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Attendee vs. Participant: Using Digital to Enhance the Experience

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Danielle Puceta
Danielle Puceta

Vice President, Digital Office


Why a tech-enabled two-way conversation is crucial to deeper engagement

Today’s attendees come to a brand experience already steeped in content. Through advances in technology and the advent of always-on-hand devices with access to all the world's knowledge, they’re more educated and aware than ever before. And that deep connection with technology has fostered the expectation for instantaneous conversation where people can engage brands, chat with thought leaders, and reach out to others on their own terms, without having to wait for first contact.

These things fundamentally changed the DNA of the brand experience. Whereas specialized events were once one of the main places audiences could find of-the-moment education on niche subjects, the electronic information age has filled the gap. So how can we best serve modern attendees, who expects a lot more than just an information download, and allow them to be participants in their own experience?

Creating a conversation

Utilizing digital offerings like second screen solutions, social media, event apps, and more helps to provide a channel in which attendees can voice their opinions; interact with speakers, event staff, and peers; and contribute to the customization of the experience without having to navigate roadblocks that discourage them from speaking up.

These tech tools allow for a two-way flow of information back and forth from the attendees, rather than a passive one-way relationship, which prioritizes the importance of engagement and, ultimately, allows for deeper insights into audience wants and needs by getting them straight from the source. Many of them mimic things that attendees use in their personal lives, like simple web tools or social media apps, which is important for adoption and engagement.

For example, using a second screen solution in your sessions breaks down the wall between speakers and audiences by utilizing attendee mobile devices to let them ask questions, easily access session information, quickly share to their social media networks, and even provide real-time feedback on the content being presented. 

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Using insights for personalization

However, it’s not enough just to open up the flow of communication. Attendees aren’t going to feel like they’re being heard unless you take action on your gathered intel and what your audience is requesting through these new channels.

Consider our second screen example — not only does the tech help create that two-way conversation, but it also serves up a treasure trove of analytics that you can use to further personalize your event for attendees, even as the event is still happening. And you have invaluable information to inform your event strategy in a way that allows return attendees to see the tangible proof that you strive to give them exactly what they’re looking for — now that’s a real differentiator from the competition.

The same goes for your event app, where you can plug in surveys to get attendees' feedback on what they’d like to see the next day, and monitor the responses so that you can take action. If you prepare a few topics ahead of time, then you’re ready to serve up exactly what they’re asking for. Or you can use your app to create channels or mini chat rooms around different topics. Not only does that cut the chatter from the main feed, but what you hear in the channels helps you hone in on what specific people are interested in and create ways to engage with those attendees in a highly personalized way.

Finding out what engages your attendees the most doesn’t have to be a mystery — all you have to do is provide them the opportunities to have an impact on their own experience, and not only will you find out valuable intel that you can apply to future events, but you’ll help to forge a deeper relationship that brings your target audiences closer to your message and allows them to help tell your story. 

Want more? Check out these additional perspectives on digital and event technology.

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