Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is There a Secret Sauce for Attendee Engagement at Events?

Have you been trying to figure out the best social approach for getting your meeting attendees engaged with your event?  What is your winning social strategy for piquing your customers interest in attending your organization’s conference?  Many Event professionals are wrestling with these questions… and more.

Determining how to weave a social strategy into the fabric of your event is not an easy task.  In fact many meeting executives are still trying to learn the basics of the technology itself.  So, is there a magic social formula for getting customers fired up about your meeting?

The Secret Sauce for Attendee Engagement?

There really isn’t a “silver bullet” or universal solution to a successful attendee engagement strategy.  Every meeting has its own set of dynamics.  The “secret sauce” if there is any, is that you, and your team must invest significant time and energy to get your own organization engaged.  A key component to that process is developing a well thought out strategy for integrating social technology into your event.

There is a common misconception in the business world that a sound approach is to sign up for a bunch of social networks and then wait for the magic to happen.  This “build it and they will come” philosophy is a dead-end that will not serve you, your customers, or your organization well, at all.  I published an article last week blog about this issue .. check it out!

Collaboration is Key

Next week, at the Experient e4 Conference, I will be leading an Exchange Cafe session entitled, “Social Media: What’s Working and What’s Next?” For context the e4 conference brings together Experient’s customers with Experient Account Managers and Executive Leadership, along with Events Industry Supplier partners. This year we are meeting at the brand new Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria, in balmy Orlando, FL.

The point of this collaborative session will be for participants to share event-specific social technology success stories, best practices  and solutions with one another.  I am looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on this subject!  I will be writing a follow up blog post to share the takeaways with you.  In the meantime, here are five event solutions I’ve seen work effectively, for you to consider in developing your event’s next social technology strategy:

Solution #1:  Crowd-sourcing Session Topic Ideas — Here’s a great way to get potential attendees interested in your event … give them a voice in helping to generate session topics.  Utilizing social networks and your event blog promote the opportunity for them to contribute their ideas.  Not only will you get your customers involved, but you will learn what is “top-of-mind” to them.

Virtual Emcee

Solution #2:  Virtual Emcee — Is your conference hybrid, meaning are you connecting remote and face2face attendees together in the same event, utilizing some form of social tech?  If all or portions of your program are being offered in a live video webcast a virtual emcee will add a lot of value to the remote attendee experience.  One individual that has mastered this concept is Emilie Barta.  It will be worth your time to check her website out.

One of the most important aspects of engaging a remote audience is to consistently communicate with them, especially during breaks, and between sessions.  The Virtual Emcee can accomplish this easily, on your behalf.  Whether its interviewing speakers or individual attendees, these snippets of interactivity capture remote participant’s attention and keep them engaged during lulls in activity.

Solution #3Audience Interaction — Utilizing either Twitter, with a hashtag reference, or a text-based application, such as Zuku, engage both face2face and remote attendees with audience polling, or Q&A.  In this new mobile apps era, its no longer necessary to use dedicated devices for this functionality as it is now possible to accomplish the same thing with the convenience of your own smart-phone.

For an introductory video to Zuku please click here.

Solution #4:  Virtual Scavenger Hunt — With location-based applications, such as FourSquare, or GoWalla add a scavenger style hunt event to your social function.  Imagine holding a reception in a museum, and then posting clues on Twitter for attendees.  Then using their smartphones participants solve the clue and report back by checking in on Foursquare.  For an added twist attendees could even take pictures of the solved clues or their teammates with their phone and post in their social networks.

There are many variations to this idea, even ways you could create trivia games that attendees engage in at registration, using location-based apps.  How bout challenging your event’s planning team to a unique site inspection game where they learn about the host facility by following clues?

Solution #5:  Event Blog Becomes a Community — There is a tool available now, called Wibiya, that installs onto any blog or website, in five minutes or less.  Amazingly, using this tool blog readers can translate a blog article into any language in a matter of seconds.  There is also a built-in chat client, so that users can connect with one another at the blog page.  Pretty cool stuff!

One innovative idea for the use of this tool would be to install it at your registration website.  Then, use it as a customer service tool, in addition to the native functionality.  Note:  I have not tested this idea, but if someone does please let me know how it works.

Question:  What new technology or ideas have surfaced in your world lately? If you are attending the Exchange Cafe I look forward to hearing about them.  If not then please share them with us in the comments of this blog.

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Richardson August 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Thanks for sharing this Mike. I hope the conference is a great experience for all involved with Experient. I agree with these 5 solutions (ingredients) for the engagement secret sauce. I would offer an additional pinch of giving the group a shared problem and offer them space and time to solve that problem. As @JeffHurt explained to me recently “one of the foundational adult learning principles is that adults are problem-centered rather than content-oriented.”

I like the idea of a virtual scavenger hunt. There are a variety of social geo-location gaming platforms that allow us to not only check in but offer reviews, photos, and other content. Foursquare is in the news a great deal. Remember that with Gowalla you can create trips specific to your event. Another tool worth looking into is Whrll. They’re a newcomer but have quite the interactive gaming concept as well as an a learning algorithm that guides you to new places if you like.

I would love to see a CVB offer a site visit using one of these tools (Gowalla would be the easiest to implement). Hotels working with the CVB, the convention center, key hotels & restaurants could provide the visiting group quite an experience.

Enjoy your time in Florida Mike!



Michael M McCurry CMP August 15, 2010 at 5:08 am

Hey Kevin,

Great comments about GoWalla and Foursquare. These tools are truly growing legs rapidly.

The scavenger hunt concept seems to be taking off with many organizations and groups. It is a great way to get people engaged quickly at an event, and promote teamwork.

I will have to check out Whrll, not so familiar with that application.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation.



Kevin Richardson August 14, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Forgot one tool Mike: there is also Scvngr (


Dave Lutz August 15, 2010 at 6:41 am

Mike, I think the secret sauce is more of a cultural decision than a technology decision. A group needs to “intentionally” want to create an experience that is more engaging. Once they make that decision, they need to walk the walk by being a connector in everything about the conference. They need to deploy all staff, speaker and volunteer resources to help accomplish that charge. Can technology accelerate that? Absolutely!

One of my favorite all time examples of how to do this came from SHRM a few years ago. Here’s a link to their Random Acts of Conference Kindness article.

As I get prepare for ASAE next week, I’m getting great value out of LinkedIn event set up and posting to and monitoring the conference hashtag on Twitter. I also really like what PCMA is doing for their January conference using Facebook events. I’m already seeing people RSVPing in my stream. That’s pretty cool for being 5 months out. I can easily make new connections and join in on the conversations.

I’m a little on the fence on the GeoLocation stuff. I’ve seen demos of SCVNGR and DoubleDutch and I’ve been using Foursquare for a few months. I think these apps will be successful with good adoption, but I think it may be a little early for some shows to intentionally go down that road.

I know you got the technology stuff down, so here’s on last link for you to scan that has a non-tech spin –

Have fun in Orlando, Dude! Tell all the Experient peeps I said HI!


Michael M McCurry CMP August 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Hi Dave, sorry for delay in responding to this message.

With e4 the week got away from me.

Thanks for the links … I will check them out and hope you enjoy ASAE this week.



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