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From Disconnect to Unconference: 4 Ways to Promote Audience Involvement at Corporate Events
Thursday, May 10th, 2012 | Comments | Latest Posts

Yawning hippoWhat’s the point of an event? As we mentioned earlier this week, events are a great way to spice up your existing marketing program and interact with people face-to-face. Typically, most corporate events are created to inform, to interact, or to sell. While most events are built at least on the premise of informing attendees, some (like, say, SXSW) are just as well (if not better) known for the social side of things, while others (Cloudforce, perhaps) focus on “selling” the benefits of a particular tool.

Even when aiming to educate, conferences can sometimes put too many restrictions in place on attendees, at the cost of creating an event that truly resonates with an audience. Event planning blog Engage 365 recently (re-)posted an overview of disconnects at nonprofit conferences specifically. While nonprofit staff are generally digital in their everyday lives, checking email on mobile devices and connecting with others on social networks, some conferences create unfortunate disconnects for their audience members by using printed (analog) materials or discouraging use of mobile devices during presentations. These disconnects can bring, at best, a yawn, or at worst, a really dissatisfying experience for people.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, “unconferences” with no set agenda allow their attendees to plan, organize, and contribute all content on the day of the event. Many tech- and business-focused events fall somewhere in between disconnected events and unconferences, with printed brochures and center-of-attention panelists on stage but at least some digital presence and mobile interaction. While conference organizers want to ensure that sessions are focused on providing quality information, they should also look to ways to involve attendees not only as questioners but also as participants. With that goal in mind, here are four ways to promote audience involvement at corporate events and conferences:

1. Creative panels

Panels are great for both audiences and presenters: they provide audiences with a well-rounded viewpoints (as well as the opportunity to ask questions), and they take pressure off individual presenters to touch on every point. They’re also, by nature, more interactive than presentations, which helps

2. Audience polls

I recently attended a continuing medical education conference where the doctors presenting used anonymous audience voting on various topics and treatment methods. It was a great way for the presenters to identify areas their audience already understood (and hence needed less coverage) versus areas that needed to be addressed in depth. It’s not a new idea, but far too few conferences take advantage of this approach.

3. Mobile audience questions

People like to participate, but not everyone is the type to stand up and walk to a microphone in front of hundreds of folks. That’s why providing an easy mobile forum for people to instantly ask anonymous questions–screened by a moderator to ensure relevance and focus–is a great way to raise new topics of conversation and ensure that multiple viewpoints are heard.

4. Curated followup

One of the tragedies of great events is poor cataloguing of content and insights they produce. Good conferences post their speakers’ presentation slides and may also offer video, but few conferences have a truly great assembly of both conference content and related coverage. SnapHop is working to close this gap with feedback aggregation modules.

Creativity and engagement–but not at the expense of organization–are at the heart of a great event. How will you aim to make your next conference more engaging?

Hippo yawn by wwarby used under Creative Commons license.

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