How to make an event truly memorable? That’s the question that often runs through every event organiser’s mind. Granted, there are many variables at play, but the biggest factor for success is interaction: that’s what delegates value above all. They want to be involved and actively participate in the discussions. This is where audience engagement steps in.
For many event managers, audience engagement is their number one goal. An event with no engagement probably doesn’t have a healthy future. Audience engagement means different things to different people. Venues spoke to two experts in the industry to find out how they define audience engagement.
Jason Allan Scott, author of the best-selling “Eventrepreneur Series” books and host of The Guest List podcast, recognises the subjectivity of audience engagement, saying that “the definition would be different for everyone you ask.
“But to me, it is twofold: engagement is the attendee of the event doing the thing you want them to do. A piece of engaging content at an event, therefore, is something that successfully inspires the action it was designed to instigate; but secondly, it is also about what the attendee wants and what they walk away with after the event is over.”
Adam Azor, senior vice president of integrated and digital marketing at Jack Morton Worldwide, shares this idea of engagement being defined by a desired outcome. “For me, audience engagement is creating an interactive narrative with your attendees to create a desired outcome. This can be through practical experience, a two-way dialogue, or increasing via technology.”
Secrets to success
In a heavily-traded market, venues need to provide something extra, a “wow” factor, to ensure their success. Some of SA’s venues that are achieving successful audience engagement share their secrets.
The Forum: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. The chair is out to kill us,” says James Levine, a professor of medicine at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the USA.
“When we read that, it was pretty scary,” says Nthabeleng Lentsoane, marketing manager at the Forum, “so we took action and were one of the first to pioneer standing conferences and walking receptions in South Africa. We encourage physical activities such as yoga or walking as part of any meeting or conference. One of our mottos is ‘Sitting Kills, Moving Heals’ and our experienced team of co-ordinators is constantly brainstorming creative and novel ways to get delegates active because moving increases productivity and creates positive event recall. This philosophy has made The Forum the first in the world to be awarded the status of ‘Gold Healthy Venue’.”
Indaba Hotel: Sharon Hunink, sales and marketing manager at the Indaba Hotel, says that what makes their conferencing facilities a preferred venue is its impressive selection of conference rooms and 250-seater auditorium with banqueting facilities for up to 800 people. “We are the perfect ‘home away from home’ venue. 15km north of the busy Sandton CBD and 2km from the hustle and bustle of Fourways/Monte Casino Business Precinct, but are still able to maintain the peace and tranquillity of a country-resort because of our 17 hectares of bushveld gardens, dams and landscaped gardens.”
JSE: The JSE offers an eventing experience which has an exclusive auditorium and spacious atrium for flexible seating as well as a media hub that houses TV and radio studios for business media brands including SABC, Nielsen and Power FM. “So if you’re hosting client engagements, company results announcements or a market open at our venue it’s just a few convenient steps to the studios for interviews with the media with the option of your guests watching live simultaneous broadcasts from one of our venues,” says Carol Crozier, manager: Company Services at the JSE.
11 Alice Lane: Being able to offer potential clients great location is still one of the key differentiators in today’s eventing space. “This is one of the key benefits of the state-of-the-art auditorium and meeting rooms located at 11 Alice Lane, which is found in the heart of Sandton within the area known as ‘Africa’s Richest Square Mile’ and arguably the epicentre of commerce on the African continent, the venue offers supporting services including video and telephone conference facilities, catering, printing and IT assistance,” says Marius Horn, the venue’s operations administration manager.
The Inanda Club: Be it for business or leisure, the warm hospitality of the Inanda Club staff, attention to detail and personalised service all combine to ensure that our guest’s time with us will always be a memorable experience, says Paul Oosthuizen, general manager of the Inanda Club.
“The Club offers a number of function venues including a 500-seater ballroom and five smaller meeting rooms with spectacular views of Sandton that can be used individually or combined into one large room, as well as a large polo field perfect for family days or corporate events.”
Tools to assist
Apart from providing the “wow” factor, event venues also need to engage, excite and entertain attendees, doing so will make a big difference to satisfaction levels. But how can audience participation be facilitated, how does a venue create a buzzing atmosphere and how does it know if the attendees are satisfied? The most obvious answer is feedback and measurement. Venues rely on feedback from clients using their conference facilities and are always looking for meaningful and recorded feedback.
There are several tech-savvy solutions to farm and measure healthy feedback and translate it into audience engagement success as well as tools to facilitate audience participation. These can be used as an everyday feedback solution built into venues’ CRM systems to provide real-time voting and polling analytics from check-ins to problematic ablution facilities and service delivery on any day, allowing venues to immediately rectify where needed.
The use of such tools as listed below can be built into venue rental packages as a feedback service to events managers and clients. Audiences always have something to say, and these tools will provide them with the means to do so.
Mentimeter is a mobile voting app that displays results live with real-time graphs and charts. It can handle over 30 000 votes per minute and offers different question/response formats such as multiple-choice, open-ended, rating scale and word clouds. It can be styled according to a company’s branding.
Glisserallows presenters to share slides to the audience’s mobile devices, which the audience can then like, comment on or share to their social networks.
Buzzmaster is an audience interaction app with a difference — it comes with “BuzzMasters”, real people (journalists or experienced event managers) who moderate the audience responses in real-time, curating the most interesting comments and stories. They can also hit the audience with new questions, helping to facilitate the session and create a buzz.
Catchbox is not an app, but a physical microphone, the world’s first throwable wireless microphone. When someone has a question, the presenter simply throws the Catchbox, engaging the participant in a fun game of catch.
Live Insights is a mobile polling and feedback app by QuickMobile that lets the audience vote, rate or answer multiple-choice questions from their phones. As well as being able to create questions ahead of time, presenters can launch a poll on the fly, facilitating a truly interactive session and enabling presenters to tailor their presentations according to the audience’s real-time response.
Power Vote equips participants with individual voting keypads. The keypads enable participants to respond to multiple-choice questions by selecting letters or numbers. The responses can be displayed in real-time, making it easy to gauge sentiment.
Engage now lets you design attractive-looking polls and quizzes that empower the audience to interact with the big screen during an event. It can also be used to crowd source questions or open up chat around the event to spark debate.
Event Scribes’ mobile event app has numerous functions including allowing participants to ask questions, post comments and connect on a private social networking platform. Attendees can access presentation slides, which they can annotate and then share with other delegates.
Slido enables the audience to ask questions and vote for the ones they like the most. Slido will help to prioritise the discussion topics for conference Q&As, panel discussions or all-hands meetings and polls the audience in real time, thereby providing instant feedback.