What’s Next: Forecasting the Future of Attendee Engagement

This is a sponsored post written by Madison Layman, Senior Associate, Content Marketing at Cvent. More information about Event Manager Blog’s sponsored posts.

With higher importance being put on the overall event experience, there has been a shift in what engages attendees and what attendee engagement really is. In this post, we discuss what the future looks like, and how event tech plays into engagement and the event experience with tips and takeaways for planners.

Meetings and events have come a long way. Not too long ago, it was par for the course to have one lecturer stand at the front of the room and speak for hours while attendees watched from rows of seats pointed at a stage. There was little interaction between the speaker and the attendees. Generally, the only interaction occurred in the final five minutes of a presentation, during the question and answer portion. But things have changed. Events aren’t events anymore – they’re experiences. It’s not about going to a cookie-cutter event, built for the masses, but about attending events that challenge your thinking, show you information in new ways, and excite you. And with the rise of social media, it’s not just about having an incredible experience – it’s about having an experience that incites FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).


What Creating an Experience Means for Planners

Planning events is getting harder. Planners have to think through the attendee experience from the first to the last touch and place focus on more than the onsite experience. The event begins the moment your future attendee hears about it and never really ends. Attendees are active participants in the experience. That’s why the key to a great event is attendee engagement. Engagement should be measured and tracked to understand the success of an event.


What is Attendee Engagement?

Engagement, or the act of capturing someone’s attention, is what meetings and events are all about. The emphasis on engagement is a recent trend in itself, ushered in by the rise of technology. Through tools like mobile event apps, attendee tracking, email marketing, and more, engagement is possible.

In recent years, attendee engagement has become synonymous with mobile event apps, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Engagement is about including attendees in the conversation. It’s about making them part of the experience. It isn’t enough to speak at them, they need to be included in the conversation.


Why Event Engagement is Important

A tuned-out attendee is an unengaged attendee. Your events are created with a purpose. Whether that purpose is to educate, excite, or inspire, attendee engagement is a key indicator of whether the event was or wasn’t a success. If an attendee doesn’t interact with your content, that means they didn’t respond to your message and the impact of the event is limited to that three-day conference. By engaging attendees, you create an impact that extends far past the confines of the actual event.


The Future of Attendee Engagement

Technology has and will continue, to facilitate engagement. It provides the tools needed to get attendees to interact with your information. In this post, we’ll get into how engagement will change. In the future, technology will allow you to create events that are increasingly more personalized. This personalization will engage attendees as individuals, while still creating a group experience. Content will change. While planners will curate event content, attendees will have more say – whether directly or indirectly – through attendee data. How content is delivered will look different. Classic lecture style will be a thing of the past. There will be a rise in digital event attendance. Social sharing will change collaboration and communication. Technology will continue to impact and improve attendee engagement in ways we can’t imagine.


Personalization at Every Stage

Personalization is about having the opportunity to get straight to the attendee. It’s about going past what’s commonplace to deliver an event that entices and influences, delights and captivates. It’s about creating an event that delivers real value to every attendee – even if their values are different.

When it comes to engagement, personalization is a must. Attendees want an experience that is all about them. More than that, personalization gives attendees only the information they need. It cuts out the clutter.

As technology has developed, personalization has become more accessible. What used to be impossible due to limited time and labor, is as easy as the click of a button. Personalization will only continue to evolve with event management technology and the ease of automation. Inserting an attendee’s name into a subject line is just the beginning.

  • Ideas for getting personal

    Targeted ads, individualized attendee schedules, and more are now possible to speak directly to your attendees and show them that you care about their needs and interests.


How Data Will Drive Personalization

Data, which exists in droves, will become more searchable, and therefore more usable. Even with the increasing regulations on data security, data won’t disappear. But what do you do with all of the data you have? It’s a challenge to know how to use all of the data captured on an attendee.

Personalization tends to be limited to first names inserted into subject lines, segmented emails, and targeted banner ads in an event’s mobile event app. That’s just the start. There’s power in sending only information that’s relevant to attendees. They engage with relevant information and don’t have to waste time sifting through whether the information you give them is relevant.

Attendees may not even realize your communications are as personalized as they are. That’s part of the magic. Engagement is about you grabbing someone’s attention from the start. That’s what personalization does. By providing the information attendees want, you get them to take notice and interact with that information.

  • Data-powered personalization

    Whether it is used in initial email marketing campaigns to get them to attend your event, or onsite with personalized push notifications telling them where they need to be, personalization will continue to increase in scale.


Individualizing the Experience with Technology

What will it look like? Personalization will start with targeted email marketing campaigns that use data to pinpoint future attendee interests. From there, as you gather more data, you can send targeted communications to persuade them to attend the event, or if they’ve already registered, allow them to build their event agenda.

Initial interest will drive what content is offered. By the time they get onsite, they’ll have engaged with your website, mobile event app, and more. Most personalization will occur within the mobile event app, as it’s the easiest to update based on attendee preference.

Beacon technology will continue to advance and allow you to send more targeted push notifications based on where attendees go and what they do, so that in the end, attendees have the experience they want. As automation gets easier, personalization will become less expensive and easily attainable.


Content for All

Not everyone consumes information in the same way. Content has already changed in recent years, and it will only continue to evolve. After all, content is the meat of attendee engagement because it’s the focus of an event.


What is Content?

Content is not limited to keynotes and lectures, but also includes performances, networking, books, and more. It can include giveaways, as well as onsite experiences. It’s important to remember that not everyone consumes content in the same way. While one person may be an auditory learner, another may be visual.

Content is becoming increasingly personalized. Not only in the types provided, but in the way it’s delivered. That’s why, it’s important to understand your attendee when planning content. Not only that, you have to get creative about how you deliver content.

  • Use content to get personal

    Think about using video, live performances, or activities to deliver a message in a new way and engage attendees differently.


Content Delivery

If the point of an event is to have attendees consume content, then that content must be presented in a way that engages. Having one lecturer speak for an hour or more to a packed room in rows of seats is old school. Not only that, it doesn’t work. After about twenty minutes, most individuals lose focus and tune out of a presentation. That’s why for engagement purposes, the presentations that work the best are those that incorporate interaction. Whether it’s a shift towards more Socratic-style sessions (taking a more conversational and interactive approach with smaller, more intimate sessions), interaction through mobile event apps, or shorter talks, content delivery will become more engaging. Seating styles will continue to evolve, moving to mixed seating styles that incorporate normal rows of chairs, high tops, sofas, and more.

  • Innovate content delivery to get more engagement

    Use your event app to deliver content directly to your attendees through push notifications. This is not only favored by today’s tech-savvy attendee, but it’s also better for the environment as it reduces paper waste.


Sessions Designed with Engagement in Mind

In-session technology use is key. Surveys, feedback, and more allow attendees to engage with content and share their thoughts. If a session doesn’t perform well and it’s rated poorly in the app, you can get rid of it and replace it with a session that performed better next time.

Technology will allow more flexibility and agility in adapting to the needs of attendees. Mobile event apps will continue to give attendees more ways to engage with speakers, content, and the event itself. By varying the way content is delivered in session, attendees are kept on their toes and can’t help but engage. Polls will continue to be a great engagement tool, as well as live Q&A.

  • Improve engagement by increasing involvement

    It’s not enough to simply speak to attendees, you have to involve them in your event. Make attendees feel like part of the event by continually asking for their input. Use tools like live polls, session Q&A, and surveys to gather feedback and incite involvement.


Virtual Event Attendance

The shift to digital content consumption will only continue to increase. There are a variety of live streaming options, from high-quality streams to simple livestreams through your camera phone. The rise in digital attendance will continue but won’t replace live events. Allowing attendees to attend virtually will increase attendance and engagement among attendees that would otherwise be unable to attend in person. Attendees are often unable to attend events due to the cost of travel and the inability to be out of the office for multiple days. That’s why providing content after the event, or in real-time with livestreaming will become an option for more events going forward. Registration numbers will always be a key performance indicator and paying to attend an event virtually will rise in popularity.

  • Cater to the non-traditional attendee

    Engaging attendees doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be in-person. Today’s non-traditional workforce with remote employees, virtual employees, and traveling employees also applies to your audience. Cater to the non-traditional attendee by ensuring they get the opportunity to attend your event through live-streaming or virtual sessions.


Enriched Experiences through AR and VR

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) enhance engagement. As technology improves, AR and VR are more accessible and less costly to use. Whether used onsite or for those attending virtually, AR and VR allow you to make your event whatever you want it to be. Create a tour of a faraway place, create sessions that are essentially games to get through, VR and AR facilitate engagement automatically. There are endless opportunities in using AR and VR.

While AR and VR may seem costly and complex, as the technology improves they’ll be seen at more and more events. This technology allows an event to become something new. There is so much that can be done, planners have only scratched the surface of what is possible with AR and VR.

  • Enhance engagement with AR/VR

    Instead of bringing the attendee to your event, bring your event to the attendee using unique, fun tools such as augmented and virtual reality.


Social Sharing to Facilitate Connection

Social media isn’t going away. It is one of the most engaging, and inexpensive, tools available to planners. Empowering attendees to engage on social media will increase.  The creation of “shareable” moments will rise. Photobooths will change in new ways as technology develops. What started as a simple photo has expanded to GIFs, 360-degree experiences, and will continue to evolve. Social media extends an event’s reach, plain and simple. Not only that, it’s free.

Making an event social media friendly fosters a spirit of sharing. It connects attendees and can allow for increased networking. While the popular platforms may change, social media is going to continue to be a tool to understand, not one to be afraid of.

  • Embrace social media to empower attendees

    Promote social sharing by creating an event hashtag that can be used at your event every year. Attendees can tweet, post or share to social media directly through your event app. Attendees can view the hashtag to see what’s going on at the event and contribute their own content, and non-attendees can follow the hashtag to see live updates from the event and incite so much FOMO that they have to attend next year.


Networking Onsite and Off

Mobile event apps and social media make it easier than ever for attendees to network. Face-to-face networking will still be important, but tools like appointment scheduling and lead tracking will make networking even easier. Attendees will be able to engage with each other onsite and off, and never worry about not having the information they need. With attendee profiles, RFID tracking, and business card scanning, the information is all in the app. Business cards won’t go away, but the methods for capturing the information and acting on it will change, making engagement easier.

  • Use event tech to network smarter

    A big part of engaging attendees is providing them with the ability to network. Networking is made easier with the use of event tech. Attendees can now network smarter by setting up appointments with like-minded individuals all through the event app. You can start by scanning through the attendee list on the app to see who they want to make connections with – then go from there!


In Conclusion

The future of attendee engagement is bright. Event management technology will provide the necessary tools to engage attendees on new levels. The structure of events will change to inspire interaction among attendees and with speakers. Traditional speaker styles will evolve, and sessions will no longer be limited to one person lecturing at attendees for hours at a time. Personalization will facilitate engagement by giving attendees the information they need, and less of the information that doesn’t excite them. Virtual event attendance will allow events to have a greater impact and reach attendees who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. Attendee engagement will always be critical to the success of events, and technological advances are creating more and more opportunities for engagement.