How to use simple tactics to fire up the crowd
Attendee engagement. It’s a phrase you hear—and most likely repeat—with every event you plan.
With good reason. “You need to grab attendees’ attention before they even step foot inside your venue so that they arrive already excited for the event itself. They’ll come ready to learn, network and contribute. But maybe even more importantly, long after they return home, they’ll remember how they benefited,” offers Meg Statz, CMP, event services manager for Monona Terrace. “That makes for happy customers—and ones who will likely want to return to a future event that you plan,” she says.
So what’s an easy way to get your attendees and prospects fired up? Use communication tactics, such as emails, event apps and frequent updates on social media, to build excitement.
Most of these tactics require little financial investment. But they do require a plan. Consider these ideas as you build yours.
Sell the location.
Your attendees are interested in the things they’ll gain by attending your event. But have you told them about what they’ll find in the host city? “During down time, what can your attendees do for fun? What will they find around the corner from your venue that they can’t find anywhere else? Sell your guests on the location to get them really excited to arrive,” says Statz.
For example, guests of Monona Terrace conferences are often excited to explore Madison because it is the capital of Wisconsin and the Capitol building is strikingly beautiful, Statz says. “People love learning that it’s the only state Capitol building ever built on an isthmus, and that the rotunda features the only granite dome in the United States. Next thing you know, they want to fit in a tour,” she says. That’s easy, because the Capitol is within walking distance of Monona Terrace—and that’s exactly the kind of information your guests will want to know in advance.
How: Schedule e-blasts that feature an intriguing fact about the host city and include plenty of photos. Encourage people to sign up in advance for sightseeing opportunities, dinners or other nonwork activities. If you’ve negotiated some discounted rates, all the better. Keep the tone light and positive. And if your venue offers handy content like Monona Terrace’s interactive walking map, share it with your attendees. Consider combining e-blasts with snail mail postcards if you think your audience would respond well to that.
Work your social media accounts.
Frequently update your Twitter, Facebook and other accounts with news about your event. Better yet, develop accounts specifically for your event. If you secure some great entertainment or a speaker, share that. If the host city or venue just won an award, say so. Don’t let any of your accounts get dusty. Update them at least weekly, using the same catchy hashtag each time. And always include a link or information on how to register. During your event, live tweet and continue to update your social media accounts. People who are there will enjoy the reporting—and those who didn’t attend will wish they would have.
How: Put someone in charge of writing posts so you can focus on other things. Make sure communication is wide open between you two. Develop a calendar to stay on track. Test links to make sure registration is easy. And if you don’t have anything newsy to share, post some inspiring photos of the venue or host city with a countdown calendar. Discuss who will update your accounts during the event to make sure it actually happens.
Behold the power of websites.
Make sure your site promotes your event and makes it easy for people to register. Afterwards, provide attendees with a login they can use to access notes, videos, lists of attendees and more. Keep them coming back to you.
How: Create a website just for your event. Link to it from your main website, which promotes the event through your blog, banners and registration links. Place calls to action on every page. Invite visitors to learn more, see videos, enter to win free things, register—whatever you want to initiate engagement. Make sure you include a feed of social media posts regarding your event.
Create an app.
Cover everything that your audience will find helpful, such as speakers’ schedules, hotel and travel information, weather forecasts, a Q&A, and even fun facts about the venue and host city. Promote the app before the event check-in so attendees can get familiar with the content ahead of time, but also heavily promote the app during the event so they don’t miss out.
How: Think like your audience members to determine the content to include. Keep it simple, yet rich and practical. Then select a mobile app vendor that can accommodate your requests, like live updating and social media integration. Promote your app on your website, social media and in e-blasts or postcards.
Celebrate the event after it’s done.
When everyone heads home, use your social media accounts and email lists to celebrate your event’s success and thank people for attending. “People love to look at photos and relive the great time they had and reflect on what they’ve learned. Invite them to download podcasts or videos or even speakers’ notes,” states Statz. “But above all, leave your attendees with the feeling that they can’t wait till your next event.”
To learn more about hosting your event at Monona Terrace, contact Laura MacIsaac, CMP, director of sales, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608.261.4016.
Want to see Monona Terrace in action? Take a virtual tour here. Or check out these photos of recent events.