If you’re an event organizer and encourage attendees to turn off or put away their phones, it’s time to rethink your approach for handling mobile devices at your event. Yes, there are some instances where your attendees should be encouraged or reminded not to use their phones, such as a symphony orchestra concert, theater performance, or a small event where photography is prohibited. Otherwise, demanding your attendee’s attention and trying to persuade them to stay off their phone is an outdated approach that will likely result in your attendees disengaging from your event.
Let’s face it- phones and tablets are here for good. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re reading this on a mobile device right now! If the vast majority of ticketing is done on a mobile phone and you offer a mobile event app, why not embrace smartphones and view them as another opportunity to engage with your audience?
Many event organizers assume that audience members only use their phones when they’re bored or disengaged from the event. The truth is that they use phones to discuss, share, and engage in the events that are happening around them. Here are just a few ways you can use their mobile devices to your advantage and boost engagement for your event.
Allow Audience Feedback
If you host a tradeshow or conference, you’ve probably sat through a Q&A session or lecture where the audience participation was sub-par. Allowing your attendees to provide feedback and answer questions anonymously increases their involvement because they don’t feel put on the spot or singled out for engaging in your event. This can also benefit presenters or speakers because they can choose from the best questions or responses rather than working with the person who mustered up the courage to ask their question into the microphone.
Provide Digital Content
If your event involves slides, polls, or interactive videos, consider pushing these to your audience’s mobile device. You should consider any content worthy to be displayed on a large screen or projector fair game for mobile delivery as well. This allows attendees to scroll through slides as they’re being presented and opens opportunities for digital interactions such as note-taking, polls, and gamification. It’s also an added benefit for those who have a hard time seeing a screen from a distance. Pushing the content to their mobile phones allows groups of attendees to sit wherever they’d like, makes your content more accessible to all, and allows attendees who can’t be in the session to still view the content covered.
Make It Fun with Gamification
Gamification takes every day, ordinary tasks and turns them into a competitive or collaborative game. Anything from finishing tasks, attending sessions, providing poll feedback, or sharing experiences on social media can be turned into a fun game.
If your event doesn’t have breakout sessions or lectures, digital scavenger hunts where individuals or teams visit different areas of your event and log it on their phone are a great way to keep attendees engaged. You can also utilize a social wall and use it as a leaderboard to encourage attendees to post their experiences for some quick name recognition (after all, who doesn’t like to see their name up in lights?)
If you’re still resistant to phone usage at your event, take some time to assess why phones are an issue. If phones are taking away attention from your event, you may need to reconsider what your target audience finds interesting. You can start by encouraging attendees to provide feedback about your event via their phone while they’re attending. This small step has the potential to give you insight into what might need to change for your next event.
Attendees want to be engaged with what’s going on around them but they simply will not put their phones away, no matter how often you ask. By taking a positive view of mobile phones and working their usage into your event structure, you can turn your audience’s mobile devices into powerful tools.