If you looked each and every how-to blog post and article out there for event professionals, you'd get the feeling that we all should be experts of attendee engagement, and all of our actions should aim the end goal, which is a higher audience engagement before, during, and after the event.
Not sure about the magnitude of this concept?
Just type “event engagement” into your search engine and … feel free to scroll through the 409,000,000 results.
From engaging your attendees before the event, to engaging your audience all year long; there are countless of articles on how to achieve it.
Considering this, have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe … event engagement is overrated?
How could you, when people who talk about attendee engagement base their reasoning on attractive arguments such as:
Argument 1. Higher engagement equals a more active networking dynamic.
Argument 2. Engage your guests and they’ll remember your event.
Argument 3. The secret to making your audience talk about your event is to engage them.
By encouraging attendees to engage, you’re actually asking them to act and react to the event’s environment, content, and dynamics, believing that you are delivering an outstanding experience (which is not always true).
Event engagement is overrated because it’s a superficial take on what your event should feel like if you want to enthrall your attendees. You feel compelled to focus on increasing the engagement, ignoring the most important factor that can differentiate your event from the rest: the REAL professional or personal value you can add to your guests’ life.
To help you understand that, here’s a list of reasons why event engagement is overrated and the things you should really pay attention to when planning your next event:
Reason 1. Engagement has no concrete meaning
What are we actually expecting to achieve when “trying to increase the attendee engagement?” Do we actually understand what “engagement” means?
As Allan H. Church, senior vice president of Global Talent Assessment & Development at PepsiCo, argues, “Some of the ‘new’ ideas that have been associated with engagement include: involvement, passion, energy, happiness, meaningful, vigor, dedication, and absorption.”
Church continues by explaining, “Today engagement is comprised of multiple constructs, and these continue to expand and evolve at a seemingly endless pace.”
See why event engagement is overrated?
The funny thing about the event industry is that everybody talks about engagement without actually explaining (or maybe even understanding) what this word means. So why are we obsessing over increasing something that we lack understanding of?
Reason 2. Engagement has nothing to do with real connection
After reading multiple attendee engagement articles, you may end up with the feeling that you’ll have to “trick” your guests somehow to engage more. But the truth of the matter is you can’t force real connection between attendees.
If you truly want to motivate people to have a meaningful networking experience, you can always set up a B2B matchmaking session. This way, you’ll allow your guests to decide with whom and when they want to interact. No “engagement tricks” needed. Just provide them with a healthy networking framework and the right to choose.
Reason 3. Engagement distorts the idea of co-creation
Isn’t engagement stressful sometimes, especially for those who don’t want to interact or react? This question alone proves that event engagement is overrated.
So why then, instead of “encouraging” people to engage, provide them the tools to co-create the event, this way enabling participation through decision-making?
When asking the attendees to engage, you want them to interact with the preestablished content or event environment. When empowering the audience to co-create the event (by choosing the speakers, deciding their personalized program, etc.), you’re giving them the right to design their own event, which will definitely boost their experience.
Reason 4. Engagement doesn’t mean self-actualization
What’s more important for an attendee: to engage or to experience a real transformation during your event? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Considering this, don’t you think that event engagement is overrated? So why focus so much on engagement instead of generating the right context and environment for self-actualization, which involves learning, doing, deciding, etc.?
Reason 5. Engagement can’t guarantee real value
So what if people will engage before, during and after your event? What will happen if they will answer live polls or quizzes? Is this experience generating true professional or personal value for them? Is this the reason they attend your event? Is there a statistic showing that by increasing engagement at your event, you’re generating real value?
Event engagement is overrated, because real value means solving problems your attendees may have, helping them build meaningful connections, or reaching a deeper understanding of certain things.
In most cases, event professionals believe that attendee engagement is a panacea for all of the event-related problems they may experience. No wonder why: multiple articles and blogs are promoting engagement as a universal solution, this way conditioning you to forget about the main reasons people attend events. Don’t fall for it. Always think about event engagement as an interaction tool, but not as an end goal.