Engaging your conference attendees

A person sitting on an armchair on stage leading a workshop activity at InterContinental - MEETINGS23.

Engagement is a word that is on the tip of everyone’s tongues lately — and so it should be. The need to engage and connect is top of mind.

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, it’s time to rethink your programmes, schedules, itineraries, and run sheets to create opportunities for engagement.

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, their preferred learning style, or what creates meaning for them, such as looking after the environment or opportunities to do good for others.

Crowd members clapping at the Harcourts Conference in the TSB arena.

Six ways to keep attendees engaged

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

What to consider

  1. Reduce the length of sessions and activities. Add 15-minute breaks for a movement activity or to give attendees time to talk and connect.
  2. Introduce silent activities. These could be puzzles or Lego stations around the room. Creating opportunities to move freely will keep attendees’ attention for longer.
  3. Partner with other organisations for unique activity breaks. For example, an animal petting area with the SPCA or a non-competitive gaming zone for attendees to co-create in a different way.
  4. Use outdoor spaces. Think about ways to incorporate outdoor activities, venues, or even a 10-minute power walk around a block with the speaker.
  5. Have sessions that move, such as a speed dating format for session delivery.
  6. Create 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 space to connect will increase levels of engagement.