You spend a lot of time - and money - planning your association’s events. So naturally, you want them to be successful and for your attendees to be engaged.
But how? How do you make sure your attendees are having a good time and engaged in your sessions/activities?
Here are a few tips:
Offer a variety of session formats
If your event is educational in nature (a conference, for example), you may want to consider playing around with session times and formats. People learn in different ways. Some are more hands-on learners, while others are more visual learners. Similarly, some people can soak up information for hours, while others prefer short, fast-paced segments.
In order to engage ALL of your attendees - regardless of learning style - make sure you’re covering all your bases. Offer a variety of session formats - both in length and style - and have those running simultaneously, if you can. A 30-minute “quick hit” with one or two speakers. A one-hour panel discussion. A two-hour deep dive. This allows attendees to 1) choose what they want (so they can learn better), and 2) switch up what they’re doing (so they don’t get bored).
The more your attendees learn, the more value they’ll get from your conference, and the more they’ll want to attend next year. Bingo.
Be strategic about your room layouts
Room layouts can have a big impact on attendee engagement. But when choosing your room layouts, understand that it all depends on how you want your attendees to engage with you - in that moment. Different situations require different room layouts.
Below are a few examples of room layouts you may want to consider, based on your event/session goals:
- Theatre style (Chairs lined up in rows facing one central speaker) - This type of layout is great for general sessions and keynotes where excessive note-taking and discussion aren’t really necessary.
- Banquet style (Multiple round tables with seats around each table) - This type of layout is good when speakers aren’t the main focus. Banquet style is great for discussion-based sessions.
- Classroom style (A series of rows or aisles facing, again, one central speaker) - If you want a mix of theatre and banquet, you may want to consider a classroom style layout. In this type of layout, attendees can easily see the speaker, but also break down into small groups (of about three or four people). Another advantage is that attendees have more space to take notes/use their computers.
So what are you trying to get out of each session? More importantly, what are your attendees trying to get out of each session? How you set up your rooms should be in line with those goals.
If you want your attendees to engage, give them opportunities to engage. Networking opportunities, in particular. Even if it’s just a 30-minute break for snacks and/or drinks, give people an excuse to gather/chat.
Now you know as well as we do that networking for many people can be tough. So make it easy on your attendees. Consider organizing a game, for example. You could create a Bingo sheet with qualities/characteristics/accomplishments in each box, and have your attendees go around and find someone who matches those qualities/characteristics/accomplishments. (For example “Has a dog” or “Has the CAE.”) This is a great way to get your attendees to network because you’re giving them something to talk about! (The winner could even get a discount on next year’s event!)
Now this is just a BRIEF overview of how to engage your event attendees, but there’s a lot more you can do to get your members (and potential members) involved. For more tips and tricks, check out our free guide, How to Engage Your Event Attendees, below!