Want a successful event? Emphasize audience engagement to make your event meaningful.

The most successful events today are brimming with conversation. They are two-way streets that give audience members the opportunity to engage with speakers, panelists and their material, sparking lively, productive discussions that reach greater, more meaningful depths.

Building those types of events isn’t easy, though. They don’t just happen. They require creativity, careful planning and a commitment to integrating the audience’s point of view into an event. For organizers, that can mean sacrificing some control over the proceedings in exchange for a more dynamic, impactful event. At Fryed Egg Productions, we work with clients to connect more deeply with their audiences. For those staging events, here are a few ways how.

Start with compelling content

You can’t ask your audience to be engaged if your event is boring. No matter the subject of an event, organizers owe it to attendees to aspire to host compelling sessions and speakers that will capture their attention. Clever bells and whistles won’t cover up dull speeches, presentations and panels. Organizers must do their homework to enlist participants who have demonstrated success as speakers and presenters. Booking a prominent but unexciting speaker to give a long speech might fill time and check a box, but it won’t get your audience talking and engaged with the material. For panels, put thought into designing creative combinations of participants and topical subjects that your target audience won’t want to miss. Collaborate with all your participants to build events that are tailored to your attendees, venue and the newest trends, rather than allowing for a cookie-cutter approach that leads to presentations that could be delivered just about anywhere to just about anyone.

Be welcoming and open

If you truly want engagement at your event, then you have to build it into the schedule. That means moving away from a reliance on discussions that remain stuck on stage. Events should have an explicit, purposeful approach to reaching out to audiences and welcoming them into the conversation. Question-and-answer periods work, but consider other creative ways of giving attendees a way to participate, such as by taking submitted questions ahead of or during an event that a moderator can process and introduce into the discussion. Use technology, such as live polls, to get real-time feedback from attendees and motivate them to engage with the conversation as it is happening. This helps them process their reactions to it, responding in a way that deepens their experience and the lasting impression the event has on them.

Consider the perspective of attendees

Always consider the viewpoint of the attendee. Weigh whether decisions you make about events will make audience members more likely or less likely to engage with the material. Active encouragement from organizers can help, including by offering such incentives as prizes and giveaways for participating in an event. You will want to ensure that the design layouts for rooms make the audience feel integrated into the event rather than set apart from it. For instance, if the venue is large, use technology to bring speakers closer with large screens that give attendees in the back rows a more intimate connection with what is happening on the stage.

Supplement the conversation online

Social media has opened new doors for audience engagement and interaction that gives organizers invaluable new ways to help attendees bring the conversation online, broadening the conversation around an event and expanding its reach. Encourage attendees to share their thoughts and feedback about your event on social media by making it easy for them, using hashtags and your event’s central social media account to spark discussion before, during and after your event. Engaging social media influencers in your target audience is a powerful way of building a meaningful online conversation surrounding your event -- if you can get them talking, the result can be a rich, far-reaching discussion that magnifies the impact of your efforts.

At Fryed Egg, we develop comprehensive, integrated marketing strategies to build and strengthen brands, including to help drive traffic to their crucial events. If you want to see if Fryed Egg is the right agency for your marketing needs, contact us at (813) 478-0494 or [email protected] or visit www.FryedEgg.com.