Ensuring very good event attendee experience is an important goal of the event management process. An event attendee experience is the sum of all direct and indirect experiences at an event. People may forget facts but the emotion evoked by an experience is hard to forget, whether negative or positive.
Event attendees must perceive these experiences to be valuable, useful, enjoyable, unique and positive. These perceptions will vary by person; however, if the attendee’s perceptions are not favorable, they are likely to share their unfavorable perceptions with their family, friends, and even on social media, which will end up harming the event organizers in the long run.
The event manager’s job is to look at the entire event management workflow and ensure the best experience for the attendee, from the very first moment an attendee receives information about the event, to the moment that attendee steps into the venue and throughout their entire interaction with exhibitors, sponsors, speakers and all other aspects of the event.
What Is Event Attendee Experience?
An attendee experience can be defined as any kind of activity or perception that attendee has throughout their interactions with the event. The concept of event attendee experience is an amalgamation of all ways in which both speakers and exhibitors interact with the attendees, what information they provide, how that information is provided – even down to how deep or shallow that attendee needs to have their experience before they are satisfied are all factors that are included in this definition.
An important point about this experience is that it can range from being deeply affective to having no effect at all – it could be satisfying or dissatisfying. The challenge of the event manager is to get to the mind and heart of every attendee.
The attendee experience needs to be considered at all stages of event organization and execution. Its importance has been amplified as technology has enabled attendees to have choices about what events they want to attend, who they want those speakers to be and how they can engage with them before arriving or even after leaving the venue.
This means that there are a number of elements which contribute towards this event experience – from the quality of information available online to encourage registrations, attending specific speaker sessions and exhibitors being relevant enough for an attendee to recommend them afterwards. All these things form part of a positive overall picture around the attendee experience.
Moreover, new technology trends have a significant impact upon the ease with which organizations can target audiences via specific channels, encouraging registrations and embedding the experience even further.
Why Is Event Attendee Experience Important?
Organizations in almost every industry spend a great deal on events every year; although they often provide key learning and business development opportunities for employees, there can be significant financial costs involved. For organizations to recoup their investment, they need to create positive experiences that encourage further engagement.
For example if someone had a great time at an organization’s event, they may become more engaged with organization and this continued engagement would likely result in increased revenue for organization since that person will now use their service more often as well as recommend it to friends.
On the other hand, attendees who have negative experiences are more likely to complain and share their bad experiences with others. It will not be a surprise that many attendees would be less likely to spend money on a conference if other people gave it a negative review.
That makes the need for a great attendee experience paramount. In order to improve these efforts, organizations must look at how they can use technology to create better attendee experiences and to help mitigate any risks associated with them.
What Affects Attendee Experience?
There are many elements involved in creating a great attendee experience. Given how large of an impact these factors can have on attendees’ overall perceptions of events it is important for event planners to place great emphasis on their quality.
Some of the most important aspects can include the following.
- Organizer leadership
- Food & beverage
- Venue (building architecture, seating arrangement, parking space, internet and wifi, etc)
- Registration process options (i.e., online, in-person)
- Audience/attendees (level of interaction and networking opportunities available)
- Speakers/presenters (speaker qualifications and the structure of the presentation)
- Programming elements used at events (e.g., agenda, content of breakout session, etc)
Event managers should try different strategies for developing these components and measure which strategies produce the best results – whether they be satisfied attendees, increased ticket sales or other benefits. The result should be an improved perception in online public circles as well as more people attending events (or buying tickets) because it appears like everyone else goes to this particular event (and has a good time doing so).
We have several articles reviewing the various elements of event management process and workflow, event management software as well as tips, recommendations and best practices for event managers to provide great attendee experiences.
Ways to Improve Attendee Experience
The process of defining, improving and measuring attendee experiences has many layers – making it challenging to manage beginning to end. There are several factors which must be considered in order to maintain a favorable perception through every step of engagement before, during and after an event.
We will highlight a few tips here to provide general ideas, but this will by no means be an exhaustive list.
Before the Event Attendee Experience
Ways to improve attendee experience before an event include the following:
- Deploy an event management software. Innovations in event management software help you reduce time spent organizing your team’s tasks so they can focus on delivering quality content that your attendees want.
- Ensuring that event information such as agenda, location and speaker profiles are all up to date and accurately displayed online.
- Ensuring a seamless event registration process – this will include ensuring payment processing and email communication (with attention to personalization) is in-line with the expectations of attendees.
- Responding efficiently to attendee questions in advance of an event ensures a smooth process when registration opens for an event.
During the Event Attendee Experience
Ways to improve attendee experience during a conference or trade show include:
- Ensuring a welcoming environment at check-in desks and/or registration counters – from signage, staff uniforms and even ensuring refreshments are available on arrival. It is important to incorporate innovative
- Providing meeting room access cards to ensure that there is no confusion when attendees enter meeting rooms onsite. Enabling any exhibitors who have complementary products or services to integrate their systems into the attendee mobile apps Providing live event updates on session, speaker and/or sponsor information via interactive screens in meeting rooms.
- Facilitating conversations and networking, and promotion of offsite networking events so attendees can meet face-to-face outside of the actual event.
- A/B Testing. Let’s say you have two different topics for one of your sessions at an upcoming conference, then try having both speakers give their talks at separate rooms with half the audience attending each session. Ask everyone after the second session which talk they enjoyed most and use this information to help guide next year’s speaker selections.
After the Event Attendee Experience
In order to improve attendee experience after an event the event manager should pay great attention to the following details:
- Attendee Feedback. Make sure to collect feedback from all the attendees who have taken part in your event, this way you can monitor what they liked and didn’t like about it while also improvising on certain aspects of your next events. Use social media channels for feedback. Social media played a huge role in improving attendee experience during events so using tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Google can definitely help get feedback from attendees about their experiences
- Event Post-mortem Meeting, also called “Event Reflection”. Usually, this meeting takes place close to the event’s completion and will involve speakers, sponsors or other exhibitors that were at the event because they are capable of providing rich insights into how the event went down. Event managers can get insights on how to improve things for future events and not repeat mistakes made.
- Guest Satisfaction Analytics. One of the major aspects to pay attention after an event has concluded is satisfaction ratings in terms of customer service provided, wait times, whether the technology necessary was supplied etc. All these factors should be taken into consideration while planning events because they will influence brand image in terms of customer service and attract future clients.
The field of event management is an exciting yet challenging one. One of many challenges is how to create an event attendee experience that stands out and compels attendees to come back in the future, remain loyal customers, and become promoters of your event given the memorable pleasure already derived from previous at. Doing so requires a multi-disciplinary approach to making events happen including technology, branding, marketing, sales acumen, research & development, training, design thinking etc. After all, delivering a great attendee experience is not merely about meeting customer needs but exceeding them while doing so!