Nobel laureate who may give the most insightful speech and still miss a great engagement opportunity. Apart from that, if you ignore how to deliver this content, you'll run the risk of having sleepy and bored attendees.
As Donald Getz notes, "Common challenges include an over-emphasis on content, rather than delivery, and a one-way flow of information rather than creation of an interactive learning environment." In other words, if your intention is to boost attendee engagement during your event, you'll have to take some time to decide how you want to deliver the content. To help you with that, here's a list of tips that will help you mix it up and provide alternative ways to increase attendee interaction and manifest a higher level of engagement:
Tip 1. Let your attendees choose the topics
"It's not up to them what the speakers will talk about", you may be protesting. Why not? According to the Skift report What Millennials Want in Meetings, "Even though many Millennials are still developing their skill sets, they want to feel like their opinion is respected and they’re helping co-create meeting content and experiences."
You can offer your guests a 'content menu' and let them decide what topics they would like to discuss or listen during the keynote speech or the round table. Of course, the subjects must represent the general thematic.
If the event is about big data, you can’t encourage the attendees to pick between how to grow hydrangeas and how to bake the perfect cheesecake. The subjects need to reflect the event’s general topic (and, of course, subjects that speakers are familiar with and can talk about).
Set up a digital voting system for your guests. You can apply this dynamic before or at the beginning of the event (previously agreeing with the speakers to prepare all the talking points from which the attendees will choose).
Tip 2. Set a content guideline for the speakers
As eventplanner.tv founder and author Kevin Van der Straeten explains in his book EVENTS 2, "The speakers must be aware of the content of your programme. Discuss with them the objectives of your event and the profile of your target group. This will allow the speaker to assess the likely level of their prior knowledge about the subject, so that he can adjust his talk/speech accordingly. Ask if you can have a look at his drafts, so that you can suggest possible amendments, if necessary."
This way, you'll gain a certain degree of control over the content, knowing exactly what you to expect from your speakers. At the same time, agree upon the ways to engage the audience. Will the speaker initiate a dialog with the attendees? Will he or she run live polls or quizzes, or provide interesting games and exercises for the guests? Be sure you’re both on the same page.
Tip 3. Add live performance drawing to reinforce the content
Let’s admit it: sometimes, even if you spend countless hours preparing your speakers, you may end up with someone who’ll present a flat PowerPoint. You can’t do much about it; however, you can engage the services of a live drawing performer. Similar to whiteboard videos, which are famous for gaining and holding viewers' attention while engaging them at the same time, live drawings will help your attendees connect with the presentation concepts easier (while also enjoying the entertaining format).
Tip 4. Ask for reactions (not questions) from your guests
According to the professional public speaker Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, "Most Q&A sessions are mediocre experiences at best: an instantly forgettable interlude before the coffee break." One of the solutions he offers as a remedy against this dysfunctional format is to engage people by asking for reactions, not just questions. He encourages speakers to open the floor by saying, "What are your reactions to all this? Questions are great, but you are also welcome to just share an observation; it doesn’t have to be in the form of a question."
This way, attendees will have an open place to express their thoughts and initiate a collective reflection upon a subject. What better way to enhance engagement?
Tip 5. Engage your audience in a 'takeaways' session
Ask your event moderator to help initiate a dialogue with the audience at the end of the event. Instruct him or her to ask the attendees what insights resonated with them from the keynote speakers' presentations. Ask if they have any questions, as well as their key takeaways. This open conversation reinforces engagement and helps the audience gain a better understanding of what they learned from the event.
Call to action
When you're ready to plan your next event, set aside some time and think about new ways to engage people through content. Apart from setting up the event program, design the content framework, adding interactive elements. Let the attendees decide the topics. Create a content guideline for your speakers that will set the tone of the presentations and interaction with the audience.
Think about procuring a live drawing performer to visually explain the concepts. Encourage people to form their own opinion and thoughts about the content, instead of just asking questions. Finally, plan a “takeaways” session at the end of the event and let your attendees share the insights they gained.
These small steps will help you use your event content’s full potential to engage people and provide a truly interactive environment.