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5 Keys to Really Engage Your Audience at Your Next Conference


Next Steps Marketing is always looking for ways to get, engage, and keep audiences. I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Niche Digital Conferencerecently and want to pass along some of the ways they made sure their audience was engaged, from before the conference began to the very end. These are 5 Tips for you to use at your next conference. Thanks, Carl!

1.  Give fun homework before Attendees arrive! The first one happens even before you get there.Carl Landau, Niche Media conference owner, sends out a notice to you, not about your presentation (phew!), but about what books and movies you should watch to get ready to be in the city of, in this case, beautiful Savannah. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was suggested, and I opted to take the book out of the library. It gave me a truly great way to see Savannah through the eyes of a crime of passion that occurred in the mid 1990’s. It doesn’t hurt to pick Savannah, GA, a town with gracious people, good restaurants and a rich and complicated American history.  Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room—a must-eat.

2.  Have an ice-breaker event that actually works. In this case, Carl and his crack team had us all paste our “worst job ever” on our jackets. The game was to talk to as many people as possible about their worst jobs ever, write down their name and their job. The person with the most names/jobs wins! This led to hilarious conversations that had nothing to do with what we do now, in most cases, and completely broke the ice. It also led to lots and lots of circulating. You had a great excuse for lunging from person to person for the sake of the game.

3.  Leave lots of time for professional brainpicking in between “classes.” Carl set up workshops, which were times when you got together with a facilitator and fellow publishers by category (B2B, B2C, Paid, Controlled, Events) to bring up challenges. The rest of the table was to noodle on the challenge and come up with ways that had worked for them in the past, or thoughts they had that might work in the future. This allows all of the attendees to be teachers at the conference as well. Moral of that story: we can all learn from each other, as much or more, than we do from the speakers we’re there to see.

 4.  Make the sponsors a big part of the conference. In too many conferences the sponsors
 feel like they are hidden away, in a separate (often freezing) hall where you have to take a detour to get to. In Carl’s conferences, you walk through the sponsors to get to the main conference room. Like many other conferences, he makes sure to have another game whereby when you talk to the sponsor, you get a sticker. Get all the stickers and you are entered into a raffle. Each sponsor brings a fabulous prize to the table. That’s useful in two ways. It makes the sponsors more engaged, and it allows for LOTS more prizes to be given out. I won’t tell you the prizes at this conference or you’ll get jealous.


5.  Keep mixing it up. You may have encountered conferences where everyone clumps with the folks they came with, leaving you as a “single” out in the cold. This, too can be avoided by repeating  exercises throughout the conference where you talk to someone you didn’t know. At the beginning maybe the introverts feel uncomfortable, but by the end, they have met more people and learned more than they have at any other conference. There’s always time to go back into our shell once the conference is over.

Bravo to Niche Digital and Niche Media for engaging a set of really passionate attendees in yet another great conference.  To get started download these Questions to Ask Yourself When Evaluating Your Digital Stategy.