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Readers' Forum: What New Ways Are You Experimenting With to Engage Attendees?

As event professionals combat virtual burnout and reenter the in-person realm, industry experts from across the world speak on the tactics they’re tapping to immerse eventgoers into experiences—no matter the event format.

"Despite the rise of in-person events once again, the last two years of virtual events have brought about a desire for a more data-driven, in-person events experience. To help with this at VenuIQ, we have been rolling out engagement ideas from gamification to scavenger hunts. At a recent nonprofit hybrid event we worked on where we premiered gamification, the organizer offered Apple AirPods for the first place virtual and first place in-person attendees. This, and the excitement of competing with their fellow attendees, generated a great deal of interaction with the content, networking, sponsorship, and other features, leading to rich data for the organizer and sponsors.”
John D’Adamo, head of sales USA, VenuIQ, Cape Coral, Fla. New Ways to Increase Event EngagementCould holograms increase attendee engagement? At former MLB player-turned-crypto-mogul Micah Johnson's elaborate Aku World, for example, PORTL Epic devices showcased oversize holograms of real-life, limited-edition clothing designs for guests to browse. See more: Do It for the Hologram: Why the Technology Is the Next Big Trend for EventsPhoto: Shadow Lion

“Its an exciting time in the events industry! We want to surprise and delight our audiences with mini sizzle videos that spark energy, nostalgic treats to sweeten the experience, and show-stopper openings to grab attention. It is all about the big moments and little details to make audiences feel special.”
Macaila Schlaff, director of marketing, Freeman, Grand Rapids, Miss.

“The pandemic has placed even more value on attendees' time, so it's important to offer a unique experience to stand out. You can host a reception where guests can design custom Nike sneakers on iPads! This doubles as both an engaging activity and a gift that can be shipped to guests' homes. Or hire a latte artist like BaristArt—dubbed the ‘Da Vinci of coffee art’ by Katie Couric—for a coffee break between sessions (virtual or in-person)! For booths, create a badge-decorating station with buttons and ribbons for attendees to accessorize their lanyards. Your events team can also have some fun by brainstorming sayings relevant to the conference theme (e.g. ‘Girls Just Want to Have Funds’ or ‘Know Your Worth, Then Add Tax’).” 
Rachel Russell, field marketing manager, Even and ONE Finance, West Hollywood, Calif.       

“At Kick Back Space Inc., were giving people easy access to immersive virtual environments that are tailored for the event's purpose. There's been a lot of talk about using virtual reality (VR) for events to make virtual events more exciting, but when most folks think of VR, they think of VR headsets. Headsets aren't owned by a lot of people, meaning that accessing virtual environments isn't so widely accessible to event professionals and their customers. With Kick Back, were focused on introducing non-immersive virtual reality, which means that no headsets are required to enter our 3D spaces. Its similar to entering a Zoom meeting, except we are 100% browser-based. Here, attendees can be engaged in robust networking, event-related conversations, and more accessible VR-style tools that will enable active participation.”
Rocco Haro, founder and CEO, Kick Back Space Inc., San Diego

"For virtual and hybrid events, innovative technology is key! One way to merge the virtual and in-person environment is through holograms, especially now with a fine-tuned hybrid model. Using new hologram technology allows us to beam in’ expert speakers from across the globe to our venue or vice versa.
Adam Smaye, event planner, Redstone Agency, Toronto, Ont.

New Ways to Increase Event EngagementShawn Shapiro of Redstone Agency mentioned the importance of unique networking opportunities when gathering IRL. Take JabberYak, for example, an ice-breaking experience designed to get the conversation flowing by getting back to the basics and connecting guests with similar interests. Prior to an event, attendees will receive a JabberYak link in their email inbox prompting them to select seven personal interests from an extensive list on an event-specific template, which are then printed on name tags, T-shirts, or badges and worn to the gathering. See more: How This Company Is Successfully Revamping the Old-Fashioned Event Ice BreakerPhoto: Courtesy of JabberYak“Topic-based matchmaking improved one-on-one meetings for us by replacing unfiltered lists of attendees with topics. In order to match, people choose topics they're interested in instead of endless scrolling through the guest list. This way, people immediately have a starting point for their conversation and actively engage.” 
Tyler Wood, marketing and brand manager, NetworkTables, Netherlands  

“The best way to engage the audience is to experiment with different content formats using event tech. Being a fan of in-person events, I believe it would be interesting to see how event organizers use event tech to drive a better content experience, whether in terms of gamification, polls, surveys, videos, or in-app engagement, the key is to deliver a personalized content experience to the audience. Through on-demand videos or specific group activities, it would be fun to engage the audience. Also, body voting is another way that can bring the excitement back to the events.”
Kapil Mudholkar, associate director of marketing, Media 7, Pune, India

“Ways we are approaching engagement with attendees to create enthusiasm and brand evangelism is, one, utilizing experience design. From the moment a guest hears about an event, their interest should be piqued, and curiosity and excitement should ensue. And two, interactivity. We will be making sure that every event has an interactive element where guests can create something to take home with them, engage in a one-on-one activity where they feel they're highlighted, or promise (and deliver) on highlighting them in some way either before, during, and/or after the event.” 
Natasha Miller, founder and chief experience designer, Entire Productions Inc., San Francisco

“In the ‘new normal,’ it is all about interactive emcees that are able to connect personally to the audience, as well as adding more unique networking opportunities to remind attendees of both the value and the joy of attending in person events.”  
Shawn Shapiro, event planner, Redstone Agency, Vaughan, Ont. 

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