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Top 7 Ways to Engage Event Participants Online & Offline

If you’ve coordinated an event, you know the typical challenges. What are the topics you’ll cover? How do you keep participants informed and involved before and after the event? How do you increase participation? How do you build momentum for an event that’s months away?

With restrained budgets and more pressure to justify attending an event, the criteria for a successful event is higher now than ever before. You not only need to meet registration numbers but you also need to boost engagement and create a community for event organizers and attendees, especially when participants are geographically dispersed. With new technologies, this helps strengthen the collaboration and knowledge-sharing that occurs at the actual event and encourages the same collaboration in an online space.

Here are some tips to help you engage your stakeholders before and after the main event:

1) Know what participants want: Determining event content can be a challenge in terms of hitting the mark with your participants. So why not open up a discussion forum and let people share their thoughts and ideas for content before the event is held? There are a number of online tools that will allow you to collaborate with registrants around sessions and topics.

2) Make it easy for participants to “own” the event: Gather feedback from participants that lets them feel they are helping to contribute meaningful direction or content for the event. Also, give participants the opportunity to invite friends or colleagues that they believe might be interested. Many times, people are eager to be involved, but time limitations prohibit them from fully participating. Offer an easy way for participants to check in on the newest event updates or online conversations when it’s convenient for them. This will help participants feel involved and, in turn, see your event as successful.

3) Send lots of reminders: Amazingly, people sign up to attend events and then either forget or have something else come up last minute that they might be interested in. If you send frequent reminders — letting people know about new speakers, downloadable materials prior to the event, and other information – it helps boost your overall attendance.

4) Make it easy for participants to engage — however they want: Let people contribute on a level that’s meaningful to them, either by giving them the option of uploading photos, videos or even letting them share “My event experience” diary entries on a common site. Also, the easier all of this is, the more likely people will participate.

5) Leverage one event to help you with other events: Maybe you’re planning for one yearly event, but have other activities or events that are related. An event collaboration tool will allow you to export email addresses of attendees so they can be invited to related events and activities.

6) Involve everyone in the community early on: Gathering feedback from interested parties early in the event planning process helps boost attendance and let participants feel that they’re playing an active role.

7) Utilize social media: You need to not only work close through traditional communication channels, but also through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to engage with your participants.

At the end of the day, communication is key. As with any program or initiative you have, the success of your event is based on the communication, and inviting interested stakeholders to join an online community prior to the event is just one way to keep communication lines open and lively. No matter tools what you use to communicate with your event participants, one of your goals for event success should be driving online and offline engagement that drive real value for your stakeholders.

What do you think? Do you have any tips or experience for engaging participants more deeply in events?

Original post on Reach the Public.

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William Lim

I would add #8: quick follow up after the event, either with a report or an agenda for next steps, and agency action that implements what was recommended. Even if someone could not participate, they do not feel left out and might feel that they’ve even learned something. And for participants, it fosters the sense that they’ve contributed to something with a tangible result. Too often, participating in surveys or town halls is useful for airing gripes, but no resulting changes are seen.

Steve Cottle

Great list and I’d agree with William on #8. I’ve been to conferences that had participants energized and excited when they ended… only to lose the momentum by not immediately following up. Once people are back at work for a week, I believe they’re mentally distanced from the event a less likely to engage and keep the conversation/action moving forward.

Mary Yang

Thanks for the comments, William & Steve! I completely agree with William, too. A follow up after the event is a necessity. It’s a great way to thank someone for attending or registering for an event and nurtures the relationship you want to build with your stakeholders. Plus it helps your participants see that you’re available and open for additional conversations beyond the event.