Engaging your audience before and after the event
There’s a lot of literature around the steps you should take to captivate an audience. A quick Google search will uncover a wealth of techniques used by performers, politicians and spiritual leaders, all of whom are successful in mesmerising a crowd. But with the growth of digital technology, we’ve got more and more opportunity to connect with our audience, not just during an event, but outside of it too.
The question is: how can we capture people’s attention in a world inundated with digital distractions? Pre-event and post-event engagement is increasingly being utilised as a way to enhance events and foster ongoing relationships with attendees. We’ve put together some of the most effective strategies we’ve seen so far. These will help you to get the most out of your event by engaging your audience before ― and after ― the show.
What does an engaged audience look like?
Our brains are cluttered with information; it streams through televisions, phones, computers, speakers, advertisements and shopping centres― whether we like it or not. As a result, we not only learn to filter out these messages ― we become less willing to pay attention to anything which is not immediately exciting. That makes it difficult for anyone trying to engage their audience for more than a couple of minutes.
You can tell an audience is disengaged if they:
- seem tired, flat or bored;
- are playing with their phones or digital devices;
- do not match the pace of your presentation with similar enthusiasm and excitement;
- appear resistant to new ideas; or,
- ask questions about material you have already explained.
Fortunately, you don’t need to resort to novelty tactics like igniting a firework to keep people entertained. Simply involving them in the discussion (rather than lecturing) can be extremely effective in boosting engagement. As soon as we know we will be asked to take part in an activity, or even asked a question, our minds immediately focus on the information being presented.
You’ll know you’ve achieved this if your audience:
- audibly reacts to your presentation;
- seem open-minded and willing to learn;
- look alert and wide-eyed; or
- interrupt with questions or comments (either in person or via a live online forum).
- Don’t forget that both positive or negative audience feedback can be a good thing. So long as they’re relevant to the discussion you’ll know you’re on the right track.
Pre-event marketing is almost like a teaser or trailer for an upcoming film. The idea is to gently spark curiosity in your audience, and gradually build anticipation during the lead up to your event so when the day comes, they’re fully engaged.
While that all makes sense in theory, many event organisers are confused about exactly what to share with attendees. The answer to this question is anything which you believe will enhance their experience, or to steer the conversation in the direction you’d like it to go. Here are some of the ways you might consider delivering this information:
Social media engagement
The earlier you can build your online community the better. But don’t just set it up and forget about it; if you want others to contribute to the discussion, you’ll need to give them a reason to with regular, meaningful and valuable posts.
On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media platforms your audience likes to use. Keep your hashtag short and memorable. The less effort your audience has to put in to contribute to the discussion, the more likely it is they will engage.
The key here is to avoid spam. Avoid sending emails with the sole intention of building hype, and focus instead on providing information about what will be covered during the event, who will be speaking, links to relevant videos and practical information about the day, the venue and transportation (if it’s conducted offline).
Inviting, answering and asking questions
This will give you a heads up on what your audience wants to know and expects to learn from your presentation. This could be done via email, social media, forum or even a survey or poll.
Release the agenda for the day
For small collaborative events like a project meeting or business presentation, distributing the Agenda in advance is an excellent way to facilitate engagement. This gives attendees an opportunity to prepare what they’d like to say in advance, which helps to move the discussion along more rapidly on the day.
For larger events, the more knowledge your audience have about the event the better. When people have a fair idea of the topics covered and the time commitment they’ll need to make to attend, the more they can prepare in advance (and avoid any unexpected surprises or interruptions).
So much effort goes into preparing for a major meeting or public event ― so don’t stop cold as soon as the presentation has finished! This is the time where you will bike on what was learned, what was discussed and what actions need to happen next. Here are some of the ways you can do that:
Send a thank you
Following the event, email a thank you to participants. Use their name as opposed to sending a bulk mailout (or if your group was small, a personal note is even better).
Create a digital Q&A
There may not have been time to get through all your audience’s questions on the day, and many people think of things they wish they’d asked once the event has already finished. A digital Q&A board allows participants to get answers to more detailed, specific questions ― once they’ve had time to ponder.
Continue the discussion online
With Zeetings, participants can continue to view the content and interact with polls, post comments and ask questions well after the event. Keep the momentum going by sharing the Zeeting with your online community, including social media and on forums specific to your business.
Give people more than your typical feedback survey
It’s standard practise to ask for feedback following an event, using electronic surveys or simple handwritten feedback forms. To improve your survey response rate, make sure you ask engaging questions which invite specific and personal answers. For example, rather than asking whether people enjoyed the presentation, ask what part they enjoyed most and whether there were any parts where they felt bored.
Summarise key points and actions
If you’re using an online platform to deliver your presentation, it won’t be necessary to send out a PDF of slides or a full document containing everything covered in the presentation, because participants will already have access to it. But they may appreciate a summary of what was covered, important issues that were raised or even poll results as a reminder of what they learnt.
Are you already connecting to your audience through a software tool like Zeetings but aren’t sure about how best to get the audience engaged? Our guide on ‘Questions to ask your audience’ has got you covered.