Are You Engaging Your Meeting Participants?

By Sarah Sain, CAE • August 19, 2014

Sarah Sain
Sarah Sain, editor, Naylor Association Solutions

The term “attendee” is outdated. At today’s meetings, “participant” is a much more accurate term.

That’s because today’s participants are more engaged in the meetings experience than ever. Mobile and social technologies have made events of all sizes more interactive. At today’s meetings, event apps, hashtags, gamification are all required and expected for participants who want to make the most of their time at your event.

In his session at the 2014 MPI World Education Congress titled “From Attendee to Participant: Audience Engagement Ideas to Improve Events,” meetings technology speaker and consultant Corbin Ball, CSP, CMP, DES, MS, explained that these tools of engagement put the participant in control of the meeting, not the exhibitors or even the meeting planner.

  • The term “attendee” is outdated. At today’s meetings, “participant” is a much more accurate term.
  • Many of these engagement tools and technologies are available free or cost very little.

With all this said, Ball anticipates that the mobile technology and social media will continue to change meetings more over the next five years than any other technology has in the past 15 years.

Event participants, speakers and planners will be able to use new apps and tools to get more out of meetings and make for a richer experience. And good news for meeting planners: Many of these tools are available free or cost very little.

Here are some tools that Ball says you should be using now to engage your participants.

Event apps: Research from DoubleDutch and MPI released at WEC earlier this month found that 63 percent of meeting planners already use mobile apps at their events. Of those remaining, 60 percent plan to use a mobile app within the next year. Mobile event apps make the meeting experience totally interactive. They allow you to put education and exhibitor info, interactive show floor maps, surveys and polling, travel information, gaming, social media interaction and so much more in one place right on your participants’ smartphones and tablets.

Interested in a mobile app for your next event? Contact Naylor about mobile apps for events of all sizes!

Analytics: Unlike meetings up until even a few years ago, nearly every touchpoint at meetings in today’s world is trackable, whether through event app usage, surveys, badge scanners or social media. Know what is most interesting to your participants when and where. Managing your event data allows you to provide your meeting participants with real-world, instant feedback and give them the experience they really want.

Gamification: Adding a game within your event app engages participants in a way that is fun and encourages networking. Gaming includes scavenger hunts, quizzes, team challenges and leaderboards, and your participants can earn points, badges and real-world gifts or recognition. Just make sure that you promote your game before and during the event; otherwise, participants won’t know to play.

Social media: Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, even YouTube and Pinterest, are already widely used at many events, so if you’re not engaging with your members on social media, you should be asking yourself, “Why not?” Interact with your participants long before they step foot in your venue. Once onsite, make sure they know the event hashtag and plan a networking “tweetup” – a face-to-face meet up of Twitter (or other network) followers. And again, make sure to include links to your social media presence within your event app.

In Conclusion

Mobile technology and social media are changing the way people look at meetings. Today’s meeting participants are fully engaged with what is happening at every level of your event.

For example, at this year’s WEC, the MPI Global Events app had more than 2,000 total device activations, and it was opened more than 57,000 times and had more than 270,000 views before, during and in the days immediately following the conference. Plus, there were 12,000+ tweets using the conference’s official hashtag (#WEC14).

Don’t miss out on that level of interaction. Make sure your association is providing the tools participants want and need to enjoy the full event experience.

Sarah Sain, senior editor at Naylor, works with Meeting Professionals International chapters in the United States and Canada to produce print and online publications. Contact Sarah at [email protected].