If your b-to-b conferences are still centered around static presentations and cramming in as many sessions as possible, it’s time to refresh your strategy. Modern b-to-b attendees expect more out of business events than ever, including increased networking opportunities, alternative ways to absorb content and a healthy balance of work and play. As the conference model evolves, event marketers are tasked with finding compelling new ways to amp up attendee engagement. Here are some insights on how to get the ball rolling.
1. Engage Before the Show. Before the conference even begins, there are several ways to increase attendees’ anticipation of the event. Social media is the easiest way to get it done. Running small contests, asking provocative, conference-related questions to spark conversation among attendees and implementing the event hashtag on your social channels are all viable ways to get attendees amped up ahead of time.
2. Leverage the After Hours. When it comes to the main event, remember: the work isn’t done when sessions come to a close. Whether attendees are busy devouring content or looking for a fun way to spend their down time, effective event marketers will be prepared to engage them at any time with an “always on” approach. Holding off-site events during after hours is a great way to keep attendees from holing up in their hotel rooms when business is done for the day. Functions like pub-crawls, sporting events or concerts let attendees blow off some steam while getting to know their fellow conference-goers.
3. Offer More Networking. Getting attendees to schmooze should also be part of your on-site tactics. Conference attendees are increasingly placing more importance on connecting with their peers than consuming content, making a strong networking strategy paramount to the success of any b-to-b event. Creating a designated networking space within the conference venue, activating meet-ups and organizing new-attendee orientation are just a few ways to foster relationships among attendees.
4. Give ’Em a Break. Event marketers should also know when it’s time to give their attendees a break—literally. To combat conference fatigue, some industry pros are incorporating fitness micro-breaks into their agendas. The approach not only physically reinvigorates attendees, it also mentally prepare them to engage with session content—and one another. Even a 10-minute stretching session could mean the difference between engagement and nodding off.
5. Keep ’Em Moving. Speaking of nodding off, many attendees confine themselves to the conference’s main hall without venturing off to see as much of the event as possible. To curb this tendency, the organizers behind Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference designed a citywide scavenger hunt. When attendees arrived at a new venue or section of the convention hall, they were rewarded with a piece of flare to prove they had made it to the location. By the end of the event, attendees were proudly showing off and trading their buttons like school kids.
6. Engage Them on the Go. Given that proximity-based event apps are found to be 235 percent more engaging than standard mobile apps at events, app-powered beacons are another great source of engagement. Not only do the devices offer event organizers insight on dwell times, they provide attendees with relevant notifications about the event, helping boost interaction with the brand and often providing the level of personalization today’s conference attendees crave.
Ultimately, ramping up b-to-b engagement should begin well before the start of the conference and continue long after it ends. After all, creating a lasting impression is difficult to do overnight. So get creative, have some fun and be prepared for the long haul.