Innovative Ways to Engage Event Attendees

Top Ways to Increase Engagement at your Events

Photo Courtesy of CES 2019

Any organizer who has been in the business for long knows that event engagement is an excellent way of measuring the effectiveness of your events. Simply put, engagement is how fully your attendees are participating and how much of their attention your event has captured. If attendees are tuning out or working on other things, you’ve lost them. So it’s important to captivate your audience, from the moment they arrive until the event doors are closed. But how?

Encourage Real-Time Feedback

Asking event attendees what they thought of the event after it’s over is a useful way to improve your outreach. But when guests have a great experience or need someone to complain to, they want to be heard right now. The good news is, since every one of your attendees is likely carrying a phone, you can make that happen easily.

Create a virtual suggestion box and publish it before the event even begins, allowing them to have input through the registration process and leading up to the big day (or days). Include polls and survey questions in presentations or on event literature. Encourage them to text your brand or engage with social media via targeted hashtags, then be sure to monitor and respond to those feeds in real time. Create an event app that allows them to interact with and give feedback on every part of your event, in real time. The options are endless and often easily implemented with the help of current event management technology.

Skip the Lines with a Digital Waitlist App like NextME

Nothing will lose a captive audience quicker than to make them stand around and wait. If you want to keep your attendees engaged and excited about your event, allow them to skip the lines and spend that time learning, networking, or exploring instead. One simple and effective way to manage this is with the NextME app. It allows attendees to sign in quickly and then go do other things while they wait for a panel to start or an interactive experience to be ready.

Rather than forcing visitors to stand around waiting their turn, NextME allows them to sign in with just a few simple details. The app will then text them a link that includes a countdown to their place in line. You can customize this link to include all sorts of information, links to your social media, prompts to help them engage further with your brand, and even interact with your eCommerce site. They can then wander the event as they please, spend some time networking with other attendees, or go grab a snack or a quick drink. A few minutes before their spot is ready, the app will prompt them to return. They can confirm or cancel their reserved spot with a quick return text. During and after the event, you’ll get insightful and actionable reports on everyone who checked in, allowing for easy follow-up and feedback. And all of this without requiring them to download a thing!

Make Networking Simple and Fun  

One of the biggest reasons for attending in-person events is the ability to network with peers across the industry. Not only that, good networking automatically means increased engagement and a more favorable response to your event. Why not make it easier with fun and interactive networking games?

Create a networking scavenger hunt, where attendees have to interact with one another to fill in a list. Use simple prompts like, “find someone with the same initials as yourself,” or “find someone celebrating a birthday this month.” Once they’ve completed the hunt, they’re in the running for a door prize or other gift. They’ll meet tons of new people, have fun doing it, and possibly walk away with a prize.

Encourage smaller networking groups. Large networking mixers can be intimidating, and it’s often hard to find the right contacts in a room of hundreds of people. Instead, have your attendees fill out questionnaires at registration and then use the data to place them into smaller, targeted groups of 20-25 people. This will help to encourage more meaningful connections and provide increased value for attendees.


Event Planning & Management Technology Guide for 2019

Event Planning & Management Technology

Event planning & management technology guide 2019

Live events like conferences and trade shows have been proven to be one of the most effective means of marketing in today’s world. But putting together an event that will not only draw people but also make the sale, is no small task. It requires creativity, marketing know-how, organization, and the right tools to keep everything running smoothly.

What is Event Technology?

Years ago, in a much lower-tech world, everything was handled on paper. Eventually, the paper files containing lists of attendees moved to digital formats like Excel spreadsheets. But these manual processes are tedious and time-consuming, so marketers knew they needed a better option.

Fortunately, today we have streamlined processes and easy-to-navigate tools that make the more tedious parts of event planning a breeze. So you can spend your time developing a great event and marketing it, rather than updating spreadsheets and files.

But with so many options on the market, how do you know which will be best for your event? We’ll examine some of the best tools available to help you choose the ones that fit best, and make your next event a success.

Event Planning Tools

The first category you’ll want to have on hand are event planning tools. These help event planners with all of the prep work before the actual event happens. From choosing a venue to creating a website, to getting the word out, they help with the logistics of creating the actual experience.

We’ve broken these tools down into three categories. First are tools to help you find the perfect venue for your event. Next website building platforms to help you give your attendees all of the details they’ll need. Finally, we have event marketing tools to help you get the word out and generate some buzz.

Venue Sourcing Technologies

EventUP - EventUP has listings for event venues in over 300 cities across the US. Their amazingly detailed filtering tools let you narrow down your choices by price range, budget, number of attendees, area radius, neighborhood, amenities, look and feel, and more. And once you’ve found a place you like, you can request a quote, or ask questions about the space, right from the same page. Want to host a corporate event in a loft downtown with exposed brick and an industrial feel? They can help you find it.

SocialTables - This event planning tool has a large database of venues ready to browse. Filter by number of attendees, size of the largest room you’ll want to use, total meeting space, number of meeting rooms, number of guest rooms, or amenities offered. Once you’ve picked out a venue that interests you, use their suite of tools to design floor plans and layouts so you can see exactly how your event will look and flow. With their easy drag-and-drop floor plan tools, you’ll know exactly how everything will fit before you book the space.

Splacer - Splacer is designed to help you find the perfect creative event space for your needs. More than just meeting rooms, auditoriums, and banquet halls, they can help you find sites for pop-ups, launch events, production spaces, and film shoots too. And they’ve got listings for some of the hottest and most unique spaces available in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago.

Website Building Platforms

Bizzabo - Called “The World’s Most Loved Event Software”, Bizzabo features a huge variety of features and options. Their website builder is designed specifically for the event space, and is incredibly simple to use. They have a drag and drop editor for those without coding skills, or you can create your own custom HTML and CSS pages to fine tune everything just the way you want.

EventCreate - Another option designed with the event space in mind, EventCreate offers you the ability to create a beautiful, functional site in just minutes. There’s no coding needed, and you can include forms, sell tickets, and track data all from their handy interface. They have several starting templates to choose from, or if you’re looking for a more custom option they offer design services too!

Wordpress - Wordpress is one of the most common tools for creating websites today. It’s known and loved by professionals in just about every industry because it’s so incredibly versatile. If you’re looking for a blank slate tool to build just about any sort of website you might need, Wordpress is often the way to go.

Event Marketing Tools

Attendease - Aimed at the mid-sized event market, Attendease is an all-in-one event software that allows event planners to dramatically increase productivity. And their options for event marketing are incredibly robust and simple to use at the same time. This one interface allows you to create and send marketing emails, build custom branded websites and pages, and track and analyze all sorts of data from website traffic to ad performance. They even integrate with all sorts of other programs like Salesforce, HubSpot, Google and Adobe Analytics, and more.

Bizzabo - Bizzabo is helpful in getting the word out about your event too. Their marketing tools feature options like Hot Leads to retarget existing customers or Ticket Boost which uses the power of social media to sell tickets to your event. Everything is branded and integrated, from the website you’ve created for your event to email marketing messages and even an in-app networking platform.

CampaignMonitor - While it’s not designed for the event marketing space alone, CampaignMonitor is an incredibly useful and well-rounded marketing tool that many event planners find invaluable. This tool allows you to build the kind of email marketing messages employed by the big boys like SXSW, Rolling Stone, and HuffPost. If you’re using an event planning suite that you love, but you’re not as fond of its email marketing tools, this is the add-on you’ve been searching for.

Event Management Tools

Once you’ve planned and marketed your event, the work has only just begun. The day of the event can be incredibly hectic, but with the right management tools you’ll be able to streamline processes and ensure a good experience for all involved.

Event Registration Management Tools

Boomset - Boomset’s registration tools are in high demand from event planners of all sorts. They have all the usual features like a branded guest list app and badge or wristband printing tools. But they also offer features like kiosk check-ins, cashless payment options for attendees, and recyclable wearable RFID technology.

Eventbrite - If you’re in the market for something a little simpler, Eventbrite might just do the trick. They offer simplified ticket sales and event registrations with 24/7 real-time tracking features to help keep you on top of your numbers and demographics. What really shines here is the smart reports and data they generate, along with integrations with big names like Mailchimp, Salesforce, and even facebook.

ExpoPass - This simple and affordable option will help you to streamline your registration process. Then, as your event kicks off, use it to create custom badges and imprint them in real time at check in. If you’re working in the continuing education space, this one will allow you to distribute certificates to attendees who complete specific sessions with a simple mobile device scan. And after the doors close and everyone goes home, you’ll have instant access to all the details you need to turn guests into profitable leads.  

Regpack - Regpack is the online registration software that embeds into your existing site, for a smooth, secure registration process. They offer integrated payment processing, a custom database creator, group registration options, and even billing and payment plans to help keep expensive events affordable for attendees. Plus, they have the data and reporting tools you’re going to need to stay on top of your attendance numbers, and a personal support team to help out should you need them.

Event Agenda Tools

Sched - This is the agenda tool used by big names like ComicCon and techweek. Their full-featured scheduling tools allow you to create a functional and simple branded agenda app. This infinitely customizable tool allows your attendees to pre-register for workshops, book seats for panels, and plan out their day with ease. Meanwhile, on the backend you can monitor interest and registrations, and make changes in the blink of an eye. And it integrates nicely with your website or other event planning programs like Eventbrite.

Shdlr - Looking for a painlessly simple way to create detailed agendas and distribute them to your attendees? Look no further than Shdlr. This one can handle even the most complex schedules, and integrates seamlessly with popular calendar apps. You can embed your schedule on your blog or website, and import data in bulk from csv files if that’s your thing. What really shines here is the ease of creating a schedule. Drag-and-drop features and one click publishing mean you’ll have your agenda ready to go in no time flat!

Zoho Backstage - Once again, drag and drop simplicity wins. Zoho’s Backstage event planning interface allows you to build a detailed event agenda with ease. And their personalized agenda builder allows your attendees to create their own schedule, for the sort of customized experience that people love. But this one’s more than just a scheduler. It also handles website building, social media integration, and so much more.

Event Waitlist Management Tools

NextME - This full-featured waitlist tool is an amazing way to let your attendees check in for your event and then wait wherever they please. Since there’s no app download required for attendees, you’ll find greater buy-in than many other options. And they’ll be able to track their place in line in real time, so they can go grab a drink or browse other booths while waiting their turn and be back just in time. And at the end of the day, you’ll get all the data and analytics you need to make your next event even better.

Waitwhile - While it’s not designed for the event space directly, this easy-to-use waitlist can be integrated into just about any sort of business. You can track customer data and schedule bookings as you like. And guests who choose to wander away while they wait can stay informed with SMS notifications. Waitwhile is only available via your web browser and does not offer a mobile solution like NextME.

Event Attendee Engagement Tools

Event planning & management technology guide 2019NextME - Yes, the waitlist experts are also a great way to keep attendees engaged throughout your event. When guests register for your event’s waitlist, they’ll be sent a simple text message with a link to a marketing page you can custom design. On this page, they’ll be able to monitor their place in line, but more importantly, you can use this space to keep their attention while they wait. Encourage them to engage with social media, show targeted marketing messages, allow them to preview the experience they’re about to participate in, and just about anything else you might dream up. Even better still, because NextMe doesn’t require any sort of download for guests, it can be easily paired with any other app or site you choose. Your marketing page can then be used to direct guests to download conference apps like BoomSet, Expo Pass, Windsight, and others, so they can stay connected with everything happening in your event while they wait. It’s a great way to take your audience from bored to excited in no time at all!

Sli.do - If you’re looking for “Audience Interaction Made Easy,” you’ll find it with this handy tool. The web-based application from sli.do lets you do live Q&A sessions, real-time polling, and all sorts of other audience participation features. You can even allow them to access presenter slides on their own screens, either during the event or later at home. Plus, guests never have to download an app to participate. You’ll get the benefit of crowdsourced data along with moderated filters and the ability to identify and engage with your most influential participants. And at the end of the event, you can download all of those questions and all the data that goes with them to create and share infographics for post-event engagement too.

TweetWally - Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective. In today’s ever-connected world, one of the most important ways to keep (or lose) attendee engagement is through social media. If you don’t grab their attention, you can be pretty sure their phones will. So encourage guests to really participate with a real-time tweet wall you can show in the main hall, on your site, or anywhere else you like. Just create your hashtag and you’ll be on your way! Then, use their software to display, in real time, all of the tweets pertaining to your event. Customize your wall’s look and feel, then display it prominently for all of your guests to see. Before long, you’ll find engagement is up and buzz is spreading!

Event Success Measurement Tools

When the event is over, the event planner’s work is still not done. We live in an age of data, and if you’re not gaining valuable insights from the numbers generated by your events, you may be missing the big picture entirely. These tools allow you to track so much more than just attendance numbers. Generate KPI reports, learn about demographics, and get insights into what worked and what didn’t, so your next event can be even better.

Activity Cloud - Activity Cloud is one of the kings of predictive data insight tools. It will pull data from your marketing campaigns, usage history, participant info, social media, and just about anywhere else you can think of. Then it weaves all of these numbers and details into actionable reports to help you understand which areas you excelled at and what you could do better.

NextME - Once again, this event waitlist app shines with actionable data reporting to show you exactly how well your event engaged with waiting participants and what you could do better in the future. The analytics feature within the app offers you the kind of data you need to ensure your events always run smoothly and keep customers engaged and excited about your brand.

Piwik PRO - Remember that website you created? Wouldn’t you be interested to know how visitors to your site engaged with your brand, even if they didn’t register for your event? With Piwik PRO, you can. This analytics tool offers privacy-compliant behavioral insights, even in the most secure areas of your site. So you’ll know what pages attendees visited before they signed up for your event and after, as well as where you lost those who did not attend.

Event Technology Trends & Considerations

While the event marketing tool space is certainly booming, we look forward to seeing new and different uses for technology in the industry going forward. Over the past several years, we’ve seen brands launched, acquired, and integrated in numbers no one could have predicted. This means a more user-friendly event technology environment for planners and marketers across the board. And with the involvement of AI, a powerful trend in all areas of marketing, we can expect big things to come!

Meanwhile, attendees are learning to expect more and more from experiential marketing. That's why technology suites like Bizzabo are so vital to creating an experience that attendees will still be talking about when they return home. And innovations, like NextME, are a huge win. Instead of many attendees skipping some of your best booths because of long wait lines, they can experience it on their own schedule, stress-free.

Whether you’re planning your first ever event, or you’re an old pro at this format, it’s always a good idea to keep abreast of the new technology on offer. If you don’t, you could be missing out on market trends, valuable insights, and customer experiences that could take your brand to a new level!


Waitlist and Queue Management App for Event Planning

The Launch of NextME’s Waitlist and Queue Management App in the Event Production Space

Over the past few years, the restaurant industry has discovered the time and cost saving benefits of using NextME to manage waiting lists. Restaurant owners, staff, and diners alike have enjoyed the rewards of this incredibly easy to use tech solution for an age-old problem. But what if NextME could help other businesses and industries just as effectively?

With this idea in mind, we began working toward integration into a new and exciting industry: event production. This industry is becoming more and more important in the business world, and delivering a positive customer experience has never been more crucial.

Experiential Marketing

Trade shows, conferences, expos, and other industry events are making huge waves in the business to business sales world. In fact, Forrester Research estimates that events are almost a quarter of the B2B marketing budget. It’s been proven as a leading way to communicate with potential clients directly and clearly.

Events and experiences are an amazing way to create connections with consumers too. Big names from Amazon to Oculus VR are harnessing experiential marketing to create positive associations with their brand. As consumers zip through the commercials on their TiVo, or stream their favorite shows on platforms that skip the ads entirely, live events and product demonstrations are quickly becoming an important way to reach out to the public directly.

For those new to the event marketing space, the biggest fear is usually that nobody will show up. Experienced teams know how to generate buzz and overcome this hurdle. So what happens if your event goes well? You’re likely to have lines of people waiting to engage with your brand during busy trade shows, conferences, or events. Long lines can kill your marketing before consumers and clients even get near them.

Picture this: You spend months designing and promoting a top-notch interactive booth for an upcoming trade show. Maybe it’s a high-tech experience. Maybe it’s one-on-one time with your best experts. Whatever the draw, you’ve got potential customers salivating over the chance to engage with your brand.

A potential customer hears the amazing buzz you’ve created and puts it on a to-do list for the day of the show. After arriving on the show floor, they seek you out, only to be turned off by a crowd of people who are already impatiently waiting their turn.

Don’t let a long line turn potential clients away. NextME’s technology is tailor made to handle this sticky situation.

A Better Waitlist & Queue Manager

Here’s how the above scenario could have gone. Instead of seeing a crowd when they first approach your booth, they’re greeted by a friendly smile of your host, armed with a tablet. The host plugs in the customer’s name and phone number and immediately the customer receives a text confirming their place in line. They’re now free to wander the show as they please, and can check in at any time to see their place in line in real time.

Better yet, the text the customer received included a link. This link takes them to a page you’ve designed, introducing your company, product, experience, or anything else you like. You can even use this space to collect attendee data and generate sales leads with interactive promos, letting attendees enter drawings, or newsletter sign-ups. It also lets them visit your social media pages or suggests a hashtag for posting their trade show experience. So you get to introduce them to your brand while they wait!

When the customer’s turn is almost ready, she’ll receive a second text alerting her to return to your booth. She’ll have the option to confirm or cancel her place in line, so you’ll receive fewer no shows than standard appointment setting methods. When she returns to the booth, instead of being bored by a long waiting period, she’ll be just as excited and ready to go as the moment she first approached the booth.

A Proven Queue System

And of course, this isn’t all theoretical. We partnered with digital marketing and event planning agencies, like Deckel & MoneyPenny, to manage wait times for large conferences. They used NextME for big name corporate clients like General Electric Appliances and other large corporations, so it’s already been proven to scale well.

The result? Increased efficiency. Happier attendees. A standardized process for queue management. Better communication. And the ability to meet tight deadlines with little training required for implementation. And after the doors close? Plenty of analytics and reports to pore over so you can see exactly what worked well and what might need tweaking for next time. To read more about NextME’s case studies, check it out here.

So what are you waiting for? If you manage events of any size, NextME is the solution that will allow you to up your game in real time while engaging attendees and providing essential real-time communication tools. Feel free to request a demo or give us a ring at (877) 639-8631.