Au­di­ence en­gage­ment – part 5

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SO HOW do you mea­sure en­gage­ment? Com­ing back to event tech sup­pli­ers, they claim that en­gage­ment can be mea­sured by the num­ber of tweets sent, the num­ber of so­cial con­ver­sa­tions, the num­ber of event images posted, the num­ber of peo­ple re­ply­ing to sur­veys or par­tic­i­pat­ing in polls. In re­sponse, I would say okay, fine, but all these things are quan­ti­ta­tive, not qual­i­ta­tive. Just be­cause some­one sends a tweet or posts a pic­ture, does that qual­ify them as an en­gaged, sat­is­fied par­tic­i­pant? To draw com­par­i­son, you may have had 100 peo­ple visit your web­site in the past week but if none of them ac­tu­ally did any­thing and took ac­tion – buy some­thing or con­tact you – the numbers are ir­rel­e­vant. They were merely browsers. And they left your web­site dis­en­gaged. What you re­ally want is new clients.

I would ar­gue that mea­sur­ing en­gage­ment is a waste of time be­cause the only thing that mat­ters is ac­tion and out­comes. You could say that ev­ery­one was en­gaged at your event be­cause they all wrote notes. Well, most peo­ple do. How many of you have writ­ten notes down at an event, taken them back to work and never looked at them again? I would guess ev­ery­one. Do­ing some­thing with your notes and tak­ing (new) ac­tion is the only thing that mat­ters. If you don’t do any­thing new af­ter at­tend­ing an event or apply any­thing you learned, you’ve pretty much wasted your time. And the host has wasted their money. Most at­ten­dees leave events smil­ing, take their notes with them – des­tined to find their way to the bot­tom of a pile of un­read re­ports or some other dark crevice – and later rate the event eight out of 10, giv­ing the im­pres­sion to the host and or­gan­is­ers that is was a great suc­cess. This hap­pens all the time. You might say the be­hav­iour is mis­lead­ing, de­ceit­ful even. But for an at­tendee, a day out of the of­fice meeting friends old and new, paid for by their com­pany, is some­thing to en­joy. We like days like that. So while the con­tent wasn’t en­gag­ing and I have no in­ten­tion to use any of it, I had a good time. In fact, I wish there were more days like that. Here….have an eight out of 10.

A well-de­signed event sur­vey can help un­cover en­gage­ment lev­els and, more im­por­tantly, what peo­ple in­tend to do af­ter­wards and how to apply what they learnt. In ad­di­tion and bet­ter still is a post-event com­mu­ni­ca­tion and fol­low-up strat­egy de­signed to find out what peo­ple are do­ing with what they learned and en­cour­ag­ing them to take ac­tion. But how many event own­ers or plan­ners bother with that, let alone even con­sider it?

In sum­mary, there’s no doubt en­gage­ment at events is an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion. But I be­lieve it’s been over-hyped, while out­comes are over­looked. The value of any­thing, tan­gi­ble or in­tan­gi­ble, is mea­sured by its ben­e­fits and use­ful­ness. En­gage­ment is im­por­tant, out­comes are valu­able.

Read pre­vi­ous in­stall­ments in this se­ries here.

If you’d like to learn more about how to make your events fresh, in­no­va­tive and ef­fec­tive, please con­tact Max Turpin at Con­fer­ence Fo­cus on 02 9700 7740 or email max@con­fer­ence­fo­cus.com.au.

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