Fortunately, as technology advances, there are many ways to measure and build engagement at events:
- Surveys, polling and social Q&A systems using smart devices are simple, easy-to-use, inexpensive and directly engage attendees giving immediate feedback to their thoughts. (examples: and ).
- Measuring the social media activity (number of event-related tweets, posts, pictures, videos, etc.) is an effective method of assessing attendee engagement levels.
- Social media sentiment analysis tools not only measure social activity, but can help you actively listen to your members/audience and identify the messages/posts that are driving desired outcomes and a good measure of engagement. On a simple level, measuring positive and negative keywords can give immediate feedback to your event social activities. Other systems can go much further in measuring emotions expressed. One example is: Facebook Insights.
- Gamification can be used to increase attendee engagement or perform desired actions at events. Increasingly these are a component of mobile event apps.
- Your mobile event app analytics can be a goldmine of information on engagement. Every touch on a mobile event app can be trackable. Some basic metrics include the percentage of people downloading the app and the number of interactions, However, this can go much deeper indicting speaker ratings, exhibit ratings, topic/track ratings, desired session downloads and much more. This direct, immediate feedback on attendee likes/dislike can be a great measure of engagement.
- Wearable beacons contained in some smart badges can measure attendees’ journeys through a meeting space or exhibit. They can measure how long they are in sessions and which ones are the best attended. They can measure how long individuals spend in front of specific exhibit booths. These are direct measures of attendee interest and engagement. (Examples include: hubvents.com, loopd.com, limefy.com and experient-inc.com.
- Social walls allow an event organizer to display the real-time social activity at an event (tweets, Instagram posts, etc..) using large monitors or data projectors. These products are typically cloud-based, inexpensive, easy to set-up and provide a range of moderation options. Examples include: Cvent Social Wall, Live Wall, Postano, and SocialWall.
- Matchmaking and networking tools are making their way to events. Oftentimes, they are integrated with a mobile event app or as part of hosted buyer scheduling program with the goal of connecting people of mutual interests together. One mobile-based product of interest is . Using a combination of a mobile event app and beacon technology, attendees at the SXSW music & technology conference were allowed to indicate specific interest areas on the app. Then, when two attendees of like interests came in proximity or each other, each were notified in the app. One good contact at an event can often times pay for the entire trip. Technology can assist in making these connection and lead to more engaged participants.
- Live video streaming and photo sharing social apps can be used to engage attendees. Many of the major social tools are allowing live video streaming (Twitter/Periscope, Facebook Instant Video, YouTube Live, Instagram Story, Snapchat Story). They involve attendees and allow them to share your event to a larger audience. Additionally, social photo booths, such as ’s ChripE Photo Booth, encourage attendees to take photos and share them on Instagram with the event hashtag. The attendee gets the photo and the event planner gets a more widely shared social footprint of the event.
- There are also new microphone options to increase engagement. allows attendees to use their smart phones and an audience microphones. Catch Box is a foam-covered throwable microphone that works well, is fun to use and is much more convenient and engaging than the standard standing aisle microphone.
- Second screen technology allows attendees to see and interact with presentation slides using their own smart device or vendor-provided tablets. This can be used for polling, for note taking and other interactivity between the speaker and audience. Examples include , , and . Many of these tools provide rich data detail of attendee likes and attention.
- A wide range of new AV options can increase attendee engagement including high-resolution large screen projection, projection mapping, and interactive digital signage increasing the “wow” factor of an event.
- Better methods of exchanging contact information can greatly improve the value of the event and, therefore, increased engagement. Paper business cards are not that efficient for follow up. More efficient digital transfer of contact data can help. uses NFC (near field communication) to allow lead exchange, brochure requests, gamification and much more by simply tapping your personal “poken” fob to another one. This can be then downloaded to your spreadsheet or other digital recording methods.
This plethora of engagement and engagement measurement tools will transform the impact and power of face-to-face meetings in a substantial manner. They will help to involve the attendees and to help them get more out of the event, to help them share their experiences with others, and to make it more likely they will return in future years.
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site Corbin Ball & Co. - Meetings Technology Headquarters (www.corbinball.com) and followed at www.twitter.com/corbinball.