If you’re like most smartphone users, your mobile device is probably by your side as you read this. IDC Research recently found that a whopping 79 percent of smartphone users have their phone on or near them all but two hours of their waking day. Another 63 percent keep their smartphones near them for all but one hour of the day; 25 percent couldn’t recall a single time of day when their phone wasn’t in the same room.
From an event-planning perspective, all this connectedness means a lot of attendees bury their heads in their mobile devices when they could be networking or more actively participating in sessions. Many of these attendees assume that glancing at their email or a quick text won’t impact their experience, but it really can distract the presenter and other attendees. Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, and isn’t that a primary reason people attend conferences?
You don’t want to shut down your attendees’ connections to the outside world. Their tweets, photos and posts can do wonders to boost awareness of your event. And there’s plenty of upside for organizers when they connect with attendees online during an event. Successful events find the balance between the offline and online worlds. Here are a few ideas to try at your next event.
1) Establish set times for attendees to go online. Separate these times from actual breaks where people can network face-to-face.
2) Let attendees know in advance that they’ll have dedicated time for connecting online. Tell them you won’t police their actions, but ask them to consider going online only during scheduled times so that all attendees can make the most of the event.
3) Consider asking your IT team to set up an on/off switch for wireless connections. Just make sure the network can handle the inevitable spikes in online traffic once attendees can connect.
Encouraging online activity
Now that there’s a time and place for going online, encourage attendees to connect with each other, you and their social networks before, during and after your event. Here’s how.
1) Regularly post event updates and pose questions that inspire conversations and give attendees a chance to get to know each other in advance. Share your photos and ask attendees to post theirs during and after your event.
2) Use a mobile event registration app. Attendees use their smartphones to check in, avoiding long lines and gaining extra time for in-person networking.
3) Post QR codes at the entrance to each session. These let you know who attended that session so you can send personalized follow-up messages and surveys.
4) Prominently display the dedicated event hashtag at the sessions for which you want to drive online engagement.
Don’t let your next event be interrupted by our “always-on” mindset. If you blend the online and offline worlds, your attendees will thank you. They may even become ambassadors for spreading the word and boosting attendance.