It’s all about connection – create a dynamic group program!

by Amy Beilke, Account Executive at Carrousel Travel

Recently it seems that everything I read and every seminar I attend all point to creating attendee connection. It doesn’t matter what you’re planning – a large national meeting, a corporate incentive program or a special interest group – everyone wants to feel connected, involved and welcomed.

It’s called engaging your audience and it’s quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of your program or meeting. We want attendees to feel connected to the audience, to our speakers, to the content and most importantly our organization or brand.

The number one reason for people to go to conferences used to be to learn, and now the priority is networking. Learning is all around us these days with content, opinions, pictures, you name it, and you can study it on the internet. Nowadays, people want to meet other people!

Here are a few ways to keep your audience engaged –

Social Media. The hype of a conference, large meeting or incentive program starts long before the actual program. Create a hashtag of your event and post that everywhere to start the engagement early. Point your audience to the event source, whether it is an event URL or a page on your intranet; get people to go to the source of information about the event or program. This has a dual purpose 1) to educate people on the event and 2) to get people excited about the program. They will see what it’s about, learn what they will do and see your well thought out theme which ties into your objectives.

Be sure to announce the hashtag early and start inviting engagement by doing posts, activities, or virtual scavenger hunts; for example, have them find a picture of something that they have to post using the event hashtag. And finally, many programs use these “pre-event” activities at the event to tie it all together. Get creative and have some fun!

Fun and games. Speaking of fun, people are more apt to learn when they are having fun. By having fun you create memories and by creating memories, you are creating loyalty for your brand, message or meeting objective. People will remember how they felt. Be sure to make it a positive feeling.

Did you know that learning by playing games leads to improved critical thinking skills, creativity, teamwork, and good sportsmanship? People solve problems by playing games, they support their teammates, they learn new things and they have fun while doing it. Two minutes of laughter equals ten minutes on a rowing machine. It’s energizing! So if you are ever trying to open up a meeting with an icebreaker to get people in the right mindset, open it up with a game and weave this fun throughout your meeting or program. A few examples include –

  • Name that tune, play a few notes and then have each table figure out the rest of the song.
  • Lyrics game, play a song with a few words and have the audience fill in the rest of the lyrics.
  • Name that celebrity, have a sheet of paper at each table with nothing but celebrity smiles and have the table decide which smile belongs to which celebrity.

Use technology to your advantage. Consider a social wall in a common area of your event where attendees can go and look at posts. Don’t forget to give them the tools and create the atmosphere for them to have fun with technology – use a green screen for photo’s where attendees can choose their background. Have it branded with your event and encourage them to post pictures using the event hashtag. Or simply have a branded background, plenty of props and signs and encourage them to take selfies and post them on your social channels using the event hashtag.

Consider a polling application – many times this feature is already available with your event technology. Polling the audience during a seminar or meeting is a great way to get people to interact with the speaker, ask questions, or share comments and additional information. It’s also a tool to keep people engaged during the presentation.

So next time you are planning an event, a conference or a large meeting, plan on intentional audience engagement to create a lasting impression. This will leave your guests with a positive feeling, fun memories and most importantly loyalty to you and your brand.