Almost two years have passed since the events industry was turned on its head by a world-changing pandemic. Since then, we’ve been forced to rethink and restructure our approach to creating corporate events, including the attendees’ engagement experience. While the pandemic’s presence may be fading, the changes it prompted are here to stay.
Thanks to newly developed technologies and consumer tastes, the lifecycle of corporate events has expanded to include both virtual events and hybrid events. As the scope of event services has grown, so too has our commitment to the attendee experience. To craft experiences that reflect the future of the industry, we must first break down each step of a corporate event through the lens of audience engagement.
Before an event can get underway, it’s important to set the tone for the experience and build excitement for what’s to come. This initial step is called Attraction. After announcing your event, follow up with a pre-mailer campaign or a branded pre-event gift to give attendees more reasons to mark their calendars. In addition to conveying the importance of your program, these offerings will underscore your commitment to making each stage of the event worth experiencing.
Building anticipation among attendees is paramount during the planning of a corporate event. The pre-event teaser campaign that you started earlier should be expanded here; offer more details about what attendees can expect during their stay. This is also a good time to establish safety standards, especially while COVID remains a concern for most guests. If you plan on including interactive elements in your event, your management team can distribute survey questions or other pre-event work for attendees to complete before they arrive.
Whether it’s for a large company event or a corporate incentive trip, traveling to the destination of the corporate event is a critical aspect of the attendee experience. It’s important to make a good first impression, and your ability to accommodate guest transportation will set the tone for your entire event. While you may not have control over things like flight delays, there are plenty of ways you can make your attendees’ trip a memorable experience. Providing event-themed mementos, in-flight entertainment, custom luggage tags, personalized agendas, or other unique offerings will build greater anticipation for the days ahead.
Whatever your guests see when they first arrive—whether it’s a registration booth, signage display, welcome reception, or cocktail hour—it will serve as the true introduction to your event. Be deliberate with your opening touch points and focus on setting an exciting tone. You can also delight guests by leaving a welcome gift in their hotel room, along with a printout of their agenda and a branded water bottle. These items are perfect for days spent in back-to-back conference sessions.
The most critical element of the attendee experience is making your program engaging. Just flying your team to a fun destination and providing them with original content doesn’t guarantee they will be fully engaged. It helps to keep them on their toes. Plan surprise reveals or interactive program activities to shake up the pace of your presentations. Research indicates that attendees retain only about 10% of what they hear after one week, but they will still remember how they felt in the moment. When an event is executed well, those feelings can be tied to loyalty and engagement with the company itself.
The phrase “all is well that ends well” is more rooted in science than you might think. It’s based on a phenomenon called the “peak-end rule”, which states that people mainly base their judgment of an experience on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than on the total sum of every moment. Here at Unbridled, we like to close our shows with a dynamic recap video. It’s a great way to build emotional resonance between attendees and the event experience. As they spot themselves and their colleagues on screen, they’re more likely to feel validated as a core part of the program. You can hire media professionals to capture footage on-site, or you can simply have attendees submit their own photos and videos through a dedicated event app. Don’t forget to provide a link to the recap video so your attendees can share their experience on social media and spread the word about the cool things your company is doing.
Now that you’ve wowed your attendees with a stellar sendoff, it’s time to follow through with a successful departure. As with the arrival process, you can send off your guests with snacks for the plane, an event-branded water bottle, additional in-flight entertainment, and transportation to the airport. Each offering will add an additional element of care and attention to the attendee experience.
Don’t think of your event as an isolated experience. It should fit within a broader series of events that continuously build on corporate communications, training sessions, product releases, networking opportunities, and so on. Measure progress by capitalizing on the changes that have taken place at previous meetings. To extend the longevity of an event’s messaging campaign, we like to develop a post-event website that houses relevant resources and recordings. In addition to boosting retention among attendees, this technique helps each event feel like it’s a part of a larger ongoing program.
A well-crafted and purposefully designed program will show attendees you value their time and appreciate their participation. Incorporating small personal touches throughout your event will add depth to the experience and increase the likelihood your guests will leave with lasting memories. Whether your event is conducted in person, virtually, or as a hybrid, focus on improving the attendee experience by providing more ways to engage and connect in our new event ecosystem.