Events used to be about getting bodies in the door, then delivering a message to a captive audience and hoping it sticks. But today's busy professionals—attendees and event organizers alike—don't have time for such a haphazard method.

Real-world attendee engagement is crucial to event success, and events must deliver the benefits that participants want. Creating the experiences that event participants are looking for is what will drive attendee engagement.

The What and Why of Attendee Engagement

Attendee engagement is directly related to the level of commitment, involvement, and satisfaction that an attendee experiences regarding an event. And the whole point of increasing attendee engagement is to increase the value that people take away from an event.

Attendee engagement can be built before, during, and after an event. The most successful event organizers listen to their participants and implement their suggestions to ensure that every professional can, first of all, remain committed to attending the event and, after attending, leave that event feeling satisfied with the time and money they spent and even more dedicated to the event brand.

Events have built-in opportunities for engagement. From live presentations to one-on-one meetings, you can engage directly and indirectly with attendees in multiple ways while fostering connections among participants.

Drivers of Attendee Engagement: Involvement, Commitment, and Satisfaction

Event organizers can enhance a participant's involvement by keeping them active—as well as thinking and talking about the event itself. They can gather input about what attendees hope to gain from the event, provide an event hashtag to encourage real-time sharing on Twitter, and create an event "alumni" group on Facebook or LinkedIn to keep the discussion going long after the event has ended.

Once an attendee is involved in an event, it's necessary to keep up their level of commitment to the endeavor. Event organizers encourage engagement via activities such as a Facebook RSVP, opportunities to co-create event content, or incentives and discounts for previous attendees.

Attendee satisfaction can't be fully measured until an event is complete, but it can certainly be enhanced and encouraged along the way. For example:

  • Via appointment matching technology, event organizers can enable attendees to be matched with other professionals.
  • Real-time updates or SMS text messaging can be used to enhance convenience during an event.
  • Email or mobile content delivered post-event can keep the interest and engagement alive.

Here are five specific ways to achieve the goal of engagement.

1. Get Personal

Event marketers can gather attendees' preferences during the online registration process, which allows them to personalize the event experience for each attendee, from using their name in an email to adjusting event offerings to match topics that interest attendees most, to delivering relevant content that matches defined interests via a participant's preferred communication platform.

2. Get Social

social media has been credited with increasing brand awareness, event attendance, media coverage, and sales. Most of all, social media can create and enrich relationships between clients and prospects, leading to greater attendee engagement. A recent study highlighted in Exhibitor Magazine found that eight out of 10 marketers are using social media, including 38% who use it for event marketing.

3. Build a Community

Communities take different forms, but the bottom line is that community-oriented opportunities keep attendees more strongly engaged. Event marketers can take their participants' common interests and develop an event-dedicated LinkedIn Group, Google+ hangout, or Facebook page.

4. Make It Mobile

People are engaged with their smartphone or tablet more often than not. The proliferation of mobile devices makes them a natural vehicle for increasing attendee commitment, participation, and satisfaction. Mobile-friendly event apps can deliver updates and helpful links. Attendees can become further engaged at an event by participating in real-time surveys or accessing speaker content as an event is taking place.

5. Maximize Productivity

In this case, "productivity" relates to an attendee's desired outcome for an event. How attendees interact with one another to maximize their productivity is one of the most important elements of attendee engagement. Event marketers can use appointment matching technology to facilitate pre-scheduled one-to-one meetings that take place at the event between like-minded professionals.

* * *

Event planners who keep the three important factors of involvement, commitment, and satisfaction in mind will truly be able to enhance attendee engagement at their next event. (For more information, download Certain's whitepaper, Attendee Engagement in a Value-Driven Era (registration required).)

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image of Patrick Cava

Patrick Cava is marketing manager at Certain Inc., a leading provider of SaaS event management technology for the global meetings and events industry. Reach him via

Twitter: @Certain