More and more frequently I'm being asked to knit together the two sides of my professional personality and advise on engagement in events. Which makes sense, given what an amazing channel live experience is for engagement of all kinds.
Here are five tips on making your event worth your investment:
1. Start before the event, ask your audience what they want to hear/learn/do.
People are more engaged if they've been asked for their opinion early on. If you don't know exactly who your audience are going to be, ask a sample of the same demographic what they would want, hypothetically.
2. Make sure your objectives are really clear in your team's minds.
Event planning is high tempo, a lot of hard work and often has a lot of stakeholders involved which can cause the agenda to weaken and become tenuous. Delegates will soon lose interest in an agenda with no clear purpose. Get the objectives signed off early with all stakeholders, and refer back to them throughout the process.
3. Take the audience on a journey
Whether it's a 20 minute new car launch or a 4 day conference, consider your message and how it is expressed through environment as well as content. Know what your audience are thinking to start with, and what you want them to be thinking by the time you're through. Then take them on a journey with you from one place to the other. Don't just bombard them with messages about Z if they're starting from A.
4. Get everyone involved.
If there is just one key to an engaging event, it's this one: Get people involved. Get them doing stuff. Every event is an opportunity to create/influence/change something, with a bunch of people who are rarely drawn together. All those minds in one place can make amazing things happen. If you are involving people and keeping them interested, they'll listen to, and understand your message.
5. Ask for feedback
Engagement is a continuous process. After your event keep people engaged by ending as you started - ask for their opinion. It may be that they've understood the message of your event but disagreed with it. They might have new ideas. They might want to collaborate on something new. You'll never know unless you ask the question. Once you've had that feedback, if you've got a mechanism for it, communicate with the people who attended your event to explain what was achieved, what feedback you got, and what you intend to do in response to all of that.
There is another way - you could do a 2 day plenary, have a celebrity speaker and limit interactivity to a supply of notepaper and pencils on every table. But I'll wager you don't end up with passionate delegates who don't just understand your message, but have an opinion on it too.
Follow these five tips and you'll end up with a hugely powerful tool for engagement. You'll be surprised at the upswing in trust, interest and buy-in from the people you're trying to communicate with. In terms of return on investment, it's the only way to go.