Rarely a week passes without someone in our industry musing about ‘engagement’. Yet a key aspect has remained unaddressed: clarity on how organizers of meetings and events can actually use it. We’re going to change that today.
What it is
Let’s quickly anchor ourselves with a basic definition. For live meetings and events, engagement encompasses participants’ interactions with other participants, as well as with the content, partners, brands, event team, and special events. In short, it is the participant’s interactive journey.
Why it matters
Like a true friend, engagement levels provide genuine, real-time feedback. The gold-standard is observing what takes place when participants vote with their feet. How, and with whom, people choose to invest their time are the Holy Grails of expressed interest. Each year billions are spent capturing and extracting those insights across every major marketing channel. And it’s happening every second at your events. Let’s break it down.
How to use it
Because events vary significantly we need a reference point to provide helpful context. Engagement Score™, calculated by our SaaS-based Events Management Platform, provides that reference point. Think of it as an event’s interactive profile. Using our integrated platform to understand and manage your event’s Engagement Score™ enables three essential abilities.
First, Situational Awareness.
Knowledge of our surroundings permits us to respond appropriately. By understanding what’s working or not working, right now, we can quickly take action to magnify the good or minimize the less-than-good. With finite resources and time, awareness permits us to prioritize.
Is foot traffic to a platinum sponsor light and trending down? Send a text message to relevant participants, or wheel out a snack cart. The point is to know where to focus effort in the moments that matter.
Second, Identify Key Influencers.
No two participants are the same, and they interact with our events in unique ways. Some arrive well-prepared with full agendas and energy; they work the event with a level of intensity that mirrors your own. Others do so to varying degrees. Enabling and maintaining high levels of engagement generates interest and activations which in turn creates Influencers. And Influencers have out-sized impact on future event attendance and performance. The key is recognizing the most active networkers, popular sessions and activities which ignited bursts of interaction.
In very real ways, events are the stage upon which you capture the insights your partners crave. It starts by observing and then analyzing their activities.
Third, Continuous Improvement.
This simple concept is often anything but simple – identifying the parts of our events that warrant repeating, and those that do not. Accuracy here requires a balanced view of the event’s performance. Yet that noble exercise can be easily skewed; consider the combined influence of these common realities: single-digit survey response rates, out-sized influence of ‘squeaky wheels’, and personal biases. Instead, effective event diagnostics require consistency in terms of collecting and weighing inputs. The rewards include the ability to compare events and identify trends. Stock market index funds operate in a similar manner: these unique mixtures of stocks move up or down in response to market sentiment with very real financial implications.
Like stocks, events are similarly unique and benefit from comparisons. To equip you and your teams with similar insights, we provide the option to combine Engagement Scores™ drawn from your individual events. The result is your unique Event Performance Index™, powered by our market-leading platform. By utilizing our SaaS-based Event Performance Index™, you and your stakeholders will benefit from actionable insights drawn from events across your portfolio and over time.
To gain a deeper understanding of their event’s performance our customers can compare current and prior events. The resulting context highlights trends and provides a quick gauge of activity. While industry benchmarks can help, nothing beats the perspective gained through the lens of your own events.
Managing engagement at scale
Achieving all three – situational awareness, identifying key influencers, and continuously improving your events – starts with committed and experienced staff. To do all three consistently and at scale requires additional tactics. Notable among these are advanced participant tracking technologies such as smart badges. To save your team time and help connect the many important dots, those smart badges and related analytics should be fully integrated with your event technology platform. Otherwise the risk is just having more data – but not any further actionable insights.
While event goals vary by type of event, audience profile and other factors there are enough common elements to provide a basic roadmap. Let’s break down the above definition into some familiar event metrics that you can begin tracking today.
Engagement encompasses participants’ interactions with…
other participants: # connections made, # meetings requested & accepted, # messages sent
the content: session attendance & ratings, avg sessions/attendee, total time in sessions
partners, brands: # leads scanned, total & avg time spent in exhibit hall, visit dwell time
event team: survey feedback, on-site interactions, social media posts
and special events: attendance, avg time spent, networking activity, survey feedback
While this list may seem intimidating, the most essential step is the first one. That is, start by focusing on an achievable set. Then, evolve your event’s engagement metrics in partnership with stakeholders. In short order, you will turn every event into the experience your attendees love while simultaneously capturing the insights your stakeholders crave.
Written by: Bill Bosak