Audience engagement and interaction technology has been around for years. As old fashioned ‘clickers’ have evolved into sleek apps, so Event Planners have become more aware of its existence and potential. But how do you ‘sell’ audience participation to company decision makers – to a client, or internally at a corporate – particularly those holding the purse strings?
- Greater engagement and learning
It’s no surprise that London’s hugely popular Science Museum has so many interactive areas where you can touch, press, draw, compete with… even smell the exhibits. Participation aids learning. It works with kids, and it works just as well with adults – from cool creatives at an event designed to drive collaboration, or a remote team of employees being brought together to understand company direction for the next Quarter.
- Better data
Companies recognise the value of spending the money to book a venue, hotel rooms, travel, lavish dinners, all-important coffee… the list goes on. Why? To bring people together – employees, clients, customers – to motivate, teach, sell, or reward. And how do they know if that spend was effective? They look at the data – the level of engagement based upon interactions, how many times the CEO’s presentation was downloaded after the event, positive feedback, etc. All of which can be collected, collated and analysed far more easily through technology.
- More feedback
What’s the response rate to a feedback survey sent round to attendees a few days after the event? If you can get more than 20% without a ‘prize incentive’ or three-line whip I’m impressed. Most of the delegates are already busy with their day jobs, and that event is a distant (and sometimes hazy) memory. Use interactive presentation software to capture feedback live – when the memories are fresh – and ask your audience ‘small and often’ throughout the day, rather than hitting them with an essay to write. Any company that cares about its audience will see the value in this.
- It’s cost effective
Gone are the days when audience response systems or presentation sharing technology required Local Area Networks to be installed, or iPads to be hired in with pre-loaded software. The combination of ever improving Wi-Fi and 4G networks (at the right venues), smartphone proliferation (97% usage in the UK) and technical innovation has meant solutions are available to events big and small at a sensible price. Given the other costs associated with the event – how valuable is greater engagement, better data and more feedback?
- It reflects well on your brand
If you look at the best companies in the world, they have a clear, well understood vision. They really care about listening to their employees and their clients. They’re eager to use technology to improve their business or reduce costs. They want to do things that their competitors aren’t doing (and probably don’t like it if their competitors get the jump on them). You may work for one of these companies, or for one that aspires to be one of them. Hopefully it’s clear how interactive presentation software can tick a number of these boxes at their events.
Michael Piddock is the Founder & CEO of Glisser – an event technology solution that makes presentations interactive.
Here in the UK we’re just gearing up for our General Election in May, and latest reports suggest it’s going to be one of the tightest yet. What’s more, it’s interesting to see that while two parties remain dominant, the battle is also being fought with the active involvement of a wider number of traditionally marginal groups. It looks very possible that these smaller parties might have to form part of a coalition government, so their voices are very relevant to the debate.
As a result, there has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about which of these parties should feature in the live televised debates. These debates are a fairly recent trend, and are increasingly popular amongst both the media and general public, eager for a House of Cards-style head-to-head between opposing viewpoints, and plenty of fireworks.
So my question is: Why, if the appeal of this format is the powerful and engaging sparring between opposing viewpoints, are most event panel discussions so timid?
The panel format is a well-used break between straight-forward presentations, and multiple people and viewpoints ought to lead to some genuinely valuable discussion. However, the majority that take place seem to be a series of introductions or pitches from each panel member, before neat lay-ups for them to violently agree with each other.
I hope I’m not alone in feeling underwhelmed by this. Where are the challenging, alternative opinions? Who’s pushing those on stage to clarify and expand on what they meant? Who’s highlighting the contradictions or issues with what has just been said?
Very often, it’s the audience who want to perform this role. But they’re restricted to a few short questions at the end. Alternatively, they simply do not bother raising their (interesting and valid) views because they’re not happy with public speaking.
Hence the importance of audience response systems – like Glisser – not just during presentations, but in other event formats like speaker panels. Why not hold an audience poll prior to the debate and challenge the panel to change those opinions, then re-poll after the debate to see who was the most convincing? Then invite audience questions via their smartphones throughout the discussion. And don’t duck the challenging ones!
Competition, participation, live-analytics… even gamification. Use apps and tech to help raise the content bar, and give audiences a spectacle they’ll enjoy watching, even if they don’t agree with all of the opinions.
We all need to prove things in business, from how much you’ve sold if you’re in business development, to what you’ve created if you’re in the product team… and don’t get me started on KPIs.
I recently read an article which prompted me to Google “convince your boss”. The reason being that the article in question provided a strategy and toolkit for someone to justify attending a particular event to their manager.
The Google results were astonishing. Of the ten on the first page, five were related to justifying going to events.
What surprised me, other than the volume, was that these were all recent articles. Sure, Google’s algorithm would have ensured current articles are prominent, but many events and conferences are still having to produce these guides. There were very few hits for “convince your boss to use social media” – so why does the events industry struggle?
Before I reflect on that, I’d first like to say that I totally understand why these guides are being written. They are useful tactical tools that solve the problem and help drive attendance, even if they don’t get to the root cause.
Fundamentally, however, it feels like the events industry still has a bit of a perception problem. Perhaps seen as expensive (travel, accommodation, time spent out of the office), a bit of a ‘jolly’ (lavish, alcohol-fuelled, ‘fun’ rather than productive), and ultimately hard to quantify the value. This issue isn’t just confined to delegates – sponsors are having to convince bosses of the value of event spend rather than other marketing options, and event planners are fighting for budget within organisations.
And while the industry appears to have seen off the erroneous predictions that technology was going to kill face-to-face meetings, and most measures put events spend up year-on-year, it is still finding it’s having to justify itself – certainly at a micro, individual level.
What I believe we need to do is to ‘get ahead of the problem’. That is, to absolutely ensure that today’s delegates, sponsors and planners are armed to the teeth with the information and data that proves the event they are participating in right now is worth it.
What does that mean?
Well for me it’s about rapidly connecting what’s happening at the event with the tools, technology and data that proves its success. If possible, it should be immediate, so that the delegate, sponsor or planner can use this while the event is fresh in the mind. Where immediacy is not possible (where sponsors are judging ROI based upon sales with long lead times, for example) then the event needs to be connected right through to the end goal (say via the CRM system).
For delegates (and many sponsors) this means sharing useful content – either live (by social media) or as soon after the event as possible. This content needs to be filtered and given context by delegates – notes and thoughts to expand and interpret it for an individual’s organisation – possibly as a result of further networking after the sessions.
For sponsors, feedback and data is critical. Quantitative measures of leads and sales must be supported by a more qualitative analysis of attendee sentiment or interest in content presented.
And for event planners, all of this information at your fingertips means that when the event comes around next year, it won’t be a case of writing a “convince your boss” guide. Instead, hopefully the immediate justification of an event’s value will have brought all of those re-attendances forward, along with the attendance of their colleagues, and maybe even those pesky bosses themselves.