Behind every great event is great content. To generate great content, event professionals need to be publishers as much as planners. And like any good publisher, you need content that connects with your audience. We often use the word “attendees” to refer to event consumers – when building a content plan, however, think of them as your audience.
Don’t Broadcast Your Content, Crowdcast It!
All too often, event content is delivered via one-way broadcasts. Even when the content is engaging, it misses out on engagement. Involving your audience in the event content (i.e. allowing them to contribute to a session) creates a more rewarding experience and builds audience loyalty.
So be sure to avoid the broadcast – instrument “crowdcasting” instead. Crowdcasting creates a loyal audience, which becomes an annuity of sorts. It guarantees “future payout” in the form of attendance (at future events), referrals (to recruit colleagues) and activity (further participation).
Let’s consider engagement models that you can apply to your next event.
Asynchronous / Non-Synchronous
I’m a loyal listener of podcasts from ESPN Radio. In some of the podcasts, the hosts answer emails submitted by the audience. Listeners who hear their question answered (on the podcast) are more likely to submit subsequent questions. They’re also more likely start tuning in every day, to see if their latest question gets answered.
How this could apply to virtual events: in the weeks leading up to your event, invite users to submit questions (to the presenters) and provide input to help guide the content of the presentations. Once users see that “they have a voice,” they’re more likely to tune in to your sessions at future events.
I commute to work in a car and often tune in to the radio. I’ve noticed that more and more, radio hosts are engaging with listeners via social media. Hosts will post to the show’s Facebook page, then read users’ comments on the air. They’ll ask a question via Twitter and read tweets from listeners who responded.
I call this “pseudo-synchronous,” because the dialog unfolds slower than real-time and while the channel is open in both directions, it’s not directly connected. Instead of an instant messaging session, it’s like leaving comments on a blog posting.
How this could apply to virtual events: Webinar presenters make the audience a central component of the presentation. They allocate dedicated segments to review (and discuss) audience feedback and questions submitted via the webinar console and via social media channels. Like radio hosts, they ask questions of the audience and read selected answers.
I’m a big fan of sports talk radio. While the program host can make or break a show, the best part of talk radio are the discussions brought on by the callers. For sports talk radio, I love to hear different fans’ perspectives (as crazy as some perspectives can be) and listen to the host provide his/her response.
Imagine a sports talk program, though, that took no questions from the audience. It wouldn’t work! But that’s how some presentations are structured.
How this could apply to virtual events: For selected sessions, the webinar model should be turned upside down. The “presenter” provides a 5 minute introduction on a topic, then turns into a radio talk show host. Webinar viewers are “passed the ball” (i.e. the presentation controls) and provide their perspective on an issue. As in talk radio, a “call screener” is used to review topics that interested users would like to discuss.
Your audience should be a central component of your “event content.” Allow the audience to have an active voice and it’s a win/win scenario. You win, and your audience wins. Crowdcast, don’t broadcast.
Let us know your thoughts – what are additional ways to engage your audience?