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Want Higher Audience Engagement? Don't Just Plan an Event — Deliver an Experience

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Amanda Blanton
Amanda Blanton

Director of Production

Freeman XP

The journey of successful marketing begins with aligning brand goals to the desires and needs of audiences

This article originally appeared on FreemanXP.com.

Today, we live in the “age of experience.” Consumers want to be immersed in a memorable and unique story, customized to their tastes and supported by the appropriate digital technology.

The truth is, the experience is as important as the product or service itself.

So instead of producing an event, get yourself in the mindset of delivering an experience. Not sure what that means? Here are some do’s and don’ts that lay the foundation for transforming your event into that memorable and unique experience audiences crave.

DON'T get ahead of yourself

Event producers tend to dive right into logistics. Instead, take some extra time with your team to agree on your own goals and brand message. Research and understand the behaviors and objectives of your audience. When you align your intentions with the wants and needs of your audience, you create a resource axis to inform every creative and logistical element of your experience. Starting with the basics will vastly improve the impact of your event, while providing a positive and intentional brand connection for your audience.

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DO employ the right technology

For an experience, the right technology reinforces your message and helps achieve your goals, while at the same time meeting your audience members right where they are. As an example, an event app doesn’t just have to share schedule information and help navigate the space. It can do so much more!  Let’s say one of your experience goals is to connect the right attendees with the right person in your organization. By adding upgrade features through gamification or beacons, you can collect attendee information in an interactive and fun way. Then you can use that data to connect the appropriate people with the most relevant resource for their needs.

Don’t get me wrong — new gadgets and gizmos are fun, but when it comes to technology there’s no reason to fix what’s already working. Take an inventory of what you’re doing now that brings value to your audience before chasing the next shiny thing. You’ll be surprised at what can be simply tweaked or upgraded to take your experience to the next level.

DO embrace the distraction

Let’s face it, it’s a lost cause to ask audiences to turn off their mobile devices during a session. These days, mobile devices are an extension of individuals — practically another limb. Mobile devices are not only a communication tool, but actually inform the way we perceive the world. So let’s embrace it! Meet your audiences in their mobile devices! Encourage them to interact via social media — and better yet, create engaging content for your event app or upgrade using second screen technology. It’s yet another place to reinforce your message in a way your audience doesn’t expect. 

DO be original

The early bird catches the worm. It doesn’t matter how awesome your activation is if someone else did it first! Take a risk and do something that hasn’t been done before. If you know your audiences and what’s important to them, you’ll find it isn’t that much of a risk in the end. But if you play it safe, replicating the production of another brand, audiences will always think of that previous event first — even if subconsciously.

No matter how many companies manufacture the latest and greatest smartphone, the narrative always seems to come back to the iPhone.

If you create something novel as well as valuable for your audiences, others will copy your success, and you’ll be the one reaping the long-term marketing rewards as the perennial standard bearer.

DON'T think that bigger is necessarily better

A more intimate experience, personalized for your audience, can sometimes be more impactful than all the bells and whistles of a large event. That doesn’t mean large events can’t be personal, especially with immersive digital technology. Leveraging social media and other audience participation tools can make any session of any size seem cozy. Also, large events tend to view evening social events as a necessary but ultimately auxiliary part of a schedule, when in fact these can be thematic extensions of the production that even provide calls to action.

How do you know you’ve delivered an experience and not just an event? Experiences remain longer with audiences, are shared more often, and in the end, create a stronger bond between brand and attendee. And if you know your audience intimately, experiences are not that much harder to produce and much more fun to plan — especially with the right tech.

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

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