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How to Guide


How to engage with an audience at a live event

How to engage with an audience at a live event

By Toby Lewis, Managing Director of LiveInteractive, a specialist event agency delivering over 400 integrated events a year.

Marketers will already know the benefits of engaging with an audience at conferences, seminars and workshops. Interaction encourages delegates to get more involved improving attention spans, increasing energy levels and ultimately yielding better results for the marketer or event organiser.

However, whilst an admirable aim, this is not as straightforward as it would seem as a variety of obstacles, including venue constraints and content, can make it a complex objective.

Event technology has advanced in recent years to assist with engaging an audience. Plus, discussions and surveys can now be captured instantly giving valuable insights that are useful for both improving operational processes and future marketing planning.

Employ the most suitable technology

The simplest form of audience engagement is via palmlet handheld voting systems. These offer ‘yes’, ‘no’ and multiple choice answer options. Cost effective, reliable and delivering quick quantitative results, these systems are now common place at any interactive event.

· Small compact size

· Used on an individual basis

· Suitable for audiences of any size

· Captures individual quantitative responses

· Immediately displays aggregated data to the whole audience

The leading providers in the event field have now developed this concept further and have introduced digital tablet audience engagement systems making free text response generation a possibility. This provides far more results, ideas and opinions, as delegates at an event can type in full questions, comments or opinions.

· Free text and voting capabilities

· Compact sized tablet PC with touch screen interface

· Used by individuals or in group working format

· Delivers qualitative and quantitative responses

· Ideas and opinions are captured instantly

When palmlet voting systems are used in conjunction with the open-ended tablet data from round table debate, event managers will be able to gain an even deeper and more genuine insight into issues and challenges and their decision making options will become much clearer.

Encourage engagement

Audience anxieties are reduced by engagement systems as questions, ideas and opinions are brought to the group anonymously without any fear of speaking out loud, encouraging people that would not normally put their hand up in front of hundreds of people to interact more freely. This delivers a greater amount of input from a larger number of people, allowing trends to be more clearly and efficiently identified.   

The option to provide instant feedback is further encouragement to delegates as they can type questions into the system as soon as they spring to mind, instead of waiting until an appropriate pause in proceedings.

The speaker or event organiser can react to this instantly either through improving or modifying the existing content or by tweaking the agenda for the remaining part of the conference, tailoring the event to the exact needs of the delegates.

Engagement is all about prior preparation

Advanced suppliers of event technology offer consultancy to organisers prior to the organised event. This adds great value by planning for the lifecycle of an event. For example, weeks before an event, delegates are approached for their agendas via electronic mediums such as emails or micro-websites. This helps shape the event content specifically to the needs of the audience.

It is also an advantage to understand the functionality of the technology prior to the live event. This ensures that it is used to maximum effect and avoids technical glitches on the day.

Create an interesting event

Leading audience engagement systems allow table top access to multimedia content, including the internet, video or sound clips, word, excel, and other electronic files. These can assist the speaker to explain a concept, act as a stimulus for discussion and debate, or communicate a message more efficiently e.g. promotional material or internal corporate videos.

Group exercises or discussions are a productive way to challenge delegates and gather new information. Different tasks can be sent to different groups encouraging a high data yield and an advanced level of information through brainstorming. This can lead to more in depth feedback, displayed on screens in the room and useful in future corporate and marketing planning.

Use the post show report

All data from engagement systems at live events can be instantly collected electronically, meaning there is no need for someone to take notes, listen to audio tapes or decipher whiteboards to find relevant material.

This valuable raw and graphically analysed data can be generated into a post show reports, delivering demographic breakdowns of results and revealing trends that can assist in developing communication plans or strategies.

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