For conference organizers, technology can be either a curse or a blessing when it comes to audience engagement. You could set your event apart using innovations such as live streams, smart events and RFID technology. But these solutions — and non-tech options — need to be leveraged strategically to distinguish your conference's experience from the competition.
Your event's experience should aim for sustainable differentiation — embracing current trends and incorporating them in a manner that helps it stand out. These five steps can help you develop strategies for 2019 and beyond:
1. Make people your priority. Put your attendees first by showing them you care. Whether your budget is $10 or $10 million, it doesn't take much to provide a personalized experience.
Put this in action by using an event-registration platform that can integrate with your CRM and other marketing tools. This way, you can send messages to an eventgoer using his or her name and maybe employer, too. Personalizing your outreach might not elicit the exact same emotions as face-to-face contact, but you'll create the building blocks for a great experience next year.
2. Divide and conquer. The larger your conference is, the more diverse your attendees will be. Your messaging won't speak to everyone — unless you differentiate between industry newbies and veterans, for example.
Segment your audience to create targeted advertising. It's similar to creating a kid's table for attendees under 16 and then offering them hot chocolate instead of mulled wine. You're segmenting your attendees based on specific traits, then targeting them according to those traits.
3. Make it easy for attendees. Unnecessary forms and paperwork are a surefire way to disengage eventgoers, no matter what kind of experience your conference offers. Simplify the process by using solutions that make it easier for attendees to give sponsors the information they want.
For example, provide RFID wristbands or badges that allow sponsors to retrieve data without hefty spreadsheets. You'll have the opportunity to collect that same information and use it to learn more about your eventgoers and build more personal experiences in the future.
4. Take advantage of the distractions. Mobile apps can be the worst enemy of an event trying to maintain the attention of an attendee. Flip that trend on its head and use mobile event apps to turn your attendees' disengagement into yet another way to connect to your event.
When looking for a mobile app, search for features such as push notifications, live polls and the ability to map your conference. This way, attendees can interact with the event community without feeling disconnected from the outside world.
5. Supply useful event swag. Make swag part of your overall planning process and turn it into a piece of the conversation. Rather than making swag some unwanted event add-on, produce items that help eventgoers accomplish their intended goals for the event.
While all the other strategies are based on technology, this physical, IRL object can create an even deeper connection with attendees. For instance, build networking into your swag by placing conversation starters on it instead of your logo. While swag emblazoned with your logo could potentially connect with customers and rising trends, useless items will only help attendees associate your brand with stuff they don't want. Make the freebies valuable instead of expendable.
Are you afraid your conference looks and feels like the rest? Download this e-book for tips on how to build an event experience that makes an impact in the new year and every one after.
Ronnie Higgins works at Eventbrite, helping event planners level-up their registration game. Born and raised in New Orleans, he enjoys nothing more than helping people get together — whether for a conference, class or a citywide party like Mardi Gras.