Audience engagement – part 4
Director of Conference Focus, Max Turpin is sharing his insights on a range of topics with a regular column in BEN. Topics include new generation events and making events effective and valuable.
LET’S remind ourselves of the dictionary definition of engagement: The act of being involved with something; to be interested.
There are tactics and tools available to encourage people to become engaged or to heighten their interest. While researching for this article, I jumped online to find out what others in the industry are saying about engagement. Here are a just a few of what I consider to be the more nutty, verging on plain silly, ideas about engagement at events. And remember, these come from so-called event profs:
“A business event may revolve around its speakers but speakers only thrive when the audience is engaged”. What nonsense! One of the primary roles of any speaker is to engage the audience. If the audience is already engaged, the speaker’s job is to maintain it. If they’re not engaged, the speaker’s job is to create or enhance engagement. Either way, the audience – their mood, their thoughts, their level of engagement – is controlled by the speaker.
“Engaging the five senses provides the perfect foundation for a successful event. The best way to engage is by making sure you capture all their senses”. I kinda get this but then I don’t... sight (lighting), sound (they’re playing that song I hate… again), taste (what’s for lunch?), smell (smells good), touch (this note paper’s rough and why’s my table sticky?). Mostly extrinsic, non-core notions to me.
My personal favourite: “Use a huge screen or multiple screens”. Clearly, this person believes there’s correlation between the size and amount of screens in the room and levels of engagement. Some might say this would be distracting. I might make this point: If the speaker is uninspiring, their content of little or no interest and their slideshow straight out of the 90s, providing we use big screens and plenty of them, you think people will be engaged? Hey, I’ve got an idea, let’s use fireworks.
Event Tech: All the event tech suppliers have an opinion on engagement and have posted blogs on the subject. Here’s a snapshot of what they say you should do to encourage engagement: conduct a live poll, provide hashtags and tweetable moments, use social media, use gamification, encourage matchmaking, display social conversations, conduct a survey, use push notifications. These suggestions are all well and good but tech only plays a role in enhancing audience engagement – a sub-peripheral role. They are not the foundation, heart or essence of engagement. That role is claimed by good, strategic event design.
Read previous instalments in this series here.