7 (More) Low Cost Ways to Boost Engagement at Your Next Conference

Written by Doreen Ashton Wagner on June 7, 2017

In our last instalment we talked about ways that association meeting planners can plan events that create more and better conversations amongst participants, making for a more engaging experience. Tactics 1 to 5 can be found here, while below you’ll find a further seven ideas for creating engaging events!

6. Get people to move

We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. So get people to move! Teach people easy stretches with a live fitness instructor or find a short video on YouTube. Tell people to change seats after the break and incentivize moving by hiding surprise gifts. Re-organize the room: ask everyone born in a certain month to move to a different table, or have them “vote” on an issue by getting participants physically to move to a different area to denote their choice (“all those in favour of X go to the front left corner; in favour of Y to the front right corner,” etc.).

7. Share food

Family-style food service is an easy way to get people to engage and talk to one another. With a “Please pass the salad platter” or “Anyone else for this yummy cake?”, your participants are more likely to generate conversation, exchange information and start new relationships.

8. Plan participative formats

If you want engagement you may need to plan for formats that encourage participant involvement. Is there a “hot” industry issue your members are all talking about? Plan a town hall or a debate to explore the various views. Use a respected industry leader who won’t be perceived as biased, or hire a professional facilitator to steer the conversation in a respectful manner. Other participative formats include solution generation sessions and “unconferences”.

9. Multi-generational pop culture

Pop culture provides an instant way to connect. If you have a sound track to open a session or during your breaks, mix up the music choice so that all generations feel represented. Play upbeat hits from The Rolling Stones, Glass Tiger and Drake in the same mix and you will see three different generations bopping to their favourite tune. Using originals and remixes can be lots of fun too! Curating the social experience in this way makes the environment more familiar and relaxed for each attendee, which will inspire more confidence and make them feel more personally invested.

10. Capture reactions

Smartphones make it so easy to snap a fun photo or video a special moment. Encourage capturing and sharing, and remind people of the hashtag and where/how to upload. Up the ante by assigning a staffer or volunteer to take their phone and “walk the room” asking a question of participants: “Hello, would you mind sharing your biggest takeaway from the conference today?” Remember to ask the person to name themselves and their organization!

11. Ask people to share - and reward sharing

Make your expectations clear to people at the outset and never assume that people will do something without you asking. Start with your most vested stakeholders: your speakers and exhibitors. Write it into your contracts that they are expected to help you spread the word about your event ahead of time. On site,you can incentivize social media sharing through your event app - and if you don’t have an app, ensure participants are told to use a particular hashtag. Have a staffer monitor the various social media channels and count the number of shares, to facilitate a prize draw for a speaker’s book, a free pass to an online event, or another fun item that won’t break the bank.

12. Plan to continue

If you plan engagement tactics ahead of time, you will be much more likely to have snapshots, videos and quotes to work with to promote next year’s conference, making your event more engaging all year around!

Any other engagement tactics you would like to add? Write a comment below or send me an email at daw@greenfield-services.ca.

Written by Doreen Ashton Wagner on June 7, 2017
Article Type: Strategy
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