Engaging attendees

In-house event manager Paula Rowntree gives six steps to break the attention deficit and keep your attendees engaged

Engagement is a word that is on the tip of everyone’s tongues lately – and so it should be. As our world reopens, the need to engage and reconnect is top of mind.

Returning to in-person meetings doesn't mean the challenge to engage disappears. Paula Rowntree, Head of Events at the Australian Psychological Society, reveals five ways to help your attendees engage, connect, learn and elicit emotional reactions at your event.

Defining what engagement means

As we feverishly manage the influx of requests to meet again, now is the time to rethink your programmes, schedules, itineraries and run sheets. to create opportunities for engagement.

The first step is to understand what engagement means to your audience.

Consider surveying your attendees by including questions in your registration form. Design the answers around your capability to introduce different delivery types into your programme.

For example: ask your audience their main reason for attending – it may be anything from finding a new job or making a sale, to visiting a new city or connecting with peers. Other questions could include how long a session or activity should run for, their preferred learning style, or what creates meaning for them, such as looking after the environment or opportunities to do good for others.

Six ways to keep attendees engaged

Once you understand the reasons why your delegates are attending, how they like to learn, engage and where their attention span sits, you can build around it.

As you build your content and programme, consider the following:

  1. Reducing the length of sessions and activities by adding in short 15-minute breaks to do a movement activity or to give attendees time to talk and connect
  2. Introducing silent activities, which could look like puzzles or lego stations around the room. Creating opportunities to move freely will keep your attendees' attention for longer
  3. Partnering with other organisations for unique activity breaks, such as an animal petting area with the SPCA or a non-competitive gaming zone for attendees to co-create in a different way
  4. Using outdoor spaces – think about ways to incorporate outdoor activities, venues, or even a 10-minute power walk around a block with the speaker
  5. Sessions that move, such as a speed dating format for session delivery
  6. Creating a place to connect. This can vary depending on your audience, from a "meet the experts" zone, a first-timers playground or even a pop-up store. Providing time and spaces to connect will increase levels of engagement.

This article is an excerpt from 'Breaking the attention deficit habit' at www.businesseventsnetwork.com.au. To read the full article, use code BEW01

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