datingDo you remember what it was like to date someone new? The first date you put on your best clothes, cologne and washed and waxed your car. You looked your best and put your best foot forward. And if you both liked each other, this "courtship" continued to the next date and so on. However, if the feelings were not mutual or if you thought the other person was a phony, the dating ended and you moved on. 

So it is with event engagement. You cannot force an attendee to engage in the content — even if you give them every opportunity to do so. Greg Fuson, Conference Organizer, Content Curator and Writer probably said it best at PCMA's Convening Leaders Conference in January:

"Engagement is a term that is very much in danger of becoming a cliche. It is so overused with the meetings community I think that it's this sort of nice, warm and fuzzy term that we like to use because people want to hear it."

In Part 1 of this blog posting, lets examine what you can do initiate interest before the event (think online dating). In Part 2, which will run Friday, lets focus on the things you can do when your attendees are at the event. 

Engagement Tip #1: Community Counts

Creating an engaging online community where individuals can get to know each other before the conference is where the networking and collaboration begins. There are several free ones available including: a LinkedIn Group, Facebook Fan Page, Google+ Community or Twitter Hashtag. Posting value-driven content and asking questions in these locations should spark conversations and help individuals feel as if they belong to your event. 

Engagement Tip #2: Crowdsource Content

Asking your online community what they want to hear about, who they want to hear it from and giving them the capability to vote on the content and presenters is powerful stuff. But taking it a step further, David Serino, Strategist & Educator at Think Social Media says you need to ask your attendees the following, "What would it take to get people here? How should we develop the conference? What do you think is important?" 

Engagement Tip #3: Surprise Them by Changing Up the Meeting Pattern

Most attendees sign up for a meeting and expect it to be held in a hotel or conference center with the same seating and food that they have experienced hundreds of times. The problem is those meeting platforms are boring and stale. Meet somewhere completely new…such as a national park, college campus or botanical garden. Somewhere that can cue up a completely different responses than a cold and boring conference space. 

However, if you must meet in a traditional setting, take a meal or an afternoon to a unique location. I remember when I was in training at IBM, the trainers hired a bus company and escorted all 35 of us to a local park for a BBQ and fun games — such as three-legged races and pie eating contests. That was the best time of the entire 4-week training period and it occurred over 30 years ago. My point: if the trainers would have told us about it, it would not have been as much fun. But surprising us stayed in our memory! 

Engagement Tip #4: Give Attendees What They Like

Complete attendee evaluations with Audience Response System rentals and invite the top three speakers back the following year. This creates a win-win because it allows presenters to book business 12 months in advance and it allows attendees to see the speakers that they loved the following year. 

Are you event planning in California? AV Event Solutions can put some creative options together for you to keep your attendees in the ultimate engagement mode! Give them a call at 888-249-4903 to get the ball rolling!