Why Event Organisers Must Care About Audience Engagement


Glisser founder and CEO Michael Piddock shares insight about how new technologies can help create more interactive events.

Mike Piddock

Before I talk about events, I want  you to think about newspaper and online content businesses back in the ’90s. You got to read the articles and look at images rendered digitally at the touch of a button. It was convenient and free, plus the publishers could count “unique visitors” and sell banner ads online. But as a reader, the online experience wasn’t much different from flicking through the printed issue.

Fast-forward to today. Online news channels are highly sophisticated combinations of social-sharing and “like” buttons, lively comments sections, recommended articles based on data algorithms, and interactive infographics, with every user action generating analytics by which audiences are ranked and adverts highly targeted.

It doesn’t take a huge mental leap to see the correlation with events and meetings. People want to participate — it makes them feel engaged and more positive about what they are doing. We are no longer passive learners, but sophisticated participants in (and creators of) our own unique experiences.

Publishing websites have recognised that they’re not just measuring visitors, but levels of engagement as proof of value to sponsors. Audience engagement is measurable, and an excellent proxy for audience happiness and website (or event) effectiveness.

What’s the solution?

Event apps have now been around for nearly a decade, but they evolved much like the websites.  They started as digital replacements for agendas, maps, and speaker biographies.  Event organisers have since realised that they need to do more to capture the imagination of attendees and encourage use (which in turn, generates all that valuable user data).

However, the last few years have shifted to put audience engagement front and centre of the event technology experience. Dedicated engagement technologies, like Glisser, which share content in real-time, encourage note-taking, power digital Q&As, integrate Twitter feeds, and run polls, have come to the fore. They are easier to set up, don’t require the audience to download anything (just browse to a URL or scan a QR code) and are far more flexible in meeting the needs of events from 30 to 30,000 people.

These products directly re-create the actions audiences are familiar with from their online experience — “like” this, Tweet this, comment on this, share this, etc. That means there is practically zero learning curve and a much higher take up among audiences.

And, crucially, the focus on audience engagement and analytics, means these technologies are not overladen with unnecessary features and so can be deployed in ways that are far more cost effective.

Event organisers, running everything from internal townhalls, training sessions, and sales incentives to large conferences and tradeshows, should at least consider whether such options are appropriate for their events. Meanwhile, marketing directors using events as part of their mix should begin to demand the depth of data these solutions can provide in order to measure event effectiveness.

After all, who would be happy with a 1990s-style “read-only” website these days?

Michael Piddock is the founder of Glisser, an audience engagement and event analytics technology platform that combines live slide sharing with audience response systems to gather data from presentations, meetings, and conferences.

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