5 Methods for Capturing and Engaging Event Attendees

A trend that started with millennials has spread to just about every demographic – people are placing a higher priority on personal experiences over buying consumer goods. Two years ago, a study by Harris Group found that, “More than three in four millennials (78 percent) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable, and 55 percent of millennials say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before.”

The goal of experiential marketing is to tap into these impulses – to deliver the experiences that consumers crave while integrating it with a brand relationship. The most important thing is to be authentic and put the audience first. The brand aspect is basically secondary.

Sort of.

See, while the “experience” part of experiential marketing is key to the audience, you and your brand need to see an ROI to validate your efforts. But many brands make the mistake of putting on an amazing show and then having little to show for it.  

Here are some tips for creating experiences at events that are memorable for your audience – and will make them remember you too.

Photo Credit: Event Marketer

Remember the Future

Always focus on the intent of an experience. How will this experience impact your brand tomorrow, when the event ends, next week, next month, next year?

Before conceptualizing any engagements, you have to be concrete about long-term plans. Thinking that far into the future will help ensure that your current hear-and-now thinking will help yield tangible results that will propel your marketing program into the future.

The other thing that long-term thinking will help you accomplish is developing your brand’s story. Think of these experiences as chapters in a book or episodes of a longer narrative. Part of building relationships is getting consumers acquainted with your brand’s story, which is constant, ongoing, and growing. By knowing where you want the story to go, you can better build an engrossing narrative with your experiences. This will keep consumers engaged and help ensure that your content is fresh year after year.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

This directly feeds off the above idea that you want to ensure that your content is fresh year after year – because you need to ensure that you deliver new experiences every single year, every single engagement. It’s okay to repeat an engagement if you are touring it around the country. In fact, it’s pretty great to give folks in other regions the chance to participate in something they’ve heard about and would defiantly like to be a part of.

However, if that same engagement (or even something similar) shows up at the same event one year later, you’re achieving the opposite of your goals. Attendees and consumers will not remain engaged if you deliver the same rote content year after year. Instead of winning over attendees, you are boring and alienating them.

Update what you offer to keep people excited to return.

Forge Connections and Interactions

So, what do people want? What will keep them coming back again and again?

Humans are social animals. We get comfort from connecting with our fellow humans. It’s the reason people attend events as opposed to viewing them remotely. The more you can do to integrate interaction and connectivity into your experiences, the better. That gives attendees something that cannot be achieved via skype: a personal experience.

An interesting thing happens as you forge these interactions-- you are also creating a deeper connection with your brand.

Photo Credit: Best Market 2017

Appeal to Every Sense

Another way you can create connections with attendees is to craft experiences that take into account all five senses. Because our senses work together to give us a complete picture, we remember events more clearly and appreciate them more when all five senses are engaged.

Sight

Sight is probably the sense that gets the most use at events. You want your visitors to be impressed from the moment they arrive.

If you want to wow the eyes, you need to stand out from the crowd. Start by making an eye-catching structure the centerpiece of your display. You can further entice the crowd with creative video displays and inventive lighting. Also, be sure to include color trends into your event – Pantone regularly releases seasonal palette trends. Sticking with this guide will help keep the attendees engaged and your displays current.

Sound

Events can be noisy. You need to find a way to rise above the fray without becoming an even greater distraction. How can you ensure that your visitors hear what they want to hear?

Speakers are an important part of the auditory presentation. What tone are they striking and how can you complement it? Would ambient sounds or music enhance or detract from their speech?

It is also a good idea to have a professional on hand to troubleshoot any issues. Audio can be tricky. All it takes is a short in a wire or a loose speaker connection to turn your pleasant, ambient soundscape into a cracking, feedback-filled nightmare.

Photo Credit: Trend Hunter

Smell

Smell is inexorably tied to memory. What memories are conjured up when you think of freshly baked cookies or warm bread?

If you want an engagement to be memorable, you should include pleasant smells that are pleasing but not overpowering. For example, adding a little peppermint to the air can help keep folks alert and aid their memory during educational sessions. Just be careful when choosing scents. You don't want too many smells intermingling.

Taste

If your exhibit is going to offer food and/or drinks, remember that taste is as much about the experience of eating as the eating itself. Is your event in an area with a rich culinary history? Use that history to educate as well as entertain. Is there a bustling food scene nearby? Invite the chefs and owners to be a part of the event. Are there farmer’s markets or sustainable options in the immediate or adjoining neighborhoods? Find a way to incorporate those foods in the menu.

Taste is more than just hiring a good caterer. It is about how you integrate food and drink into the event itself. Food is fun -- remind attendees of that fact.

Touch

And we return to interactivity.

How can you make touch a part of your event? Perhaps add a product display where touching is  encouraged (you want people to be able to pick up and “play” with your products). What about an interactive cooking demonstration or a cocktail hour where visitors mix their own drink? A virtual reality or augmented reality experience?

Another idea is to work in some wellness -- perhaps a sunrise yoga session or even a quiet, meditation area with some comfortable chairs to give people a break in the day.  

Photo Credit: The Hanging House

Customizable Amenities

Cap your engagement off with a thank you surprise. But, since one size does not fit all, let your visitors have some freedom of choice. Would they like one large gift or a few smaller ones? Or you could hand out branded tote bags and let them fill it with their choice from a variety of swag.

The more you can encourage interactivity, the more memorable you event will be. For more ideas about how to thrill and engage your crowd, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.

sofia krsmanovic