Checking in Just to Check Out
Checking in Just to Check Out
In a time where engagement isn’t just another opportunity, but a necessity, there are key considerations in building the most desirable engagement experience leaving all participants feeling that their time was well spent instead of wasted and wanting more. Depending on the engagement opportunity, the considerations will vary. Below are three overall key points to include in your engagement strategy.
Design with Success in Mind
Understanding the differences in engagement opportunity design for physical events and virtual events is something we’ve all been learning as we design. While there are natural opportunities for people to meet (walking to and from sessions, social hours, sitting next to someone in a session), in the virtual space where the opportunities do not exist, there needs to be constructed spaces for these conversations to happen.
Be intentional and actionable. In both in-person and digital environments, engagement opportunities need to be convenient and realistic. Keep in mind the time commitment(s) you are asking of attendees and give them the motivation and tools to participate in the engagement opportunities offered.
Build attendee engagement into your schedule. The biggest mistake we see is that engagement becomes an afterthought when it comes to virtual engagements. Not only do you want to highlight these opportunities in your schedule, but you want to have a workable schedule.
Enlighten the Path
One of the leading causes of disengagement during a virtual event is lack of education. When participants feel they don’t know exactly what to do or how to use the chosen engagement tool, insecurity creeps in and fuels disengagement or “checking out”. To counteract these feelings, make all participants feel comfortable by planning and educating your audience on the tools, topics, and objectives, prior to the engagement opportunity. While you know your own learning style, keep in mind that everyone has a particular way they like to learn and receive information. Use different avenues such as participant guides, short video tutorials, live training sessions, etc. to provide the education and tips needed to succeed. In addition to tool and platform education, ensure you also include tips on the personal and professional benefits each participant will gain from the experience.
Not only should it be in your plan to educate your participants, but you should also be providing education to your speakers and moderators. Do this early and often. Start with an education team or the speaker management team. Encourage the team to have a conversation about engagement comfortability with potential speakers, while stressing the importance of engagement to speakers.
Plan customized speaker rehearsals. Make engagement a large part of your speaker orientation and rehearsal. Ensure you have recommendations for engagement opportunities prepared so the speaker has a starting point. Most importantly, with the current hybrid climate, educate the speaker(s) on addressing the entirety of the audience. This means letting your presenters know that there are people watching via video. Make sure they are not doing things that would just be relevant to one portion of the audience. Feeling “left out” can cause disengagement.
Removing Barriers and Making Connections
This is an area where many of us miss the mark during our event design strategies, mostly because our focus is on the physical audience. As an active participant, it’s imperative to take the lead in bridging the gap between in-person and virtual audiences, while acting as a facilitator in making connections.
The first step to building a fool proof engagement strategy is to incorporate a tool that can reach across both types of audiences and be promoted in multiple marketing channels equally.
The second step is taking the lead on making connections. Just as you would in person, introduce people that may have similar interests. Research your registration list(s) prior to the start date of your event/meeting for frequent titles or organizations to introduce the potential connection. Another option is granting early access to the engagement tool or platform to give the power to attendees to conduct their own connection research. This again means creating the right type of social opportunities for all audiences to engage and providing some context for them to start a conversation from.
So, let’s go back to the experience we explored in the beginning. You get the invite to a networking event or reception. You decide to go, you’re the first one there, you don’t know anyone and now… it’s awkward and you’re looking for a way to pull the rip cord.
Now set this scene: You get the invite to a networking event or reception. You decide to go, you’re the first one there, and… you’ve seen a registration list, been introduced to potential connections ahead of the event and are ready to continue the conversation. You’re comfortable, confident and have set realistic expectations and goals. Isn’t that the engagement experience we’re all welcoming in 2022?