At any time in a meeting or conference, a wag once observed, 10% of the audience are listening and 90% are fantasising. And therein lies one of the biggest frustrations for planners.
According to events technology and research company Lumi, 57% of people check emails and 73% engage in “non-meeting related” activities when they’re sitting in conferences. That’s why increasing audience engagement is a priority for 91% of event managers.
A major problem is that people are too often bored witless when they attend corporate events. At a recent presentation to organisers in Sydney, Lumi personnel identified four ways to help make meetings more productive, and to keep people in their seats.
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You must ensure attendees are actively engaged before, during and after the occasion, they say. Teaser content could include short clips from keynote speakers, a peek at new technology on display or photos of the set-up. Stagger the release of event information to help create anticipation, and survey your audience to match speakers with topics. If you’ve invested in an event app, encourage attendees to download it and create a profile.
Separate ideas from the person
If people can remain anonymous, they’ll be more likely to ask questions and give useful insights. There are a number of reasons they don’t speak up or give feedback in meetings. One is fear of losing face or reputation, which results in an attendee saying, if they do actually talk, only what they believe is most “agreeable”. Another relates to the belief that theirs is a minority view.
Give everyone an opportunity to contribute
Technology that attendees can use to give feedback or vote in real time ensures no one is left out and overcomes the natural reluctance of many to ask questions publicly. That’s why the trend to live interaction via apps on phones, pads and laptops at meetings is rapidly increasing, say Lumi staff. Hand-raising isn’t an efficient way to measure opinions and gain feedback, especially with larger groups, they point out.
Moreover, giving the audience a way to participate turns a device that’s a distraction into a device for interaction. Lumi has a messaging and polling app, Meetoo, that allows clients to engage hundreds of participants in real time, even if they’re located around the world.
Be open to feedback
During the event itself, attendees’ comprehension of the issues at stake in real time via apps and technology (such as “what do you understand the challenges to be?”) is a key area you need to probe, as is real-time presentation evaluation (such as “please rate the previous speaker.”) Getting instant feedback is now part of a typical conference agenda.
After the event, in particular, consider surveying attendees. It shows you care about their opinions while providing practical feedback you can use to create better events. To keep attendees engaged afterwards, you should provide content they can easily consume and share, like video or image compilations, Lumi says.
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