Is Your Emcee Square?

At a multi (or even single) day event, having a good emcee can make the difference between losing your audience or keeping them engaged.

We've been very lucky lately to be gifted with some truly talented internal emcees. We don't always have a choice in who we get to use ("You must use our CFO, he's great!"), and being saddled with an emcee who lacks emcee-prowess can drag down an event quickly.

A not-ideal emcee:
Doesn't know how to maintain their energy
We had an internal presenter who was vivacious and talented, but she wasn't prepared for how demanding the role of emcee can be on one's energy reserves. By the second day of a three day event, her enthusiasm was clearly waning (and the audience followed suit). By the third day she was over it AND she had lost her voice. Though she tried her best, the event ended with a whisper instead of a bang.

Just announces names/presentations
An emcee needs to be more than just an announcer (and you definitely need more than an announcer in between presentations). An emcee is a point of continuity for the audience, but is also a "refresh" button for their brain. The emcee has an opportunity to cement learning and content retention in these moments.

Only reads from the script
Sometimes having an emcee that will stay on script is very important, but an emcee also shouldn't ignore real, changing, dynamic events in favour of sticking directly to what's on the prompter. Having something occur and not commenting on it can feel like a mismatch for the audience.

There's something about an emcee that's over-rehearsed/has a script memorized that is also jarring--or, rather, feels canned. An emcee can read a script with perfection, but if it sounds like they're reading, it's not going to be an engaging experience.

Doesn't have a picture of the whole event on mind
The emcee should be the connective tissue in the event, and they should also be able to see how the pieces connect, themselves. If what one presenter said is going to relate to what they're going to cover in a workshop or the next day, the emcee should be able to have that in their head and make the connection for the audience. This means that the emcee should be intimately involved with the planning of the event content; they should not be hearing everything for the first time with the audience.

Isn't a good match for the audience
A universally-disliked manager isn't going to make a good emcee. Likewise, sometimes a peer isn't going to have the credibility they need to convey content. There is no prescriptive answer for who should be the emcee: sometimes an external emcee is the answer, sometimes the sales VP, sometimes that really charismatic person from marketing, etc.
Sometimes it's beneficial for the emcee to be well-known, sometimes it's better for them to be a stranger or an average audience-level person.
The key here is to match the emcee with your audience. Having an emcee with an adversarial audience relationship is a recipe for an ineffective event.

Isn't there
This is more to the point of: you need an emcee. A live emcee. Onstage. Reacting. Just having the "Voice of God" announcing the next presentation--one after another--gives the event nothing. It may not drain the energy for the event, but it allows the succession of presentations to be draining.

A good emcee:
Connects the dots
An ideal emcee is always making connections from one speaker to the next and illustrating relationships between content. They point out the "what's in it for me" for the audience; giving them a reason to listen to the next presentation and a bigger picture of how it relate to the previous presentation or content.

Is content-aware
To that point, and emcee with intimate knowledge of the content who can make a few comments, tell a relatable story from a different perspective, etc. is incredibly valuable. They can see where the presenter may not have connected completely with the audience and make a point to clarify the information. 

They would also know what the content is supposed to be throughout the broader meeting so they can make course-corrections or additions on the fly (i.e. "I know that X from marketing will be explaining more about the strategy behind this new product launch tomorrow afternoon.").

Is agile
Things happen in events--an emcee needs to be able to roll with the changes in a smooth way. Sometimes that means popping up on stage with no script to make a last-minute crucial announcement. Sometimes that means being handed a note and being able to assimilate the information in a coherent way for the audience. Sometimes it means someone asking the emcee to "say a few words about x" and having to come up with a bit of scripting on the fly. Sometimes it even means, "Our presenter is late, could you fill 5 minutes with audience interaction?"

Any way you look at it, an emcee who is familiar and comfortable with improvising is a huge asset.

Is able to maintain their energy
Professional emcees are trained (and train hard) to maintain their energy. It's exhausting to facilitate a multi-day event in a meaningful, engaging way. We've come across some internal emcees who are innately good at this--and it typically means that they are the first ones to duck out of the evening cocktails (networking events) to get a full night's sleep. So if your head of sales absolutely MUST be at the client event until the wee hours, they might not be the best choice for emcee even if they do have great energy.

Interacts with the audience
An event shouldn't be AT the audience, it should be WITH the audience. A great emcee is able to facilitate audience interaction--both scripted and unscripted--elicit audience input, and react on the fly. This can take place within the event on stage and during social/networking time.

Can control the room
To wit; interacting with the audience can be a tricky proposition. It's easy for things to get out of hand in, say, a raucous activity or in a room where there is some hostility or uncertainty toward the company. Q&A sessions can go awry, an audience member can end up monopolizing an activity, etc. 

A good emcee has a commanding presence, and also knows how to scale down the energy when things get too rowdy, or to deflect and re-direct when things get uncomfortable. 

Conversely, a good emcee also knows how to get the audience pumped up and engaged without seeming like they are dragging the audience along or pleading with them to participate.

Can host activities
An emcee also needs to be a variety of things: a game show host, a role play facilitator, a moderator, etc. Having someone who can assimilate rules and processes and get them consistently correct is essential for reducing confusion and having the whole activity run smoothly. It's also useful to have a host with a heaping helping of natural charisma--this goes along with controlling the room; they must also control the stage.

Is willing to rehearse
Along with willingness to rehearse the emcee should also have dedicated time to rehearse. The emcee needs to be very familiar with the technical bits and bobs that are going to crop up when they're onstage so it doesn't look like they're rehearsing AT the live event. 

Can be internal or external
We have very little bias toward external or internal emcees. Internal emcees tend to have more credibility with the audience and are able to draw on their own experience to connect the content dots. External emcees tend to have a deeper reservoir of energy and endurance (if only because they've trained for this very job...not the role of ALSO being the internal marketing guy or sales VP). As long as your emcee embodies several of the desired qualities, internal or external, they can be worked with.


Obviously we didn't cover everything here (Hint: do not choose an emcee who has severe and crippling stage fright or who isn't good with people), but selecting the right emcee can mean the difference in having an engaging event, or in having an event that flops.
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Custom Game Shows: The Seagate Case Study

We use a lot of game show formats in general sessions: they're a great way to engage a large group, entertain the audience, and increase content retention. However, they are also a fantastic addition to breakout sessions; the smaller format can be customized to suit the needs of a trainer and create incredibly lively, effective workshops.

What follows is one example of Live Spark creating a custom game show to suit the needs of the trainer.
Summary: Seagate needed a way to engage their audience in traditionally dry breakout sessions. Live Spark created three different custom audience-response game shows that were played in each of the three breakout sessions throughout the session. The games were not only well received, but the audiences’ attention and retention of the material soared; as did the energy of both the presenters AND the attendees.

Overview: Seagate was getting all their local and international sales reps together for a large annual event. Part of this event included 90-minute workshops training on everything from product roadmaps, to new product introductions and sales strategies. Audience members cycled through the four major workshops in regional groups; from the Americas, to Europe, to Asia to Canada.

Issues: The extended workshop sessions were trying on the attention span of the attendees. A large amount of very important information needed to be presented, so presenters were scheduled back-to-back, giving attendees very little time to process and absorb the information. This was not conducive to learning.

Pile on top of that the fact that a lot of the material was very technical and could be dry. It was a recipe for attendees to check out of the breakout and check their Blackberries instead.

Solution: Live Spark designed three unique audience-response game shows that took place throughout three of the breakout sessions. They were a baseball-themed game, a quick-quiz game, and a “Get Smart” game.

Each audience member had a keypad waiting for them when they walked in the door. Depending on the game type, audience members were either playing individually (with the score of the highest keypads winning the game) or on teams. The games were introduced first thing, and a sample question was played.

After every presenter, a game show session took place. The content for the game show was based on the presentation the attendees had just heard—with the exception of the final round at the end of the workshop; which was a compendium of questions.

Why it worked: When the first question of the first round was played, and the audience found out how they scored in a dramatic, building fashion, the room erupted into cheers—led by the team with the highest score on that question. The energy, instead of draining with each progressive speaker, was refreshed and renewed in between every presentation. Not only that, but speakers highlighted the content that was going to be in the game show later—bringing out key points that were reinforced through the highly emotional game show experience.

Everyone in the audience was engaged. They were engaged during the game show--each playing along with their own keypad—but, perhaps more importantly, they were engaged DURING the speaker presentations. No one, after all, wanted to miss a question in the game show because they failed to hear a fact or key point during the presentation.

Because game shows are a somewhat-universal medium, there was no difficulty getting even international groups to play along.

Reactions: Seagate--the speakers, audience members, and organizers—were extremely happy with the game show.

”I didn’t believe you when you said they’d start cheering with the first score,” an event organizer remarked, “But this is simply amazing. Everyone is engaged.”


Audience members, knowing the next workshop was going to contain a game of some sort, were a-buzz in the hallways, talking with their peers about which session they had just come from; what game they played, who won, and which questions stumped them.

It was the most widely successful breakout session event that Seagate had ever had, and we’re happy to report that there was a distinct lack of smartphone-checking.
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Are you making enough time to prepare for your event?

Are you putting in enough time ahead of time? 

Many of our clients start planning their events months or even years ahead. Logistically speaking anyway. That's not the kind of planning ahead we're talking about here.

Who hasn't had experience with the "executive who always does their presentation on the plane" or the "speaker who doesn't rehearse (so we don't schedule rehearsal time on-site)"?

Usually things go okay (not great, but passable) with the fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants preparation plan, but other times scripts are being re-written the night (or morning) before a morning session, the messaging ends up off-target, and some really impactful things get scrapped because the preparation just isn't there (so the comfort level isn't there either).

Event planners are often prepared and are pleading and begging to try to make their internal speakers hit their deadlines. But these speakers have other, extremely important jobs to do...so how can one convince their CEO to put in the time ahead of time, and what steps can you take to be more prepared?

This meeting is important.
Companies don't like to throw money away. Getting everyone together can be an extremely good investment...one that you don't want to squander with half-baked messaging.

This is what your people need to hear.
Do audience research beforehand to gage the tone and mood--particularly if there are issues that need to be addressed, and even if you think you already know what these issues are.

Utilize peer pressure/peer review.
Make presenters accountable to each other to finish and/or make progress on their presentation drafts. You can even schedule update calls with clear review objectives.

Get everyone together, in a room, beforehand.
Don't let the first opportunity for feedback occur on-site. We recently had a client who was putting together an event and each presentation required input from multiple departments. The marketing team had re-branded, the sales team didn't have consistent messaging with the marketing team, and no one was very clear on what they should actually be saying. This made on-site review a mess in the past. Getting everyone physically together in a room beforehand provided a much more supportive environment for feedback and message cohesion.

Add incentives.
We recently dealt with a client where we offered $100 to every person who had their presentation done when they were due. It's not that $100 is such a huge incentive for executives, but it gave a concrete goal to shoot for and engaged them with a competitive/motivating element.

Don't skip rehearsal.
Clear key presenters' calendars on-site, even if it means coming in a day or more early. Even if it means rehearsing on paper/face to face instead of on stage. If coming on-site early is cost-prohibitive, hold rehearsals via conference call.

If someone says they "don't rehearse"? Remember, there is always a rehearsal: the choice is whether the rehearsal happens live in front of the whole audience, or whether it occurs in a safe, controlled way. You can guess which one is more successful.
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Drawing a Crowd: Using Game Shows at a Trade Show

Game shows are ideal in training classrooms and large events. They increase content retention and enable our clients  to review, preview and present information in an incredibly engaging format.

However, game shows are also ideal on the floor of a trade show--promoting a new product, increasing interactivity, and ensuring that your booth isn't just a pass-by location.

Having used game shows at trade shows before (the screen cap in this post is from a custom game we designed for Mystic Tan), we can attest to the power of the medium. Game shows:

Attract a crowd: Whether a few people out of a crowd are playing along or everyone in your booth audience is playing along using keypads, game shows naturally attract an audience. Not only do people want to see whether others succeed or not, but they want to test their own knowledge (to see if they're "smarter than the player"--so to speak).

Engage people with your content: Game shows are a great way to uncover "ah-ha!" moments with your product or company by showcasing unique features/benefits in the form of a question. You can use specific content, (i.e. Which of the following is a new product feature, etc.) or general content to drive interest around a topic (i.e. As you see in the screen capture above--the question is tangentially related to tanning, but doesn't cover Mystic Tan's specific product line), or a mixture of both.

Can direct conversations: Game shows can direct meaningful trade show conversations in several ways:
  • Booth personnel can listen to a game show round and then follow up with more information while attendees' attention is piqued (i.e. Yes, the new product has this feature...and did you know it allows you to do x, y and z as well?).
  • Using audience response pads, you can measure what parts of the audience have knowledge gaps and incorporate survey questions to gauge the level of interest in particular topics or products.

Get people to spend more time at a booth: Game shows not only draw a crowd, but we've seen people who won't stop for a free tchotchke or engage with booth personnel spend large chunks of time at a booth when a game show is involved. And that's more opportunity to get qualified leads!
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Food for Thought: Iron Chef Event-Style

We hear it time and again from clients: "We've slashed the budget, how can you help?"

It seems that budgets are continually dropping, and creative solutions are ever-needed to do more with less.

In one instance we came up with an innovative way to help with the client's food budget. Now, we aren't typically involved in things like food and lodging and such, but in this case we integrated our solution into the event design; making it part of an ongoing competition.

Wilson's Leather had been meeting for two days when they came to their evening event: a ranch cookout. Catering was expensive, dining out before the event was a logistical nightmare, and there just didn't seem to be any good, original options for the next-to-last night.
The attendees had spent the general sessions and breakouts divided into teams; competing against each other in a series of challenges, activities, and awarded participation interspersed throughout the days.

We saw a great opportunity to both be mindful of the food budget and contribute to the ongoing competition.

Thus we staged:

Wilsons' Iron Chef.

We purchased a broad range of food supplies, rented grills, and had the teams cook their own dinners...for points.

We hired supervisory culinary students to both give teams a short course on food safety AND to supervise and intervene (in case of a safety violation or imminent inedibility).

Teams were given a set amount of time to divide up responsibilities, which included:
Menu planning
Prepping/assisting
Head cook
Auxiliary cook
Marketing materials
Presentation/pitch

The VP of Sales was designated judge--complete with Iron Chef hat and persona.
As the teams completed cooking, they brought a judge's dish up for tasting. They presented it in a creative way and received a score. After all dishes were scored, dinner proceeded as a potluck (each of the teams were responsible for producing both a tasting dish and a certain amount of all components of their meal).

The scores for Iron Chef were then added to their teams' running totals.

The teams left well-fed and with the pride of accomplishment. It was both fun AND tasty.
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How to select a keynote speaker who doesn't suck.

In today's events, keynote speakers are still a draw--though they can be looked at with a weary and skeptical eye.

"I just hate it when people try to rah-rah motivate me," I was talking with a friend who had experienced her share of bad keynote presentations, "I mean, they can be so fake. Then they're done and you're like...whatever."

Indifference and level of eloquence aside--she has a point. We can always tell when a keynote speaker is truly GOOD when the av crew is listening along. They've heard it all--many times--and it takes a unique talent to break through the jaded facade of the shadowy characters backstage.

Sitting backstage, I've also personally cringed as I've watched keynote speakers lose their audience. They had them one moment and then they slip away or, worse, turn against the speaker. A keynote speaker is a huge investment, and you want to make sure you get that return on your investment.

Here are some tips for selecting a keynote speaker (who doesn't suck):

Make sure they match your industry and audience.
We once listened to a keynote speaker make a lot of great points and analogies for how the audience could be successful at sales. It was truly inspiring!
...the audience was made up of public service workers who had zero interest or involvement in sales. In fact, not only was the heavy emphasis on sales irrelevant, but it also left a bad impression with the audience--whose values were not aligned with those of the keynote speaker.

Similarly, not all subjects translate across all fields. You wouldn't want a serious poet speaking at a tanning convention, as an extreme example. A lot of companies stumble here by picking sports figures as keynote speakers. While sports are universal and a relatively safe choice, they may be the wrong choice for a non-sports-oriented audience.

Willing to customize.
There may be times when you're willing to accept an out-of-the-box keynote speaker (if the wow-factor is just too high, maybe), but ideally, your speaker should be willing to spend ample time making sure their message fits your audience. There are always going to be recycled components in a keynote speech (gasp! You wouldn't expect them to start from scratch every time, after all), but there should be some customizable pieces as well. A good keynote speaker will have a variety of anecdotes and examples that they can change out for your audience; and it won't just sound like "insert company name here".

They should also be asking you for information about your audience, event, and company before their scheduled speaking engagement. If they don't, it's a red flag.

Just because they achieved something doesn't make them a good speaker.
Someone can be really famous, achieve a lot, be an impressive figure...and a crappy keynote speaker. Sometimes they don't know how to craft their story or present.

An internationally-famous Olympian sought our help in becoming a keynote speaker because his initial efforts had not been well-received. Instead of crafting a story the audience could relate to, his speech was basically: "I was really good at this sport. I practiced a lot and got better. I went to the Olympics and won. And you can do this in your life!"

Not only was it unrealistic, but it has no compelling challenge or call to action, and it only very loosely related to any obstacles your average audience member would face as a business person.
Your keynote speaker should have a relatable, compelling story with actual takeaways.

Conversely...

Your speaker doesn't have to be famous to be great.
Don't place too high a focus on name recognition. One of the greatest speakers we'd seen was an unknown college professor. Another was a salesman who had spent a significant amount of time in jail. The story and ability to connect with the audience and their goals is most important.

Which leads to the point...

Samples are good, anecdotes are better, in-person viewing is even better.
You can't always tell a good speaker from a mediocre speaker from their samples and clips. Video is a great start, but it generally does a poor job of capturing the energy of performance (kind of how fireworks are amazing in person and substantially less impressive in recorded form).

Whenever possible, see a performance in person, have a chat with the presenter on the phone, and gather anecdotes not only from attendees (who may not see very many speakers overall) but from unaffiliated event planners/production companies (and even av crews) who have seen it all.

Offer greater depth beyond the 60-90 minutes.
A presentation is only a moment in time. That may be all you want, and that's fine. However, you get more value out of speakers who have a broader range of capabilities. For instance, we've found that keynote speakers who can emcee an event can keep the energy high for a while day (or multiple days) and have the opportunity to build on their own principles/messages.

Some speakers also offer books and programs for post-event follow-up, however be wary of the quality of these materials. Just because a presenter can speak doesn't mean they're capable of writing a sustainable motivational program.

Interaction is key.
Again, for some purposes a speaker who talks at your audience for their allotted time is fine. Some have the storytelling skills to sustain this and some don't. However, you'll get a far more compelling keynote with a speaker who utilizes audience interaction. This is also the mark of a more agile speaker, as audience feedback can be unpredictable, and agility is more compelling than a tightly scripted recitation.
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The Play is the Thing

Photo Property of Humans of New York
This photo was recently featured on Humans of New York with the anecdote:
“Back in the 30’s, I used to go to summer camp in Maine. Those were the happiest days of my life. There was a great freedom. I rode horseback, walked in the woods, went swimming, made new friends.”
“What was your happiest moment at camp?”
“One time I won a tennis match and got 50 points for my team. The whole camp was divided into two teams: Green and Tan. And we competed all summer long to see which team could get the most points. And 50 points was a really big deal! To give some perspective-- you’d only get ten points for riding on the gunnel of a canoe.”
Taken in 2015--years and years later this woman remembers the points she earned for her team.

When we try to encourage companies to break their audience into teams at an event and have them compete throughout the three days--we aren't making the recommendation for the sake of frivolity.

Adding in team competition:
  • Makes an event more memorable
  • Increases buy-in and participation
  • Encourages organic networking
  • Is an extended team-building activity
There's no mention of which team won, or prizes. It's about the points she earned contributing to her team. That's a powerful testimony to friendly team competition that can--and should--be leveraged at corporate events as well.

For more Humans of New York, visit the facebook page or website.
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The Prudential Relocation Services Case Study

Prudential Relocation Services hired Live Spark to produce a game show for their national event. Here is what they did to make their game show a success in a large group.
Company: Prudential Relocation Services
Audience Size: 250

Game Show: Family Feud Style

Game Setup

The audience of 250 people was divided down the middle. One half of the room would be on a team, and the other half on the opposing team. Five game show contestants for each team were pre-selected to come and play up front. An engaging game show host led the teams through the rules and game play; teams had a face-off question to determine which team would get to answer the question, and then the “playing” team tried to uncover all the answers on the Feud board. Pre-determined judges stepped in to give rulings on potentially controversial answers. The winning team went home with “prizes”—the shampoo, conditioner and body lotion in their hotel hospitality kit.


What worked
Pre-selecting contestants: Because contestants were pre-selected, it was assured that they would be willing participants. This also eliminated the potentially messy process of trying to gain spontaneous volunteers. Contestants, however, were not “plants”, and did not have prior knowledge of the game show.

Having a designated host: Having a separate host aside from a “tech” running the game show made sure everything was smooth and seamless. The host could concentrate on engaging and working with the audience and contestants, and the game show tech could focus on running the software without a hitch.

Pre-selecting Judges: We’ve always been huge advocates for having judges during a game show. This way, when there was a controversial decision, or a team gave an answer that was close (but not quite accurate) the host and game show tech didn’t have to enter into the fray.

Inexpensive Prizes: We love the idea of using the hotel hospitality kit as a “prize”. It’s a fun way to give contestants something (and everyone in the audience something) without spending a lot of money on prizes that only increase competition and game show scrutiny. Everyone in the audience on the winning team got this prize—so everyone was cheering along. 
Good Questions: The questions were neither too difficult, nor too easy. They were compelling, clear and easy to read—and still provided entertaining, relevant review information.
 What Could Have Been Done Differently
Consistent rule enforcement: While rules were explained beforehand, and contestants were generally good at following the rules, at one point the host became lax on a few points. Instead of individuals having to guess an answer, teams started to collaborate—which increased the game time and added to a level of chaotic play on stage.

Timers: Answer timers were used only infrequently. This made the game show lag a bit. Teams got used to the idea that they could take as long as they wanted/needed to answer a question instead of answering right away. This led to more discussion and collaboration amongst team members, but lessened the entertainment experience for the audience.

Reviews
Both the audience and the Prudential Relocation Services team were very happy. The game show was used as an after-dinner entertainment piece, but it also helped cement the content from the presentations earlier that day. Overall, Feud and the game show set up was an amazing success.
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How do you define a successful event?

For some, the litmus test for a good event is perfectly executed production.
Certainly, perfectly executed production is something to strive for and is a joy to behold. However, there are more meaningful ways to measure success at an event that go beyond "everything went off without a hitch".

Was the content on-point?
Did you convey what the audience need to hear in a way that made them receptive to the content? Was the content engaging and immediately relevant to the audience? If you had asked them what they wanted to know during the event (and you should), were those points addressed?

Did you interact with your audience?
Did you have dynamic, continual input from your audience, or were they static, chair-bound recipients of hours of monologues? Did they get a chance to engage, to get hands-on, to stand up, move around, synthesize information, talk and compete?

Do they know, believe, and do the right things after the event is over?
Events should have specific, achievable, actionable outcomes. Were these outlined at the beginning of the event and was there follow-through throughout? More importantly, does the audience believe that the event outcomes were achieved? Do they know what they're supposed to believe, know and do as a result of the event?

Did your audience leave the event in a better state than when they came?
The definition of better state can vary: is your audience leaving with more energy, or are they skeptical and worn out? Are they motivated? Did the event end on a high instead of starting with a bang and fizzling out at the end? 

Are there opportunities for follow-up after the event?
Are promises made at the event going to be delivered? Is there a way for new connections made to continue to be strengthened? Is there a post-event action plan in place?

Was it memorable?
Was the content delivered in a way that the audience is going to remember it? Were keynote speakers impactful, or merely entertaining? Did the event generate true moments of connection? Did it bring the team closer together?

Was it fun?
Events are a break from the daily routine. Even when they're covering very serious topics, there should be elements of fun. The fun should come from inside the general session and breakouts--not just at the bar or during social hours. Did it have lively sessions, competition, games, interaction, role-plays, etc.?

An event can be so much more that just perfectly executed production. In fact, it SHOULD be more than that--else it be a waste of resources. The veneer of an event is great when it's shiny and well-packaged, but there has to be more substance than just pretty wrapping.
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What's the point of your event app?

Event apps are ubiquitous now--or they are certainly trending that way. Pre-event or in the first general session an attendee can be expected to be reminded to download the event app.

Adoption rates can vary, but many of our clients have experienced surprisingly low compliance. Rates tend to be higher with a captured internal audience and lower with an external audience (i.e. an industry event with attendees from many different corporations).

But why the heck are we using event apps, anyway? What's the point? Surely if they're being developed simply because they're the next thing and "everyone has one nowadays" it doesn't mean their being utilized to their full potential.

So what is the full potential? What's the point of your event app, anyway?

Event apps used well:
Push notifications for logistical changes: Letting attendees know--in real time--when you have to make adjustments out go to plan b can be incredibly valuable. Push notifications can also be great for important reminders or to highlight a key session or presentation.

Agenda at a glance: The event app allows for a nod to the green event. A lot of things that previously consumed copious paper resources can now be done on the app: agendas, evaluations, speaker bios, and more.

Social buzz: This is tricky. When designed correctly the event app can bring the audience together outside the general session, allowing them to share insights, play event-based challenges, post pictures, and even interact with key speakers. However, this can be difficult to generate organically.

Event apps used poorly:
No valuable content: An event app can't be just another thing to download on a personal device; only to be discarded after not being used at the event at all. It should be robust: an essential guidebook to the event itself.

Demanding too much personal data: Interaction with an event app can be severely curtailed if attendees fear it treads on their privacy, or even demands a level of personal interaction that they don't want to mix with their professional life.

Social buzz: The flip side of the social buzz coin is that it's not a "build it and they will come" feature. There has to be proper incentive to participate. There should also be plenty of participants so people don't feel like they're having a one-sided conversation. Conversely, the event organizers shouldn't be the only ones participating on the event app; it becomes inauthentic and promotional instead of fostering deeper relationships between attendees.
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