After thousands of virtual events with thousands of brands, the top request from event organizers is “more engagement.”
But what does that mean? You could go look it up in a dictionary and see that dictionary.com states that it is “the act of engaging or the state of being engaged; involvement.” But is that what you expected when you used that word? Mere involvement in your event?
I don’t think so.
Engagement has morphed into an all-inclusive word for the virtual and hybrid event industry. One that has high expectations but no real meaning. It’s a catch-all. A marketing term.
And you keep using it without necessarily thinking through what you mean.
Active learning researchers like Robert Talbert have been looking into this for years. In this article, he splits it up into three different areas:
Your event should look to maximize on at least one of these areas to drive attendees to feel a pull and ‘engaged.’ As an organization, you also need to set up your definition and goals for engagement. Only after you have determined those can you improve engagement within your event using various tools to keep your attendees engaged. Take a look at the three areas below to see how you can optimize your event using various ideas and engagement tools!
This is likely one of the more complex ways to focus on engagement, but let’s start here first. Affective engagement is all about belonging. Think about belonging to a specific group, whether it is political, religious, or brand. People identify to their core with that particular grouping, which allows them to feel like they belong.
There are several ways to do this, but the most important is to ensure that your organization’s “why” is grounded in your attendees’ “why.”
If you are a medical association seeking to drive affective engagement, think about questions such as:
If you are a local or national banking association, think about questions such as:
Answering questions like this gives you clarity and allows you to get an unprecedented look into the motivations, intentions, and purpose of your attendees’ lives.
Only at this point can you look at engaging them affectively.
Find ways to affirm their belonging. Here are some options that we have seen!
There are many different ways that you can drive affective engagement. Make sure this is a consideration in your event to help drive this all-important feeling of belonging.
Behavioral engagement focuses on the attendee’s actions, and this is where you can focus on the intentions and the actual ‘doing’ of the event. This can be great for people who are kinesthetic learners, especially when most attendees seem to be looking for content to be educational rather than motivational.
To begin optimizing your content for behavioral areas, think about questions such as:
These will give you a great place to start thinking about how you can optimize their behaviors inside of your event. Here are some great ideas you can take and implement in your virtual event:
Finding ways to incentivize and drive attendee actions throughout the event will be critical to achieving your engagement goals.
The cognitive area focuses on knowledge and beliefs. This is one of the areas where you can dramatically make changes in engagement without a significant budget increase. Most attendees are looking for ways to get more out of their time, and educating themselves using your content should be one of the top ways they can do that!
To begin optimizing your event for cognitive engagement, ask yourself questions such as:
While these give you a good starting point, you need to ensure that you are looking at your post-event surveys and other requests from attendees to ensure that you align with what they are looking for. Here are some options that you have to increase your cognitive engagement within your event immediately:
Historically, providing cognitive engagement has been the focus of many virtual events. Even with that focus, many have missed the opportunity to truly create an impact with their events.
Leveraging these three ways of looking at your event will help you drive engagement, but only after you have figured out what that means. You need to take the time to plan it out, make your goals, and then follow these steps to increase the affective (feeling-based), behavioral (action-based), and cognitive (knowledge-based) engagement in your event.
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