Audience engagement is billed as the magic panacea to a meeting planner’s problems. Without engagement, a successful meeting is impossible. But with so much contradictory or confusing information out there about audience engagement, how do you achieve it and how does it improve your return on investment? This article will walk you through the secrets to better audience engagement.
What Is Audience Engagement?
In the Digital News Project of 2016, Nic Newman, a Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, predicted that audience engagement would become increasingly important as more than half of his study’s respondents listed it as their most important priority.
But why is engagement so important?
According to a Meetings in America study, 91% of business professionals admitted to daydreaming in meetings and 39% admitted to falling asleep at some point. There’s no return on investment for your meeting if your attendees aren’t paying attention or worse… are asleep!
Audience engagement is about keeping your participants interested to the point that they are motivated to complete an action, even if that action is merely to become more involved or connected to you. Engagement, at a minimum, requires a three-pronged approach of:
- rich content (content that audiences want to interact with)
- a dynamic speaker/facilitator
- technology that begs to be used.
In order for these things to be engaging, they must be of interest to the audience, not just the business behind them.
There is an often forgotten fourth component to audience engagement, facilitating connections between the attendees. When people are connected with one another, they will be more engaged in the entire experience.
Finally, timing is also critical to engagement. Even if you produce great content, when it is posted affects who sees it. If you post it when most of your followers or interested audience are paying attention to something else, your content will pay the price. Timing is also important when they receive communications like email. A connection made at the wrong time may be more annoying than engaging. Watch open rates and engagement rates to find the ideal time for your audience.
These few things are the beginning of an engagement strategy that will help attendees stay involved and actively contribute (in a manner beneficial to them). Now let’s get to the tactics that will help you make the most of those pieces.
13 Sure-Fire Ways to Engage Your Audience and Acquire Their Attention
1. Know your audience and tailor your content.
Engaging content and activities are in the eyes of the meeting attendees. Engagement is not a secret handshake. It is different for every audience. Knowing your attendees will help you create more engaging opportunities and provide them with what they want and need.
2. Tell a story. Stories draw an audience in.
With competition for attention being tougher than ever before, you need an advantage and storytelling is it. Whether you’re doing it live or as part of your meeting collaterals, telling a story will capture the minds of your attendees and improve retention. In fact, a study at Stanford University found that statistics combined with stories yield an information retention rate of 65–70%.
3. Share rich content.
Rich content is a term used for content that people feel the urge to interact with, such as polls and clickable fields. It increases time on page and engagement. Meetings should never be a one-way dissemination of information. You want to share content that attendees will feel drawn to interact with it. Visual collaboration tools and polls are ideal for increasing engagement.
4. Solicit user-generated content.
User-generated content, like it sounds, is content created or shared by your audience. An unengaged audience will never contribute content so once you have them engaging with you, encourage them to share content as well. This can be done through feedback using visual collaboration tools or inviting them to take pictures and post them. Those images can be shared with others as well as part of an event photo wall. User-generated content is invaluable because it’s an indicator that your audience is engaged. It also gives them a sense of pride when others see value in the content they are creating and sharing.
5. Tease the audience with content.
In the past, presenters have written books in their slides with a lot of information presented and read verbatim from the screen. This is a good way to put your audience to sleep. Today, with visual collaboration tools, you can leak out pieces of the information and tease the audience with it. A slide presentation is now an interactive reveal of information, one that leaves the audience interested and guessing at what will come next. Check out our webinar on Meeting Attention Deficit Disorder, where we provide pointers on great presentations.
6. Make and facilitate connections.
Engagement is still a social activity. Give meeting attendees plenty of opportunities to connect in-person and online. With ConnexMe’s messaging feature, attendees can message one another without an exchange of phone numbers or email addresses.
7. Explain the why.
Concepts are difficult to connect to without context. Give your audience the why behind what you’re presenting and what’s in it for them. Connections are important to not only establishing professional relationships but also in establishing the context for learning and participation.
8. Incorporate social media.
Use live stream technology to broadcast your meetings (if appropriate). You can also encourage the use of hashtags and posting during the meeting. On the other hand, if proprietary information is being discussed, make sure the audience knows meeting content should not be revealed to the outside audience. In those cases, you don’t want to jeopardize trade secrets nor do you want to kill interaction. Instead, you can use event tech like ConnexMe that allows your attendees to message one another and feedback on the meeting without secrets being revealed to all of Twitter.
9. Livestream your slides to their phones with an event app.
Sometimes a lack of engagement can come from where the attendee is sitting. There’s nothing worse for connections than not being able to see the visual part of the session. With event tech, you can override a bad seat by sending presentation slides directly to attendees phones. They can see them much more clearly, zoom in on a detail they want to see, and comment directly on them.
10. Ask them to pick the content.
Start with a poll with possible discussion topics then ask your audience what interests them most. Tailor your discussions to their interests. This works best with a well-versed CEO or a guru with flexibility and a depth of knowledge on multiple topics.
11. Ditch the formal setting.
A formal classroom or meeting schedule may not engage people in the same way that a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere will. An art studio, intimate bar setting, or warehouse lounge area can provide a relaxed venue that’s perfect for a meeting focused on creativity and brainstorming solutions.
12. Ask a great question or use an interactive poll in the beginning to set the tone for engagement.
Then listen. Use the interaction to flavor discussion and attendees will realize this meeting is about them, not your personal agenda. They will then contribute more knowing that you are listening.
13. Survey attendees after their session or workshop.
Engagement doesn’t end after the meeting. Carry on the conversation by asking for their opinions about the event. From speakers to meeting sections to the venue itself, ask their opinions and set a course for future meeting success.
However, polls or surveys aren’t the only way to chart engagement. After the event, take a look at the messaging between attendees. You have to ask yourself: What parts of the meeting showed the most interaction among attendees? To answer this question, you should measure your engagement in order to improve your ROI.
Engagement is a necessity but it’s not something you can order up directly. You need to create a meeting environment that encourages it, facilitates it, and rewards it. This is done through rich content that attendees want to interact with, dynamic presenters, and hands-on technology as well as connecting attendees with one another and perfecting the timing of content dissemination. This multi-faceted approach will help