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April 16, 2008

Toby Lewis:Engagement is the key to a great event

Event organisers and facilitators will understand the enormous benefits gained from positive audience interaction. Engaging delegates is vital to create a two-way dialogue that can greatly enhance the event’s overall success. Interaction increases attention spans and therefore understanding of the material under discussion. The two-way dialogue leads to increased energy levels encouraging individuals to listen and provide further contributions.

However, the biggest hurdle to organisers is keeping the content engaging, maintaining attention spans and communicating messages in an interesting way. New technologies can contribute greatly to this enhanced ‘dynamic’ bringing with it a new element to the event and taking delegate participation to a higher level. The latest innovations actively encourage participation and provide ways to capture the feedback instantly which can be turned into a post event report for later consideration.

New technologies
Technology is a key aid when looking to engage the audience and encourage greater participation. The simplest form of audience engagement is via palmlet handheld voting systems. These offer ‘yes’, ‘no’ and multiple choice answer options. Cost effective, reliable and delivering quick quantitative results, these systems are now common place at any interactive event.

  • Small compact size
  • Used on an individual basis
  • Suitable for audiences of any size
  • Captures individual quantitative responses
  • Immediately displays aggregated data to the whole audience

The leading providers in the event field have now developed this concept further and have introduced tablet PC audience engagement systems making free text response generation a possibility. This provides far more results, ideas and opinions, ensuring that all voices in a forum are heard and that comments are captured and shared straight away.

  • Free text and voting capabilities
  • Compact sized tablet PC with touch screen interface
  • Used by individuals or in group working format
  • Delivers qualitative and quantitative responses
  • Ideas and opinions are captured instantly

Delegates at an event can type in full questions, comments or opinions. This can also be done anonymously, helping to reduce anxieties and giving those that may not ordinarily ask questions, the opportunity to become more involved. With a full audience engagement system in place balanced contributions from a wider spectrum of people are obtained helping facilitators to structure content for a later session. Some of the major benefits of the tablet PC systems include:

Access to Multimedia content
Additional multimedia content can be accessed including the internet, video or sound clips, word, excel, and other electronic files that help to energise the event or assist explanation. This acts as a stimulus for discussion and debate, encouraging greater levels of feedback. This also means there is no longer any need for delegates to strain to see documents on a central display as it can be sent directly to a screen on their table.

Facilitating group exercises
Interaction between delegates through group exercises or discussions is a productive way of challenging the delegates and gathering new information. Different tasks can be sent to different groups via engagement systems encouraging a high data yield. This also helps to save time and money through eliminating the cost of breakout rooms and the time to decipher information from whiteboards or notepads – everything can be saved on the system.

During the event all data is instantly collected on the system. This raw data can be turned into post event reports for clients, organisers or event delegates. There is no need for someone to take notes or listen to hours of tape as they struggle to find the relevant material.

Advanced preparation
Prior preparation is also important when harnessing the power of audience engagement technologies. Knowledgeable suppliers of event technology will spend time with event organisers ahead of the event demonstrating and customising the technology. All questions, group exercises and electronic files can be uploaded onto the system in advance. Trained professionals will also be on hand on the day to facilitate and ensure that everything runs as planned.

Audience interactivity is crucial to a great event. If the aims and objectives of an event include professional presentation, insightful findings, high data yield and quantifiable return on investment, then audience engagement systems are a solid investment. With proven technology and a professional team to assist event organisers every step of the way, audience engagement has never been easier.

Toby Lewis is the managing director of LiveInteractive.

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