Tips from the Trenches: 7 Audience Engagement Tips Guaranteed to Build Excitement

As an event organizer, part of your job is to inspire your audience to not only sign up and show up, but to actively participate in your event experience. And if you can engage and excite them in the days, weeks, or months leading up to your events? Well, imagine how much more engaged, excited, and invested those folks will be once they finally arrive onsite.

As the President of KEL Consulting, a client-driven event and project management company, Kelly Legris has planned everything from luncheons fit for a queen (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, no less!) to conferences, trade shows, and meetings for private, public, and non-profit organizations.

Kelly joined the recent EventMobi webinar, ‘The New Rules of Engagement’, to share the tried-and-tested tips she’s adapted to drive excitement in the face of changing attendee behaviors.

These include:

  • Using pre-event challenges to motivate registrants to learn about your event 
  • Showcasing the event agenda, speakers, venue, and host city to stand out in a competitive event landscape
  • Using video to drive meaningful pre-event engagement with event sponsors so attendees are motivated to meet with them onsite
  • Using sizzle and highlight reels to increase interest in specific sessions and speakers
  • Empowering registrants with all of the information they need in advance to make the most of their time onsite

Keep reading to learn how Kelly achieves all of this and more for her clients’ events! You can also watch her webinar segment below 👇

7 Proven Ways to Engage Your Event Audience & Members

Kelly Legris is a huge proponent of investing in an Event App to improve the attendee experience and increase engagement before, during, and after a conference. Let’s take a look at some of the tactics she uses to drive attendee engagement at her clients’ events.

1. Reward Pre-Event Interactions

It can be a challenge to get your attendees to download your Mobile Event App before the conference starts, but Kelly has found a reliable way to get her audience to download the Event App ahead of time and use it for pre-event networking.

How? By creating pre-event gamification challenges and awarding points for specific activities.

We give [attendees] points to […] set up a profile in the app and it’s not about just going in, signing up, and clicking. We want them to really explore and really have fun with the app.”

-Kelly Legris

One surefire way to motivate your attendees to do, well, anything is to turn it into a competition. So, to ensure attendees fully explore the Event App, Kelly uses gamification to encourage them to go beyond simply downloading it and creating their profiles. She creates in-app challenges and assigns points for pre-event interactions, like watching speaker sizzle reels or recordings, exploring virtual sponsor booths, and networking with other attendees before the event begins.

To generate even higher levels of engagement in the lead-up to events, Kelly suggests going so far as rewarding even the simplest of asks, such as having an attendee create their in-app profile. For example, you could offer 5 points for attendees who add a photo to their profile in the Event App and 10 points for updating their bio.

2. Turn Your App into a Snapshot of Your Event

Your audience is more protective of their schedule than ever–and many events are condensing their time frames to accommodate. To compete for registrations in such a competitive events landscape, it’s important to show registrants exactly why they should be excited about your event.

Much of Kelly’s success in generating excitement around the event agenda, speakers, venue, and host city stems from her creative use of Mobile Event Apps. She creates value for attendees by using an Event App to provide a sneak peek or “snapshot” of what they can look forward to at the upcoming event.

“We create things through the app so that people can get what I call a snapshot version of what the conference is going to be about.”

-Kelly Legris

The goal is to showcase the most exciting parts of what you’ve got planned to get attendees excited about the elements that make your event unique. To pull this off, she encourages speakers and sponsors to create their own short sizzle reels to help get registrants excited. 

Kelly’s event “snapshots” often include details about the schedule, the venue, vendors, sessions, and even the city where the event is being held, so attendees can better plan their visit and prioritize how they spend their time onsite.

An added bonus? Replacing printed programs with an Event App is a great way to run more sustainable events, and they also offer you the much-needed flexibility to update the schedule with last-minute speaker or schedule changes!

“I love the app. The app is so versatile [and] easy to use. And having moved away from paper, if there’s a change on site, it’s very easy to incorporate.

-Kelly Legris

One of Kelly’s clients is the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA). Managing events for AFCA comes with a special set of challenges, but having the flexibility to update the event schedule on the fly is helpful no matter what type of events you’re planning.

“We had speakers [cancel] last year because of the wildfires […] so we had to pull [them] out of the App and we were able to actually [make those changes] as opposed to when you’ve got it printed.”

-Kelly Legris

3. Increase Interest in Specific Sessions & Speakers

We encourage all our speakers to do what we call a quick highlight reel. They might give a 15-second clip introducing themselves, the significance of their session, and the key takeaways. We post those in the app and it gives [attendees] some time to go in [and watch]–because they lead busy lives.

-Kelly Legris

Kelly uses video highlights reels to show event registrants what they have to look forward to–including who will be speaking, their background, and key takeaways they’ll cover in their presentation. She encourages speakers and sponsors to record 15-second sizzle reels to highlight their expertise.

These videos are then hosted in the Event App–either in the Video Library, the speaker’s profile, or as part of the sponsor’s virtual booth. This presents a great opportunity for your speakers to give attendees a sneak peek into their session topic or introduce themselves to a new audience.

“As a professional speaker, I love apps that allow me to engage with attendees and exhibitors before, during, and after the event. It’s such a value add to me as a speaker.”

-Robin Shear, Director of Strategic Relationships, National Speakers Association – Michigan and ‘New Rules of Engagement’ attendee

Not to mention, your audience is busy! If they register early, they may not remember what a particular session is about by the time the event rolls around. With events planned months in advance, sizzle reels help jog attendees’ memories closer to the date.

Recommended Resource: Want to see what engagement strategies and tactics other planners shared in the webinar? Sign up to watch The New Rules of Engagement on-demand now! 👇

4. Spark Valuable Pre-Event Conversations So the Right Ones Can Continue Onsite

Driving meaningful engagement with sponsors has always been tricky, but Kelly has found ways to increase visibility and awareness pre-event that lead to more engagement onsite. And with tightening sponsor budgets, it’s more important than ever to be able to deliver a quantity and quality of conversations that will make sponsoring your event worthwhile.

“Money’s tight. The economy’s not the same as it was,” says Kelly. “So they want to make sure that their presence, whether it’s in that App or onsite, is really relevant and they’re being recognized.”

For her clients’ events, Kelly creates virtual booths to showcase sponsor content–including the sizzle reels mentioned above along with other videos, images, and downloadable content. These virtual booths provide much richer content than just a typical sponsor profile on the event website.

“They want to expand their brand, expose it, and really captivate that audience while they’re on site. Because the trade show is a day and a half. So that’s a very finite time that they have to do that networking and showcase their product or their services.”

-Kelly Legris

Highlighting sponsors in the app increases the number of interactions they have onsite because interested attendees already know they’ll be there and are looking forward to connecting. This provides the opportunity to start the conversation before the event even begins. Even better, attendees can watch a speaker’s video and then reach out directly through the App to book a meeting onsite.

And maybe it’s competing with another session. They can listen and talk to that speaker to figure out [if] they can go network and have a coffee in the foyer at some time.”

-Kelly Legris

Plus, this type of content helps speakers establish themselves as experts. By encouraging sponsors and exhibitors to share content on the Event App, you’re allowing them to build credibility and familiarity with the audience. 

When attendees perceive sponsors and exhibitors as valuable resources (as opposed to people who are just going to try and sell them things), they’re more inclined to interact with them before and during an event.

5. Empower Attendees to Plan their Event Experience in Advance 

Whether it’s a vacation itinerary or a conference schedule, half the fun of making plans is anticipating what’s to come. When you offer attendees a Mobile Event App, you’re empowering them to take full control over their event schedule.

Remember: your attendees are busy. They might not remember details about sessions between when they register and when the event takes place. An Event App allows them to favorite the sessions and activities they want to partake in so they can create a personalized event agenda in advance.

“So [attendees] can save it as a favorite in their profile and then go back and watch it and then build their [agenda] on what sessions are significant to them.”

-Kelly Legris

Planning out their schedule in advance will help increase anticipation as they will have a clear view of how they can make the most of their time onsite. By allowing attendees to “favorite” the sessions they’re most excited about, you also get to see which sessions are resonating with your audience–and which ones aren’t. Apply these insights to adjust your programming or how you promote important sessions with plenty of time to spare.

“All the information is in the app, so we moved away from paper and really embraced the technology.”

-Kelly Legris

6. Turn Passive Observers into Active Participants

“We have speakers that will use the app to push out their questions because they want to get the temperature of the room to see where the discussion is going to go.”

-Kelly Legris

Kelly encourages speakers to take advantage of Live Polls and Q&A features during their live sessions to encourage audience participation. Giving the attendees a chance to voice their opinions and ask questions can add value to the conversation and help steer the presentation in the most relevant direction.

Sending out updates and information through the App is a valuable way to notify attendees of changes during an event. 

For example, you could send a notification to announce when the gamification challenge has been updated with new ways to earn points. Or you could let them know as soon as the new keynote speaker is announced, inviting them to visit the app to view the speaker’s highlight reel.

Keeping attendees informed and engaged with relevant content can help you maintain excitement and anticipation for the event.

7. Extend the Life of Your Event Content

After a whirlwind event, you want your attendees to have access to any educational information, session notes, or new connections they want to save. That’s why Kelly ensures her clients give event attendees a window of time to revisit the Event App after the conference is over.

“They can go back in after and look at things again because we leave them a window of time to go back into the app post-conference as well to get any information, whether it’s in the Video Library or the resource library or going back into a trade booth or a sponsor booth.”

-Kelly Legris

This allows attendees to have ongoing access important materials, review sessions they may have missed, or rewatch something they found particularly interesting. Additionally, if an attendee met a speaker or sponsor onsite and wanted to learn more about them, they could connect with them through the App. For instance, they could revisit a speaker’s profile and message them directly through the App if they have a question about their presentation.

“[Attendees can] look at that information because maybe there’s something there that they didn’t get a chance to talk to them about. But there’s some information in that app and now they have and they can download it.”

-Kelly Legris

With all the effort that goes into planning a successful event, it’d be a shame not to make your event content and session recordings available to attendees after the fact. By supporting your events with a Mobile Event App, you can create more opportunities to engage, educate, and inspire your audience after the live event wraps up.

Use Event Apps to Engage, Inspire & Connect with Your Audience

There are endless creative ways you can use an Event App to better engage your attendees before, during, and after your events. From showcasing speaker sizzle reels and virtual sponsor booths to creating pre-event challenges and networking activities, an app allows you to excite, guide, and educate your audience on what’s to come when they join you in person! 

Want to learn more about how an Event App can help you engage with your audience at every stage of your event? Book your personalized demo today!