All conferences have one major thing in common. They want attendees to be engaged and interested in more than just sitting through session after session. Some attendees fall into the habit of attending conferences where they listen to the sessions but afterward can get caught up in email and checking in with the office. Most conferences have a happy hour or some form of organized networking to get attendees talking and interacting. These planned sessions are great, but there’s so much more you can do to increase attendee engagement throughout the conference.
Incorporating activities that engage attendees throughout your conference will help you have a more energized and enthusiastic group. The quality of the idea sharing and networking will increase and you’ll be left with event attendees who can’t stop talking about. We’ve outlined some of our favorite ways to engage attendees and pull them out of the never-ending email black hole.
Puppies? Yes, Puppies!
Conferences are great. The high-level content, days of learning, never-ending networking, it all adds value for the attendee. However, it can also be stressful and tiring. A great way to relieve stress is to play and cuddle up with some cute puppies. You can invite a local animal shelter to partner with your event. Designate a space where the puppies can roam around and attendees can come and go as they please. This provides a space for attendees to relax and socialize in an environment that takes them away from emails and conference calls. An added benefit is that the local shelter can promote their work & maybe even find homes for the adoptable puppies.
Life’s a Picnic
Grab and go lunches are one of the easiest and most effective ways to feed attendees. There are so many ways to have fun with how you offer this style of lunch. A great way to make lunch more social is to give a twist to the grab and go lunch. Create picnic baskets that feed 3-4 people each. Put everything in there that attendees will need; the food, drinks, plates & napkins. Create a space with picnic tables, picnic blankets & lounge furniture where attendees can eat. This space can be indoor or outdoor or even a mix! The laid-back setting is a fun change from the basic lunch set up. It also makes lunch a social experience that attendees will enjoy. Not a fan of the picnic baskets? You can still create the same feel by replacing picnic baskets with food trucks or carts while still focusing on the picnic-style group seating.
Offer Job Boards
Most attendees will fall into these categories: Looking for people to join their team, looking for a team to collaborate with, or looking for a new job opportunity. Give attendees a way to meet the right people and start the right conversations. You can create an onsite job board where people looking for a new job or looking for a new employee can post more information. Provide cards that include basic information (contact name, number, description of job/description of experience). Create a space where attendees can fill out and post the cards. Be sure to advertise the job board on social media and throughout the event so attendees remember to check it out. This will help attendees connect with the right people and will even create a space that becomes a social hub for networking.
You can achieve the same effect by turning the job board into a “problem-solving board”. Have attendees post problems they’re trying to work through & provide markers and post-it’s so that other attendees can leave their suggestions and comments. This space will quickly become an idea-sharing networking zone that your attendees will love.
Make Your Swag Interactive
Swag can be more than a pen and notebook handed out to attendees as they walk through the door. You can incorporate interactive elements that turn swag into an experience rather than an easily forgotten item. Hand out swag currency at registration that attendees can later use to “buy” their swag. Create a marketplace area and offer a variety of swag so attendees can pick what they want and walk away with something they’ll actually use.
The expo floor is usually pretty busy with attendees and sponsors networking. However, you can do more to encourage attendees to linger and really spend more time with sponsors. One way to do this is to offer a sponsor bingo or sponsor passport. Have a sheet with all the sponsors listed out and encourage attendees to collect as many sponsor signatures as they can. Connect with your sponsors ahead of time and set standards for what it takes to get their signature. This will help ensure that attendees are having meaningful conversations with sponsors as their gathering signatures. Collect the cards and offer an incentive for a random selection of some of the attendees who participated. You can offer a one-on-one meeting with your CEO, a discount or free pass to next year’s event, or any other VIP offering that fits your group.
Get Creative With Your Badges
A fun way to kick off attendee engagement from the start of your event is to offer a DIY style badge. You can still print the badges with the attendee information but have stations where attendees can personalize their badges. Offer stickers, stick on embellishments, ribbons, beads & buttons that attendees can add to their badge or lanyard. Attendees will love that they can add a part of themselves to their badge. Some of these elements can also tie into the content of your event. You can create buttons that help identify job types, if someone is looking for work, or any other industry specific identifies that speak to your group. The personalized badges will help attendees easily strike up conversation throughout your event.
There are many ways to increase attendee engagement and a wide variety of things you can do. This list is a small overview of some of our favorite more creative methods. Whatever you choose to do your attendees will appreciate the extra effort you take to make their experience engaging and personalized.
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