Learning together with a group of people, and making connections are among the main reasons why one goes to a conference
With a bit of planning and by using right techniques, you can improve engagement by involving delegates throughout the conference: before, during and after their attendance.
But many may be a bit intimidated by the thought of striking up conversations with relative strangers. So, why not instill a dose of peer-to-peer interaction in your planning?
Below are some tips which will open doors for making new connections, learning new concepts, gaining insights into various perspectives in a conference through peer-peer interactions.
1.Create discussion boards
Even before the conference starts, create an online discussion board for the delegates who have signed up for the conference. Use this forum to:
- Get inputs and feedback
- Start initial brainstorming
- Exploration of a concept/topic
- Find and address misconceptions around the topics to be discussed in the conference.
- Stir a discussion among the participants.
They can reach out to other attendees, browse the list of who will be in attendance, and get an idea of who might be a valuable connection.
(Quick update: Explara’s upcoming EventConnect App for Android and IOS is pretty much what we’ve all been waiting for in this regard. Stay tuned for the update by subscribing to our newsletter)
2.Keep the seating arrangement more personal
Seems good? Exactly.
Try not to make the seating arrangement unimaginative and impersonal rows of chairs. This will bring down the probability of interacting with a fellow delegate. Even an extrovert will get to interact with a maximum of two people who are his/her neighbors.
The best seating arrangement would be a host of round tables, which will give a more fertile ground for peer-peer interaction.
3.Go for a professional MC
To keep the conference humming, blend a few different formats for an engaging general session.
Hire a professional MC
(S)he will augment attendee enjoyment as well as their appreciation for the strategic goals of your event. A good MC is an audience champion who can
- Facilitate discussions with speakers on their behalf
- Ensure seamless transitions between the sections
- Make an energetic opening and witty observations about the content
- Has an interactive dialogue with the attendees using tech tools
Just be convinced that the goals for the conference match with the skill set and style of the person you are seeking to hire.
4.Jump on the audience engagement tools
To keep the audience enthralled at the conference, you must incorporate the right tech tools. It is important to create connected digital experiences in a conference from start to finish.
Engagement tools and practices will encourage two way communications through the event in order to gather valuable data, which can be utilized before, during and after the events.
Participants feel more involved when they are given the opportunity to influence the outcome. Do not forget to introduce the tool well and remind people repeatedly to use it in order to keep audience engagement up.
No event organizer wants to face a scenario when the speaker asks, “Any questions?” and faces a silent hall. This is where audience interaction tools come in handy
Q&A tools such as the Explara EventConnect App allow event planners to crowd-source the best questions from the audience. Attendees can submit their questions via their smart phones and democratically vote up the ones they find most relevant for discussion.
The advantage of these tools is that you can gather the questions even as the talk is in progress.
Give sufficient breaks between sessions. Holding audience attention for longer duration is challenging since most people have short attention spans.
These breaks can be utilized for making new connections.
Networking is a great way for delegates to get to know each other better and to discuss work in a more relaxed environment.
You can also facilitate a long lunch or an extended coffee break will encourage attendees to talk to someone they don’t normally spend time with.
6.Change thy neighbours
People tend to be in their comfort zone sitting with people they already know. As a part of a game plan or an activity, make them change their seats after the breaks and introduce themselves to the participants sitting next to them.
Don’t let your attendees sit next to the same people throughout the entire day.
For example: you can develop a connection between attendees by turning your table assignments into teams.
7.Promote Social networking
The most important social network that enhances a conference is Twitter, but there are a few things to remember to leverage its full potential.
- Create short, meaningful and relevant hashtags for the event. This can pierce through all the tweets published at the conference and gather them together. Using your event’s Twitter hashtag you can display any tweets being posted about your conference in one place.
- Ask your speakers for their handles and share them alongside their photos, so your guests can engage into the discussion even before the conference.
- Setting up a projector screen with a live stream of tweets, responses to comments or questions from Twitter can be given during the presentation.
- Encourage presenters to include a comment reflecting on what has already been posted or mentioned on Twitter. This will cheer the interactive audience.
- Presenter can get started before the presentation begins by asking for comments, suggestions and questions about your topic. Using this feedback to inform your presentation will not only make it interactive, but more dynamic as well, as it will be tailored to your audience.
Once you have planned your hashtags and Twitter lists, you have plotted your game workflows, and you have set up your social projector. Now look at the interaction roll in.
Get involved in the experience!
Getting the right mix of top-down and bottom-up strategies, sustaining it throughout the conference, and ending with sessions that enrich individual and collective understanding, creates a productive stew of interaction that is largely absent from traditional conferences.
Happy conferencing to you!