A lot of time, money and effort are invested into organising events. Organising a conference or an event is not only complex in terms of logistics: finding a suitable venue, organising the audiovisual equipment (and maybe even conference interpreters), sending out invitations and following up on them… You also want to develop and share content that will get your audience hooked on you. But how can you make sure that all of these efforts translate into a great event with an engaged audience that will keep talking about your event long after it has finished?
There are things you can do before, during and after the event that will help you build momentum and get participants buzzing about you.
Before the event
“Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener.” – Michel de Montaigne
Coin a hashtag that is short and catchy. As soon as you start working on your event, you should use this hashtag in all of your online communication so that your event is easy to find and recognise.
Presumably there is a specific target group that you want to reach through your event. Reach out to them and allow them to co-create your content. This way, you’ll be sure that it is content that they are interested in. You could ask them to suggest specific topics, or to choose between the topics that you’ve selected. Once you have the topic, you could even ask your target group to suggest speakers. Be careful about over-asking though, you don’t want to give your future audience the impression that you do not know anything about the topic.
Once you have your topics and your speaker(s), you have to keep the momentum by continuing to engage your future participants. You can do this by sharing teasers of what they will get if they attend your event. These could be short videos of the speakers or updates about the conference programme and any activities in the framework of the event. Share these on your event website, and spread the word via newsletters, social media channels, favouring images or short videos. Create a blog where you write about your event, and make sure that everything you post is easy to share by adding share buttons at the end of every piece of content. To encourage people to share, you might even organise a contest and give your most active retweeters a front-row seat at the conference. Everything you do should give participants the feeling that they are attending an exceptional event designed to suit their needs. This will make them feel valued, and who doesn’t like that, right?
During the event
Keep the momentum going by stimulating interaction, both with the audience physically present and with people following your event online. You could do this by taking short interviews of the speakers and the participants, and posting those online (don’t forget to use your event hashtag); or by organising voting or polling sessions. Technology allows for these to be held live and virtually, which will allow your full audience to engage. Post live updates from the event and encourage participants to do the same.
Make sure that the programme includes enough breaks so that people can stretch their legs and network. In between presentations, you could have a yoga teacher give stretching exercises, or ask people to interview their neighbours and then switch seats with them. Make sure to get them out of the passive attitude that comes with sitting all day. There are also low-threshold and game-like networking applications, but if you do not have the budget for that, simply offering free refreshments in various areas of the venue, will get people together, and chances are they’ll start to talk over a coffee or a snack. Getting new, interesting contacts out of your event is a nice extra that your participants will no doubt appreciate.
After the event
First of all, never forget to thank participants for contributing to your event and ask them for feedback on what went well, and what they would like to see improved. This seems like a no-brainer, but somehow it is still often overlooked. Make sure that people do not forget how much fun your event was and create a small video or a picture slideshow with the highlights of your event. Let people tag themselves so that their networks become aware of the fantastic event that they’ve missed. And if you’re going to organise a follow-up event, make sure that you set a date before the engagement starts to dwindle so that you can get your audience revved up for their next great event experience.
If you manage to truly WOW your participants, they will spread the word about you, and help you to grow your audience. Most of all, they will confirm your authority and credibility in your field of expertise. If you just keep listening to them, and allow them to co-create with you, their enthusiasm will cause others to want to join the gang…or should I say the band?
“I’m expanding my band. I’m adding audience members.” – Jarod Kintz