Engagement Strategies for Enhancing Events

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By Sterling Raphael, President of Products, Avectra

An engagement strategy can help boost attention and involvement of your event participants.

"If you build it, they will come...." may work in the Field of Dreams, but does not for most digital engagement strategies.

If you build it, with your meeting's purpose and content at core, they will come. This is the fundamental engagement strategy: CONTENT > COMMUNITY > COMMERCE. Your association can generate commerce earned from a digital community around your event content.

CONTENT

The first step in building an engagement strategy is focusing on WHY your attendees would want to engage.

What is it that attracts people to your events? The networking, education, exhibits, and more? This attraction is your WHY - it's your niche and value that has given your meeting relevance for decades.

Once properly structured, your WHY will exist as CONTENT in various forms. News, photos, profiles, directories, videos, presentations and more. This content is the substance that represents WHY people attend your event.

Enable engagement by centralizing your content:

  • Searchable (via Google and website)
  • Sharable (ShareThis widget)
  • Socially (ratings/comments)
  • Subscribe-able (RSS)
  • Mobile Friendly COMMUNITY

By first focusing on content, attendees have purpose to engage online in COMMUNITY. To maximize engagement for your event, treat your online community as an extension to your real world meetings. Use your social technology to enhance your event before, during and after.

Before the event, setup the conversation...

Setup Social Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.

  • Select event Hash Tag for your event
  • Use social sites as communication and marketing channels to promote your event and generate buzz
  • Ensure your messaging is consistent and clear across all your communications including social sites, email signature, and websites

Then start to fuel the conversation...

If you want your event to grow, you must give up some control. Let go to let grow. Empower your volunteers, bloggers and evangelists to create organic conversations around your content.

Once you have identified your key ambassadors, help them be your champions by recognizing and rewarding their efforts. Recognition tactics include badges, points, and featured member status. Reward your champions with discounted event or member registrations or some premium benefit.

Empowering your attendees also helps with community management tasks. It's unlikely your organization has the staff to moderate and manage all digital activity, so your volunteers can help, making it a win-win for administration and engagement.

During the event continue to promote use of social sites and hash tags. Use conference displays, presentation slides, signage, handouts and more to promote your support of online channels. Also, embrace organic meet-ups such as "tweet-ups" and prizes rewarding online contributors.

After the event, disseminate the content quickly while people are still engaged. Post pictures on Flickr, videos on You Tube, presentations on SlideShare that connects to your call to action. The goal isn't to just engage, it's to bring them to your next event, drive membership, or some other objective. This is your commerce.

COMMERCE - Engagement Business Model

Finally, with an engaged event community, there's an opportunity to generate commerce.

  • Virtual Attendees: Only if your content is digital, sharable and social is there value in charging virtual attendees. The more engaged your community is around your content, the more likely there is tangible ROI for online participants to value from the access.
  • Social Exhibitor Directories: The concept of yellow pages online has been socialized with user-reviews, ratings, sharing, and more. Websites such as Yelp have pioneered the new way users find and access solutions they want to buy. Consumers are exponentially more likely to purchase something referenced by someone they trust, than a simple advertisement (traditional yellow page listing).

Developing a business-oriented, event engagement plan sets the stage for the long-term success of your meetings.