Ask any planner what determines the overall success of an event and most will agree the biggest factor is the attendees’ experience. While it’s not terribly difficult to gauge how your attendees feel about the event, what can be challenging is ensuring their experience is a positive one. The key to creating exceptional attendee experiences lies in attendee management.
But many planners focus only on pre-event attendee management, making sure the registration process is streamlined and updates are sent out in a timely fashion. This is only part of the job. To ensure your attendees are engaged from beginning to end, you’ll need to also check in with them during the event as well as after.
Here are some attendee management tips for before, during and after your event to ensure your attendees have the most positive experience possible.
Attendee Management Tips for BEFORE Your Event
Keep Your Attendees Informed
For many, attending an event is like going on a small vacation: people want to map out which exhibitor booths they want to visit as well as pre-register for their desired sessions. Attendees want to plan ahead for the event and in order to do that, they need to be kept in the loop.
Before your event, be sure to send out emails to all attendees, letting them know exactly what they can expect. This includes any maps, travel directions, itineraries, and any other housekeeping details. If and when changes arise, be sure to send follow-up emails with that new information.
Understand Their Needs
Attendee management is as much about addressing needs as anything else. In order to do this, planners must first understand attendees’ needs.
Who exactly will be coming to your event? What will they expect? What will they need in order to have a positive experience?
As an example, if your event will be attended by tech-savvy marketing professionals, then you’ll definitely want to offer the latest tech at your conference. A good wi-fi connection is only the bare minimum of what will be needed. You’ll most likely need to incorporate mobile devices into the event, have live polling and live streaming to name just a few things your attendees will expect and demand.
Will part of your hybrid event be held in a rather remote (though utterly cool) location? If so, your attendees will need help getting shuttles from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the venue.
These are just a couple of examples. Do some research and brainstorming to fully uncover who your attendees are and what their needs will be so you can meet them.
Plan an Inclusive Food Menu
You could have the best speakers in the world, but if some of your attendees can’t eat the food because of an allergy or special food restrictions, they’ll be too hungry (or hangry) to notice.
Don’t just offer one vegetarian option and call it a day. That simply won’t be enough to accommodate the variety of dietary needs and restrictions your audience might have. Before the event, send out an email survey to get an idea of who needs what so you can plan your menu accordingly.
Attendee Management Tips for DURING Your Event
Leverage Social Media to Stay Connected
Social media is an easy way to stay connected to attendees and inform them of any last-minute changes. Also, encourage attendees to broadcast their experience to their SM followers, which will help you broaden your event’s reach.
Use a Real-Time Check-in System
You’ve spent time planning and ensuring registration for the event was a breeze for attendees. But now the big day has arrived and you’re using an old school check-in system like an Excel spreadsheet. This is a slow and cumbersome process and one that will irk attendees, some of whom just flew in on planes chock-full of screaming babies, so they are in no mood.
For the absolute best attendee experience, be sure each of your check-in staff members has access to a real-time digital check-in system so attendees aren’t waiting in a long line.
Choose Skilled Moderators
An engaged audience is a happy audience. Be sure to choose moderators that can facilitate this engagement. To set your moderators up for success, be sure to brief them well in advance and involve them early on. Help your moderators fully understand the objectives of your event so they can work their magic.
Hold “Ask Me Anything” Sessions
Most packed agendas don’t allow enough time for attendees to interact with the speakers. To address this issue, consider creating a separate stage dedicated to Q&A sessions and invite your most popular speakers who were unable to answer all of the audience questions to hold an “ask me anything” session. This allows for a deeper dive and more attendee engagement.
Organize Free Time Activities
For attendees of in-person events, many will be flying in from out of town and will be unfamiliar with the surrounding area. Consider organizing activities for attendees during their free time. Fun activities such as meetups, pub crawls and site seeing groups is a great way to help attendees network and engage them throughout the ENTIRE course of your event.
Attendee Management Tips for AFTER Your Event
The event is over so no more attendee management, right? Not even close! Planners should still stay in attendee management mode for a bit longer.
Reach out to attendees to get their feedback on everything from check-in experience to speakers, sessions, food and anything else you can think of. This will help you uncover some things you may have missed in your initial planning, which will help you refine your next event. Also, be sure to respond to any complaints or concerns as quickly as possible.
Also, think about sharing any photos or video highlights of the event that will keep attendees inspired. And don’t be shy, be sure to promote your next event and encourage attendees to tell others about it!
As you can see, attendee management goes way beyond registration and initial housekeeping. To truly plan a successful event, you’ve got to be sure your attendees are engaged before, during and after the event.
If you need help planning or managing your next event, click here to start a conversation with our team!
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