Mehram Sumray Roots will be presenting a session about audience engagement at Event Tech Live  – she shares a preview of her session:

Audience engagement is a much-discussed topic, but true engagement is still very elusive. In a competitive marketplace, every event should be looking to create strong and lasting connections with its audience to ensure a healthy future. People need to feel part of something and events that do not engender this feeling of belonging will soon fall by the wayside. Engagement needs to be nurtured before, during and after an event so that the attendees feel the love‚ and continue to feel it long after the event has passed. Whatever the event type, the attendees are at its heart and keep the energy pumping.

What is engagement – how do we define it?

The word ‘engagement’ is possibly the most over used and underachieved concept in the world of events. It’s a huge buzz word, but when you dig a little deeper you’ll find that there isn’t an exact meaning of the word. It has different meanings to different people, but for the sake of this article I will define audience engagement as creating a desired outcome from the audience; getting them to respond in the way that you need or want them to respond. It’s creating a deliberate strategy that creates active participants who in turn take part and achieve the goals of the organisation and/ or the attendee.

To create audience engagement, first you need to define your goals; what do you want your event to achieve? Every event should have a purpose – whether that’s a business event that needs to teach a new behaviour, communicate a message or sell a product, or a consumer event that needs to create an amazing fun experience, great memories and a wonderful vibe.  Only once you know your goals can you create an engagement strategy that has those goals at its heart and then therefore encourages the right response.

Why is it important?

If there’s no engagement, then there’s simply no point. Why hold the event in the first place if all you achieve is a passive, unresponsive audience who is not going to fulfil your goals. An event is a real life happening and in our experience-led world,  people have a need to fully experience an event, not just sit watching it from afar – but to feel involved and part of it. The change in behaviour you wanted to encourage simply isn’t going to be adopted by a passive audience.

How do you measure it?

Go back to your goals – and ask if these were achieved? What did you want the audience to do – and did they do it? Did you create a community that they wanted to be part of? Did they get excited enough to want to share their experience to their colleagues, or their friends? Did they get involved? Did you make it easy for them to get involved? Did they share photos, post comments to others? Did they post questions to your speaker, answer a survey or take part in a poll? Technology is available that enables you to do all of this in the same place as you created your community – so its keeping all of your data and information in one place and allowing you to easily measure not just the volume of the posts, but the sentiment and feeling too.

Did you ask your audience about their experience? Was there an easy way for them to feedback – post event.  Did you have a way to keep the conversation going and to measure the input from the audience?

One thing to remember

Technology is a great tool that can help you to create a community that in turn creates audience engagement, but no amount of tech will compensate for bad content – the awful, uninspiring speaker, the band that’s past its prime or a hall of grey and boring exhibitors. You need to get the basics right first, and once you have that, then tech can help you build a community around it.

Mehram Sumray Roots’ session will take place on Thursday 8th November at 2.30pm on the Brand and Buzz Stage

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.