In a market that’s crowded with conferences, meetings and annual events, it’s more important than ever to stand out — and that means keeping your attendees engaged, interested and entertained throughout your meeting or event.
Yet here’s an area that’s often overlooked — the days and weeks leading up to the event. This is a prime time to get attendees excited about what they’ll experience, but it can be easy to get distracted, even overwhelmed, by the need to finalize event logistics and details.
“It takes time and effort to come to any meeting or event, so people want to be captivated from the very start,” according to 2018 Meetings & Events Future Trends, a whitepaper produced by CWT Meetings & Events. “And that process now starts way before attendees arrive.”
Let’s take a look at some ways you can start to engage attendees in the run-up to your event. And if the timeline of your next event or meeting allows, go ahead and put one (or all) of these ideas in action!
3 Ways to Engage Attendees Before Your Event
- Share event details
One of the most effective ways to help create pre-event buzz is by keeping your attendees in the loop. Once they register, consider sending out something like an eye-catching infographic that will give them the scoop on important event details like the location, hashtag, social media handles, the event app and some fun facts about the event/meeting and/or host city.
If you think your attendees might have a fair amount of time for sightseeing, you could also share a few recommendations for things to see, eat and experience while they’re in town for your event. Again, be sure to brand any sort of conference-related collateral with applicable hashtags and social media handles and encourage your attendees to share their experiences with their networks.
- Simplify the attendee experience
The more enjoyable and seamless an experience you can deliver to attendees, the better it will reflect not just on your event, but also your company. And here’s the good news: it’s often the smallest details that make the biggest difference.
For example, once an attendee registers, consider following up with an email that offers help with travel arrangements. Maybe you’ve secured a block of rooms at a particular hotel — if so, share that information (or, if not, feel free to recommend a few nearby lodging options). CWT Meetings & Events also offered another great suggestion in their whitepaper: provide a link to an airfare booking site that’s already populated with a few applicable flights, so attendees can book their air travel with just a few clicks.
You might also check to make sure you’re giving your attendees plenty of information about the meeting or event before it starts. If you’re hosting a large event like a conference or tradeshow, supply attendees with detailed itineraries and maps so that they can plan their show experience (more on that in a moment).
- Start conversations
Why wait until your event or meeting starts to talk about it? Start the buzz early by initiating conversations on your social media channels. This is also an ideal opportunity to start engaging your speakers or featured guests, too. Consider hosting a Twitter chat on a topic related to your event and a speaker’s expertise. Or use your social media channels to crowdsource ideas and questions from your attendees. Examples include:
- What are they hoping to take away from the event?
- Who are they most excited to see or meet?
- What one thing do they want to see or try in the event’s host city?
- What professional challenges are they facing that could be solved with insights learned during the event?
If you’re going to host something like a Twitter chat or a live Facebook or Instagram Q&A, just be sure to give yourself some time to promote the event to your attendees (and larger audience) so that they can make a note to join in.
Here’s one more idea: can you incorporate sneak peeks into the pre-event promotion to get attendees excited about what’s ahead? Perhaps you could conceal the identity of a keynote speaker. Or book surprise entertainment, like a musical act, and then give clues and encourage attendees to guess who they’ll be seeing. Not only will this get attendees pumped about your event or meeting, but it also helps spread a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) among prospective attendees so they’re more likely to register!
As we mentioned earlier, you don’t need to feel pressured to put all of these ideas in action all at once. Take a look at your timeline, what you can do and what might resonate with your attendees. For example, if most of your attendees have already registered and booked travel, perhaps you could still reach out with some sightseeing and event recommendations or helpful logistical tips. It’s never a bad idea to start small and then grow your attendee engagement strategy, especially as you gather insights into what works (and what doesn’t) for your particular audience.
Keep an eye on the blog for the next post in our three-part attendee engagement series. We’ll look at ways to boost engagement during your event or meeting and why attendee engagement continues to be such a critical focus for meeting and event planners.