How to maximize engagement and growth
Registration and attendance at virtual events have dropped significantly over the past few months. This can only mean one thing! Screen fatigue is real, and event planners are having a harder time engaging their audience.
It’s no surprise that one of the main reasons people attend online events is because they’re craving connection. Some planners understand this and use different tools to engage their audience. However, creating an interactive experience is a skill that not everyone has learned.
What can event producers do to keep audiences intrigued and engaged and to minimize the inevitable screen fatigue experienced at online events? Fortunately, our February episode of Cadence featured an expert in digital experiences who shared his professional advice about what event organizers can do to guarantee an immersive experience for guests.
Cadence is a monthly program hosted by ACE Virtual Events and beedance, where professionals in the events, communication, and marketing industries are invited to share their perspectives and expertise on relevant topics around cadence in business. For the Cadence: Era of Engagement episode, our featured guest was Ron Shaw.
Ron Shaw is the Executive Director at beedance. As a digital expert with an extensive background in communication, technology, and events, he has helped over 300 organizations and companies to strategize, execute, measure, and achieve their business outcomes. He is a digital strategist at heart, best known for his ability to apply creativity and strategic thinking to the ever-changing world of technology. Ron's passion for neuroscience and neurotechnology influences all the work he is involved in. His ultimate goal is to find the best ways to bridge the gap between technology and humanity.
Ron spoke about how to maximize engagement and growth by: educating speakers on how to interact with the audience, taking the hosts through the experience first, finding the right type of engagement and being innovative with the technology that was created as a result of the pandemic.
Decline in employee engagement
One of the more undiscussed results of the pandemic is employee disengagement. An article by Gallup explained that 2021 saw its first decline in employee engagement in a decade. In 2020 and the first half of 2021, employee engagement was at 36%, but that number quickly dropped to 34%. Generally, employees started to feel disgruntled and no longer wanted to work for organizations that were not actively trying to meet their needs, as is evident by The Great Resignation.
Understandably, most businesses also took a hit, and had to make adjustments for their employees to work from home, which came with its own challenges. Ron mentioned that one of the downsides to working remotely is that there are more distractions at home, especially for people who had not done remote work before. What he saw mostly was that a lot of working parents had to handle their work and take care of their children at the same time, a balancing act that didn’t exist in the office.
Aside from having more distractions at home, employees who shifted from working in-office to working remotely had to change their routine and set up their schedule on a daily basis. They also stopped taking meetings in conference rooms and had to take online meetings and learn a new way to interact with managers and coworkers. All of these factors contributed to employee disengagement. With an abrupt transition from in-person to virtual meetings, companies had to think of new ways to drive more participation and engagement.
How to drive more participation and engagement
The key advice that Ron offered his clients on what to focus on to get more engagement was to educate their speakers and hosts. Speakers need to learn how to interact with an audience that isn’t sitting in front of them, explained Ron, and that can prove to be a real challenge. The goal for any speaker should be to get their audience to hit that keyboard and interact with them through chat, but in order to do this, speakers can’t just be talking heads with slides. They have to make use of interactive tools, such as polling and Q&A.
Some platforms that are newer and more innovative, such as Remo, have different features that can enable speakers to interact with guests on a more personal level. Once the speakers learn the platform and develop new skills to utilize the tools available, they become more comfortable with the technology and provide a better experience for their audience.
Event planners also have to consider what type of engagement the audience expects to have. One mistake Ron saw that many event organizers were making was that they were spending a lot of time creating content and putting it together, so they felt the need to force feed as much as they could to their audience, whereas the audience was more interested in interacting with one another. They just didn’t know how to go about doing that.
From an event planner’s perspective, Ron advised that it’s important to show them how to have those casual conversations. For this to happen naturally, event directors need to take the hosts through the experience first. They need to take them to the different tables, have casual conversations with them, and show them how to use the platform. That way, when participants come in, hosts can give that same experience to guests themselves. From there on, hosts can introduce their attendees to other participants and get people talking to each other.
Finding the right type of engagement
What the audience is expecting for engagement, and what the event host has in mind can really become a balancing act. Before attending any event, it’s natural for a potential attendee to ask why they should attend or what they will get out of it. To make participants feel compelled to join an event, organizers need to find the right type of engagement and create a great value proposition. Ron’s recommendation was to make it a part of the planning process so that everyone can know what’s expected of them.
Educating clients on how to be innovative with the technology was another excellent suggestion made by Ron. Thankfully, one good thing that resulted from the pandemic was a surge to develop new technologies. Now, there are plenty of tools and engagement features available to planners, that it’s only a matter of learning how to use them and figuring out how to put the right pieces together.
Once you know how each tool or feature can be used, you can get creative and utilize them in different ways. Ron argued that you don’t have to be grounded to the rules. It’s important to be innovative. If there’s one thing he’s learned while working in the events industry is that you always have to be willing to take risks. If you do that, you learn what works and even if you don’t get what you’re looking for, you’re going to gain knowledge from it. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing your audience, and knowing what motivates them.
Many of our Cadence programs focus on connection and engagement. This episode highlighted the problem of disengagement and how event organizers can drive participation and engagement among their audience. Our featured guest, Ron Shaw, spoke about the importance of educating speakers and hosts by showing them how to interact with the audience and taking them through the experience first. He also explained how to find the right type of engagement and recommended that event producers get creative with the technology that was made available to us because of the pandemic. The audience at our program engaged with the speaker throughout the event and got valuable insight on how to increase engagement at future events.
If you’d like to be a part of future Cadence programs, please follow us on LinkedIn for updates, or if you’re thinking of hosting your own event, please reach out to us and we’ll gladly set up a meeting with you.