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6 Effective Ways to Manage a Successful Interactive Conference

6 Effective Ways to Manage a Successful Interactive Conference

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With our world becoming increasingly more digital every day, we need to become accustomed to interactive conferences.

Online events are fast becoming an easily accessible way to improve your personal brand, deliver a one-of-a-kind experience to your audience and connect with influential people.

Plus, digital interaction at offline events is now the norm, with conference organizers embracing the intersection between technology and audience engagement.

Digital interaction is without a doubt the biggest factor influencing audience engagement – which is a key contributor to the success of an interactive conference.

With that in mind, the rest of this article will help you increase audience engagement at your next interactive conference.

1. Interactive sessions

A couple of weeks ago I moderated a panel discussion about Virtual Reality at Pixel Heaven (Retro & Indie Gaming Fest) in Warsaw. I used Engagenow to bring the audience and the panelists closer. How?

  • Introduced the tool to the audience, asking them to open their browsers on their mobile phones.
  • Shared a simple link to type in: pixelheaven.pl/VR
  • Guided them around the two tabs: Poll (“What is the best VT device?”) and Chat
  • Asked them to submit questions via Chat or simply discuss what panelists are saying

I felt like the audience participated in 100% of our discussion, vividly commenting on the highlights from the stage. More than half of the hall logged into the app via Facebook and voted in the poll.

Conference stage picture - interactive conference

Interactivity is a rising trend in the event industry. So it’s good to add as many occasions to interact with speakers and other guests as possible.

At the moment, interactive sessions are considered as a “nice to have”, but in the next couple of years they will be a must!

2. Two-way stream of information

Our concentration has its limits. According to numerous studies, the human concentration span lasts no longer than 20 minutes. No matter how interesting all the talks are at an event, it’s impossible to stay focused for a couple of hours. Therefore, it is a very good practice to intermingle informative sessions with the entertaining ones.

You can choose between:

  • Official announcements
  • Keynotes – 20-minutes TED-style talks to share opinions or forecast,
  • Panel discussions,
  • Master Classes, Workshops or Demonstrations – show how to apply theoretical knowledge in practice
  • Interactive sessions
  • Speed networking and discussion tables – these are great Ice-breakers

One of the examples of a great workshop that I gave was earlier this year with a group of workers from a Warsaw-based corporation. I divided people into 5 groups sitting at 5 tables and gave them a task to complete: imagine the greatest team that you’ve ever heard of and describe it using any form of expression you can imagine.

Workshop picture - interactive conference

Another way to empower your audience is to interact with them during the session.

Take a look at the video below to see a quick demonstration:

For example, at a finance conference I was attending, the managers decided to use Engagenow to do live polling. They started with a warm-up question about the background of the attendees to move on to more specific questions during the presentations.

iPhone for interactive conference

When the speaker was talking about the return rate of different investment options, the app (exactly the same app as mentioned earlier) asked for the opinion of guests. The next time the speaker discussed the trends in the banking industry, everyone could show the most important trend in their opinion.

iPhone 2 for interactive conference

3. Moderating

The moderator is not only a person who introduces the speaker, a good moderator can make the conference an unforgettable experience. The moderator also has to coordinate the speakers in terms of how their presentations work together, who talks about what, facilitate the discussion, avoid overlap, stay on track and run Q&A with presentations.

Let me expand upon the last one. Q&A is a vital part of every conference, because of the interactivity component. The biggest mistake that you could make would be to force your audience to listen to a prolonged talk without any interaction. Therefore, it’s always advised to plan at least 30 minutes of Q&A for each hour of talking.

Take a look at the mockup below to see how I prefer to capture conversation at the conference when I’m asked to moderate.

iPhone 3 for interactive conference

I’m starting a conversation by introducing the topic of the panel. Later on, attendees can share their thoughts and comments over the app. It’s also a great way of crowdsourcing questions. My work is to select the best ones and weave them into discussion.

A big advantage of employing technology (Engagenow in this case) to your Q&A, is a smooth flow of your event. The moderator doesn’t have to ask around for questions, waiting for raised hands, but can just look onto their smartphone.

4. Ice breakers

If you’re dealing with a small group of people (eg. in a workshop) you should introduce a few ice breakers to start the meeting on a friendly basis. Your audience in most cases consists of unfamiliar people and some activities will help them feel more comfortable.

Here is an example taken from a conference where I was involved. There were about 30 people sitting in a circle and the moderator was asking two people to step into the middle. Their task was to say as many expressions as they could, connected to certain ideas, in a limited period of time.

Ideas were like: Social Media, David Bowie, smartphones or McDonalds. All of the participants had the opportunity to get to know each other just a little bit by discovering associations coming to others minds.

Here are four of the best resources with ice-breakers that I found: 1, 2, 3, 4.

5. Social networks

The most important social network that enhances a conference is Twitter, but there are a few things to remember to leverage its full potential.

There are a few things to remember when using Twitter at an interactive conference:

  • Hashtags make it easier to pierce through all the tweets published at the conference and gather them together.
  • Ask your speakers for their handles and share them alongside their photos, so your guests can engage into the discussion even before the conference.
  • Use photos. Tweets with images get 18% more clicks, 89% more Likes and 150% more Retweets.

Tweet the essence of each talk to share the valuable information with your followers and start a discussion. Keep the conversation going by responding to tweets and engaging with other discussions under the common hashtag. You can use this phrase to connect your online discussion with the real word: “Let’s continue with this topic at the lunch break”.

To help manage your Twitter presence you could use programs like Tweetbot or TweetDeck. Hootsuite and Buffer are also very useful for scheduling posts.

You can find even more tips on tweeting in the infographic below:

If for any reason you don’t want to use Twitter at your conference there is an alternative – Facebook. Start by creating your event and inviting people. You can use this page exactly the same way as you would use Twitter, which is to share information.

Fortunately there’s one big difference between these two social networks, which is notifications. Facebook will ping people interested in the event every time you post something on the event page. Thanks to that you can share information very effectively, knowing that almost everyone will see your post.

But as always – with great power comes great responsibility – people may unsubscribe from the event if you are spamming them with irrelevant information.

Good practice is to show the social media discussion on the big screen at the event using Social Hub. It can collect all of the posts from certain accounts (eg. official conference accounts) or hashtags.

You can create your own Social Hub here.

6. Networking

For many people, networking is the highlight of any professional meeting, giving them the possibility to grow their business by attracting partners or customers.

Ron Burgundy image for interactive conference

Here are some tips to network like a pro:

  • Prepare a list of people that you want to talk to. Remember that quality comes before quantity, so choose carefully.
  • Next comes a list of topics for a discussion (Live chat platforms like Engagenow or Twitter feed will be helpful)
  • Calmly and confidently join a discussion or hook someone up. Coming early may be helpful as there will not be a lot of competition.
  • Conversation: Listen to what people are saying and don’t interrupt. Remember as many details as you can, especially a name.
  • Introduce someone you just met to other people.
  • Connect via LinkedIn or Twitter to be remembered.

To sum up

Applying interactivity to your conference will make it an unforgettable experience for the audience. I hope my advice will help you plan your own event with the trend of two way communication. If you give the voice to your audience, they will come back for more!

Still hesitating? I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have

Guest Author: Karol Kopańko –  Quiz Master at 4screens, the company that developed Engageform – easy to use tool to engage customers on every screen with quizzes, surveys and pools. Follow him at @kkopanko or @4Screens.

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