September 15, 2022
By Maggie Lancashire and Hope Swedeen

A good event engagement strategy helps set the tone for any event. For many attendees, the opportunity to build relationships is often the main reason to attend an event in the first place. After missing face-to-face social gatherings for so long and finding creative ways to engage virtual audiences, facilitating human connection is more important than ever before with the return to in-person and hybrid events.

What Is Event Engagement?

You can't host a successful – let alone enjoyable – event without genuine attendee engagement and networking opportunities. All event planners can agree that one of their biggest goals is to keep their attendees engaged throughout the duration of their event. But what does that mean?

When you think about attendee engagement, or event engagement, you’re not only considering how many people attended each session but how much attention was given to those sessions, how many attendees visited exhibitor booths, which attendees made real connections during networking events... In short, attendee engagement is measured by how much your attendees actively participate in and gain something from your event program.

Of course, creating an effective event engagement strategy is a definite challenge, especially if you’re working with an event format that’s brand new to you (like hybrid events). Whether you’re hosting an internal training seminar or a large convention, the content you offer, the delivery of that content, and the fun you insert into your event program will all play a key role in ensuring your attendees remain engaged.

How to Build an Attendee Engagement Strategy

There are many moving parts occurring simultaneously during an event, which can be overwhelming for both planners and attendees if not managed strategically. With so much on offer during an event, from happy hours to exhibits to sessions, it’s not surprising attendees can become distracted. But how do you minimize distractions and really grab your attendees’ attention?

It begins with content. To keep attendees immersed in the event experience, focus from the start on building a content track that’s interesting to your attendees, and get creative with the delivery of that content. Ensuring your content is interactive, varied in delivery style and topic, curated to appeal to many different interests, and non-linear enough for attendees to “choose their own adventure” can go a long way in keeping your attendees engaged.

Once you have your content plan worked out, have fun with it! Help attendees stay inspired by framing the content you’re presenting in the form of gamification and entertainment. Inserting gamification into your sessions and experiences encourages collaboration and participation in the form of a game, usually with some form of incentive or prize.

When attendees are not only interested in your event programming but entertained, it increases attendee engagement. In order to build these immersive experiences, though, you’ll likely need some help. That’s where vendor partnerships come in.

Finding the Right Event Engagement Vendors

When planning an event, working with credible vendors is critical to successful execution. Whether you’re looking for prize-worthy swag or a want a creative way to host trivia night during your event, there are vendors out there who can help – it's just a matter of finding them.

As you begin your search for vendors, you may start with a google search or a rolodex of previously used vendors. These manual processes are time consuming and may not yield the best results. There are ways to make your search as straightforward as possible. It’s always helpful to locate vendors through a reliable source to ensure you’re working with trusted vendors, like Cvent’s Vendor Marketplace. See truthful reviews about planners’ experiences with vendors; what went well, what could’ve been gone better, etc.

Working with a platform that allows you to source vendors and venues simultaneously will help you stay organized and save time by keeping your venue and vendor data consolidated all in one place. Easily see which vendors can meet new event requirements and trends, like increased health and safety precautions or reaching a hybrid audience. Having access to a platform with multiple venue and vendor sourcing options opens the window for better opportunities to secure your perfect venue and vendor needs.

20 Event Engagement Ideas

Keeping attendees engaged throughout your event is the ultimate goal. We hope you find these 20 attendee engagement ideas helpful when planning your next event.

1. See What Attendees Are Thinking About with Session Q&A’s

Attendees want to feel heard. They want to feel like their opinions matter. By implementing session Q&A’s, attendees will be more inclined to pay attention because they’ll be eager to see if their question(s) will be addressed. 

2. Keep It Social: Offer Live Chat for Virtual Sessions

Having a live chat portal available during a session is critical, especially in a virtual environment. A live chat platform will encourage audience members to interact with one another and feel more interconnected.

3. Do a Pulse Check with Live Polling

A live poll is a quick and easy way to get a pulse check on if audience members are following along with the content being presented to them. Especially in a virtual setting, it gives presenters visibility into what content needs to be reiterated and which content resonates most with the audience.

4. Deepen Connections with 1:1 Appointments

Building relationships relies heavily on good communication opportunities. Whether your event is in-person, virtual, or hybrid, utilizing appointments scheduling will allow you to connect like-minded individuals so they can easily develop strong connections. 

5. Gain Valuable Feedback with Attendee Surveys

Distributing surveys before and/or after your event is a great way to get true insight into how your attendees are feeling. Get creative and learn more about the different types of surveys that you can easily create and send out.

6. Offer Content Tracks for Specific Interests

If your attendees have different interests or work in different fields or specialties, you might consider creating content “tracks”, or session themes, to appeal to specific interest groups. At our annual Cvent CONNECT conference, for instance, we might design a set of sessions specifically geared toward event planners and another set of session content for travel managers.

7. Monitor Virtual Engagement with a Real-Time Insights Generator

In a virtual or hybrid event environment, consider implementing a real-time insights generator to collect data about your event to make better future decisions. Presenters can work with actionable, real-time insights to better engage attendees during a virtual or hybrid session.

8. Train Speakers and Panelists

Great public speakers and engaging panelists will captivate the audience and help keep listeners engaged. Have your speakers been on a stage before? Have they spoken to a virtual or hybrid audience? Read up on a few best practices, and provide ample  speaker resources to help make sure everything goes smoothly. 

9. Don’t Skimp on Production Quality

Though it comes with its own set of challenges, consider partnering with an AV vendor, whether you’re hosting an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event. This partnership is especially important for virtual events, as attendee engagement is hugely dependent on your video production. From our experience with our own annual conference, we’ve conducted quick a bit of research on this topic, which you can learn more about here.

10. Offer Mental and Physical Wellness Opportunities

Keep things moving by breaking up the day with a yoga class, or help decrease stress with meditation or massage stations. If you’re going virtual, consider a group step challenge that everyone can participate in. Keeping wellness opportunities in mind when planning your next event will increase attendee satisfaction and overall wellbeing.

11. Test Attendees’ Knowledge with Quizzes and Trivia

Another option for adding a bit of gamification into your events and gauge attendees’ level of attention is to include quizzes and trivia games.. Add in some questions with humor, and think about which fun facts or statistics could help engage your audience.

12. Use Push Notifications to Reinforce Engagement Opportunities

Whether you’re hosting an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event, keep in mind that your attendees are very busy and might not remember every single session or content offering they wanted to attend. Having access to a personalized event schedule can help, but make sure you have notifications set up via email or through a mobile event app to help remind attendees when sessions are starting and to nudge them to participate in any gamification or wellness opportunities available outside of sessions.

13. Host a Raffle for Swag and Experiences

Increase attendee excitement at your next event by raffling off exhibitor offerings, Groupon deals, or sponsor swag. Any type of incentive always increases excitement and helps set the tone of the event.

14. Speaking of Swag... Who Doesn’t Love Freebies?

Consider partnering with branded swag providers to promote your brand and gift your attendees with souvenirs from your event. I mean, who doesn’t love a good quality branded mug or koozie? Consider these 5 tips when picking your next event swag for your attendees to take home.

15. Splurge on Professional-Level Brand Promotion

A big part of your event ROI will likely include brand recognition and sponsor satisfaction. Get attendees engaged with your brand and your sponsors’ brands by making sure marketing and branding materials are strategically placed. Think banners outside of high-traffic areas, branded badges or lanyards, branded webpages and apps – anything to make sure your brand (and your sponsors’ brands) become a household name for your attendees.

16. Play Games!

Who doesn’t love a good game with a fun incentive for the winner? Keep your attendees engaged with in-session point-based games, social media competitions, or exhibitor scavenger hunts.

17. Make New Connections with Networking Opportunities

Almost everyone who attends an event has intentions to build their network and make new connections. Read up on these four networking ideas to help increase engagement at your next event.

18. Have Some Fun with Event Spirit Days

Event spirit days are a great way to increase morale and connectivity. You might consider having a color day (company brand color), rival days (Marvel vs DC fans), sports jersey days, or even Halloween dress-up competitions. Think about adding badges or stickers for attendees to choose a side on “rival day” , and offer fun incentives like “most creatively dressed” on these spirit days.

19. Make Your Events Accessible to All

Accessibility is critical for creating a fair and unified event experience for all attendees. Think about closed captioning or sign language interpreters, subtitles or sessions in other languages, and social gatherings for multi-lingual attendees. The possibilities for accessibility and inclusivity are endless, so think deeply about who your attendees are, and consider asking for attendee feedback during registration and after your event to see how you can improve accessibility at your events.

20. Create an Event Hashtag

In today’s digital age, having an #eventhashtag is a great way to keep an event experience trending. By clicking on the hashtag on social media platforms, event attendees can share photos and reference other attendees' posts about the same event, creating yet another way for attendees to connect!

Finding Attendee Engagement Vendors for Your Total Event Program

Whether you choose to implement one of these event engagement ideas or all 20, working with experienced vendors will help you create an unforgettable experience for your attendees. There are countless vendors with unique services to meet your event needs, and when you find a vendor you know and trust, that’s a relationship that will be invaluable for future events. After all, every event planner needs a rolodex of credible vendors to work with. 

Maggie Lancashire and Hope Swedeen

Maggie Lancashire joined Cvent through the Social Tables acquisition in 2018. Coming from a hospitality background working in Client Services, Maggie has ample experience working with event planners who utilize Cvent technology to strategically plan their meetings and events. Most recently, Maggie transferred to Product Marketing at Cvent and is thrilled to put her customer/product knowledge to use in her new role. She has a passion for writing and storytelling, and truly understands the significance that event technology brings in our ever-changing environment.

More articles from Maggie Lancashire

Hope is a Senior Content Marketing Associate with Cvent and has several years of experience producing content for corporations and small businesses, associations, nonprofits, and universities. As a content strategist and writer, she has dabbled in a wide range of industries, including government and defense, education, health, and more.

More articles from Hope Swedeen

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