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The Magic Art of Event Engagement

As an event host I attend a lot of events and I listen and talk to event organisers all the time. The biggest issue that gets raised in conversation is Engagement - how to get and keep those bums on the seats - attendees who are interested and engaged in the message and the content of the event. 

That’s where the magic happens and the clients get what they paid for …Gaining and retaining customers.

But we are all so easily distracted by so many things, and in fact our attention span is apparently shrinking, thanks to the impact of our digitalised lifestyle on the brain. 

I know I’m not alone in feeling overloaded with information, and I increasingly struggle to concentrate for too long.

But also, I can, like lots of other people, be engrossed for hours in a great TV show or movie. 

it's hard to replicate the allure of Netflix in a corporate event

That’s pretty hard to replicate in a corporate event.

Giant event spaces, virtual platforms, hybrid platforms - work is done to engross us, but the reality is, they don’t grab and keep your attention as much as a great drama on Netflix. 

How do we get this magic engagement into events?

My role as an event host is to elevate the experience and energise the audience. I earn my living by keeping audiences entertained to ensure the event appears smooth, seamless and alive with energy and humour, compelling etc., all the words that we event peeps basically associate with positive engagement. 

You must apply Basic Engagement Hygiene

Personally the first and most obvious way is to apply what I call Basic Engagement Hygiene:

This is what I bring regardless of my clients choice of event space or event technology. I ensure I’m well groomed, wearing a bright colour, comfortable shoes and I amp up my energy. If I’m hosting remotely, I make my little home office into the best studio I can by investing in good lighting, camera and microphone, and using autocue if necessary. And I make sure my background in pleasant and I won’t be disturbed by Kevin the Teenager or The Very Important Businessman AKA the husband.

So that's the toothbrushing of engagement. What adds the extra?

There’s pretty cool tech out there in terms of collaboration and help make attendees, both in person and virtual, feel included and indeed allow them to add their own input to the event. I’m not talking about just polls and chat. They’re good but they should be used to add value not just to tick a box for engagement. They need to match the type of attendee you want and can be helpful basic engagement tools, especially if used with sensible, thought provoking questions that actually encourage debate for example!

There are some industries and some groups of people who still want to watch passively.

When it comes to exciting event technology, we’ve got gamification, wearable tech, social media walls, digital swag bags, immersive technologies, facial recognition, virtual video and photo booths, Bluetooth and more. On stage you can choose curved, and wraparound screens, 360 immersive units, transparent OLED screens, LED banner screens, overhead screens and planetarium style displays.

All these things can excite and absorb an audience and increase engagement, but without wishing to be too controversial, certain types of attendee do not want interactive events. There are some industries and some groups of people who still want to watch passively. For example, extroverts might love the social media walls and live networking, but it might put your introverts off and they’d be happy with educational content, lots of breaks and a variety of presenters rather than the all singing all dancing interactive tech.

Mine the data from your previous events and custom pick the best tech to engage

And remember the tech is only a part of it. 

Keeping sessions concise, scheduling lots of good breaks, using great speakers, and getting presentation help for your less than great speakers, is vital. It's also a good idea to ensure you employ excellent and skilled moderators to keep panels lively and absorbing. And my top tip (funnily enough!) is to hire an experienced charismatic and energetic event emcee to really keep your audience happy and engaged. 

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