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How to engage attendees during your association’s events

by | May 22, 2021 | Membership & Marketing

Keeping event attendees engaged during your events might seem challenging.

Here’s how to “wow” attendees, even with a small staff and today’s mix of virtual, in-person, and hybrid events.

 

By Christine Bergeron, Marketing Coordinator, Community Brands

 

Conferences and events are powerful tools for associations. In the Community Brands benchmark report on small staff associations, 83 percent of respondents said events were their number one source of non-dues revenue. Events also provide members with great learning and networking opportunities, which are among the benefits members value most.

With all that events offer to your organization and members, they need to stay vibrant. That means they need to engage attendees – including members, non-members, and sponsors – from start to finish.

Creating memorable moments that “wow” attendees might seem challenging, especially when you have a small staff and you’re trying to juggle virtual, in-person, and hybrid events. But even small associations can engage event attendees in big ways.

Here are some simple yet effective ways to engage members at your associations next events:

1. Ramp up the in-person experience.

    • While the in-person event experience already tends to buzz with energy, there are still things you can do to make it extra-special for attendees, such as:
    • Schedule special meal-time activities or sessions.
    • Offer live networking events.
    • Allow sponsors to plan receptions or happy hours.
    • Provide live entertainment (which you can also live stream for virtual attendees).

TIP: With the mobile event app from YourMembership association management software, you can also keep attendees engaged through surveys, polls, and audience response systems that assist with learning, awareness, and overall participation.

2. Connect with virtual attendees.

    • Compared to the in-person experience, the virtual event experience can seem a bit lonely. Here are some ways to connect with virtual attendees:
    • Offer virtual-only interviews with industry experts, or panel discussions with thought leaders.
    • Provide an online green room where virtual attendees can have exclusive access to presenters for Q&A.
    • Enable virtual attendees to make appointments with exhibitors.
    • Allow virtual attendees to ask live questions during sessions.
    • Ask registered virtual attendees for questions ahead of time to incorporate live during the session or for a post-session Q&A interview that you stream for virtual attendees.

3. Encourage engagement and networking between in-person and virtual attendees.
With so many events going hybrid these days, engaging both audiences can seem tricky. But there are things you can do to facilitate interactions between virtual and in-person audiences:

    • Allow virtual attendees to participate or ask questions during presentations.
    • Run polls in which both in-person and virtual attendees can participate.
    • Enable networking and connections through an event mobile app and your online community. ​
    • Host a networking room where in-person attendees can stop by and chat with virtual attendees via video chat​.
    • Provide individual tablets to in-person attendees to allow for one-on-one exchanges with virtual audience members.​

TIP: YourMembership membership management software includes online member community functionality to help you increase engagement and outreach as well as social collaboration. You can use your online member community to build engagement around your event.

4. Don’t forget your sponsors.
Sponsors and exhibitors are an important part of your events. They help you cover the costs of your events and drive additional revenue for your organization. Here are some ways to help sponsors and exhibitors engage with attendees so they get the most out of their sponsorships, and so attendees connect with the products and services they need:

    • Arrange virtual and in-person scavenger hunts that encourage attendees to visit sponsors’ booths.​
    • Set up post-session Q&As with sponsors that you can also stream for virtual attendees.​
    • Offer a lunch delivery sponsorship for virtual attendees in which the attendees have lunch delivered to them if they meet with a sponsor.​
    • Give sponsors the opportunity to provide videos or ads that allow them to give attendees additional information or entertainment.
    • Offer drawings for prizes throughout the event and ask your sponsors to donate items for the giveaways.
    • Provide an interactive sponsor/exhibitor directory what helps sponsors and exhibitors connect with the attendees who need products and services.
    • Post videos of booths or other areas of the on-site event to make virtual attendees feel like they are there.

5. Ask for feedback.
Send surveys to your attendees after the event to get their feedback on your engagement activities. This will help you find out what worked and what needs improvement.

TIP: YourMembership association management software has survey functionality built in, making it easy to build and send targeted surveys and get feedback.

Even with a small staff, your organization can create engaging experiences for your event attendees. Learn more about how YourMembership membership management software can help your organization engage members during your events and throughout the year: Explore YourMembership AMS.