We’ve all been there; you just sign up for an event hoping to learn new things that inspire your work. You register up for what looks like the best educational sessions, and you’re ready to go paper and pen in-hand. Then you enter the room, and it’s a slew of tables and chairs, the Power Point is waiting for the presenter to get the mic working and everyone seems tired…Disappointed, you think “here we go, three more days of this… let’s start counting down.”
Unfortunately, this scenario happens all too often. Which is exactly why it’s so important to create an engaging atmosphere. If you’re limited by time or have a transient audience, the education sessions should hold their attention or they’re a chance they won’t be back.
To make an impact on your event or booth visitors, you want to engage them three different ways:
- Experience. You want them entertained and learning actively, not passively.
- Retention. You want them to remember what you said.
- Inspiration. You want them to act upon what they have learned.
Here are creative suggestions to help you accomplish all those things. Plus, as a bonus, we’ve included creative twists for even more engagement.
20 minutes is a long time to ask people to stand. Quick demos provide the necessary information for attendees and do so at a pace that accommodates a transient crowd.
Create a brief demo that stands on its own and can be understood from any point within the presentation. If your product or service is complicated and requires a long explanation, consider making mini-highlight reels featuring certain sections or services, making them easier to understand.
The point is to show passing attendees the benefits, answer common sales-objective questions and give them enough information to follow up if they’re interested.
There are several ways to conduct a demo:
- Personal one-on-one. Gather an attendee or two around you, and walk them through the demo on a tablet. This format is intimate and addresses exact questions and learning needs on a one-on-one basis.
- Video walls. Broadcast demo videos for people passing by. Put content on a loop. The video should work with or without sound, as it is sometimes difficult for attendees to hear as they’re walking by.
- Small group live demonstration. Demos don’t have to be video-based. You can do a live, in-person demonstration that is tailored to those in front of you. This allows you to use probing questions, getting right to the heart of what they care about.
Creative twist: use virtual reality to walk your audience through some part of your demo, providing unique and memorable insights into your product or service.
This high-energy learning format runs through 20 slides in 20 seconds each, and the slides advance automatically without the speaker in control of the progression. It keeps presentations fast-paced and exciting.
This type of session precision requires a highly choreographed approach with the speaker and slides working as one, but if done correctly, it can deliver an impactful message and major takeaways inside a 7-minute time commitment.
Creative twist: 20 seconds is just long enough for an impactful dose of interactivity. Use one slide to set up a question and the next to collect and provide a quick comment on the results. (This works well with live groups of fewer than 10.) The question type can be as simple as “a quick show of hands – who can tell me what augmented reality is?”
If you have a large education area, you can use the fishbowl idea. The fishbowl organizes a group of people in a ring of chairs from which they discuss a topic of interest. Questions and conversation are welcome. Interrupting is not. When someone gets up and vacates a chair someone else can join and add to the conversation.
The benefit of this style is that it generates group discussions and an audience as people join to watch the discussion. People can stay as long as they like, because it’s not the same message on repeat. It brings back the sport of debate. Just ensure there’s a moderator there to save the session should someone start to derail the discussion or make inappropriate comments.
Creative twist: use audience ‘plants’ who will bring up a new angle to the conversation if everyone who sits down has the same opinion on the topic. The point is to start lively discussion.
With campfires, a session leader begins the discussion and then works as a facilitator to get the smaller group interacting with one another by encouraging peer-to-peer exchange. The name comes from the idea of people sharing stories around a campfire. The informal group and learning style allow people to come and go. It creates intimacy among the audience.
Creative twist: create a campfire setting with a fake campfire. You can do some amazing things with a circle of rocks or kindling, a small fan, lights, and orange, yellow, and red crepe paper.
We have examples of this from our Cetera event.
Perfect for hands-on learning, sandboxes allow people to play with the product. A sandbox usually refers to software and a demo site, but could be applied to a physical “sandbox” play area to test physical items.
This type of learning is ideal for tactile learners who may retain information better by “doing”. It provides an interactive introduction to the product, which can be quite enjoyable.
Just note that if you create a sandbox area for your software, you’ll want to ensure the data remains clean (i.e. that the experience is the same for each new person, without the effects of previous users’ input) and that you’re available when people have challenges and questions. You don’t want anyone feeling frustrated and sharing that on social media.
Creative twist: if you know your audience often uses a particular type of software and your software integrates with that, include the integration in your sandbox. This way they can get a real feel on how data will flow, and it will give them confidence in your integration ability.
Gamification uses game theory and motivation to inspire the desired action. You can use tech to accomplish this through a gamification app or create manual leaderboards for activities completed to keep the audience checking back.
A key component of gamification is public recognition, so whether you use a leaderboard to illustrate top participants and encourage others to get their name on that list, or you simply exhibit comments on an interactive wall, commentary will drive participation.
If your event app allows for it, bundle activities together and show a progress bar toward completion. For instance, opening the app for the first time could be the first task and could advance the progress bar. Getting your badge scanned for the first time could be the next task. Hitting a ‘10 badge scans’ milestone could be the third, and so on. People respond to point systems and challenge progression, so structuring objectives in this way is a great use of gamification.
Creative twist: get your sponsors involved. Structuring challenges around sponsors and exhibitors is a great way to drive engagement with them and offer another layer of exposure. Plus, most tech-driven gamification comes with analytics, which you can use to demonstrate the ROI for the activity.
7.Learning Game/Game Show
Using a game show concept makes learning fun and interactive. It’s also a good use of retro or nostalgic moments. It sparks healthy competition and gets attendees engaging with you in a way that doesn’t feel like learning.
Another benefit of game shows is the of use multiple senses for maximum experience. With lights and buzzer sounds, the displays are very “Instagrammable.” The Content Marketing Institute used a twist on Hollywood Squares to “test” their audience. The squares were populated with their presenters, and the results were hilarious and fun.
Creative twist: use someone with a dynamic personality to be the master of ceremonies, and give them a skinny mic – just like back in the “old” days. Offer photo ops with the host and on the set. Make sure the set is branded to you in some way for maximum marketing benefit.
Polls and quizzes can be done on tablets, phones or laptops in the booth. If there’s an official event app, you could even approach the planner about using the app’s polling module.
Ask a mixture of learning questions involving your product, service or presentation, as well as random ones mixed in for fun. Display the responses to questions on a screen and award a prize or points towards a prize for correct answers.
While learning is the goal of this article, you could also create fun polls and publish the results. Or use a board or large piece of paper for people to write their own answers to an engaging question. Not only is it fun, but others will enjoy reading the responses. You might just learn a little about the attendees too!
Creative twist: set ‘correct responses’ thresholds and offer to do an action or perform in some way for every 100, 200, 500, and 1000 correct responses. This will motivate people to play the game AND to visit with you.
Check with your event venue and organizers first, but if your booth is somewhat close to a high wall, consider projecting a question on the wall periodically throughout the day.
The projection should also direct people who know the answer to come visit you. Attendees with the correct answer receive a prize or swag. This exciting idea keeps people engaged and looking for your “bat signal.” When they see it, they’ll feel drawn to your area.
Creative twist: don’t make every question about your brand. Ask funny opinion questions, too, so that everyone can play along.
10.Scavenger Hunt Learning
This idea takes learning outside of your area. Hide several clues/information about you, your company, your mission, and your product/service. When people visit with you, give them the first clue and let them know what they’re looking for.
Stagger prizes for solving numbers or riddles to award people for every step of the learning process, but make those prizes good. Sending someone on a scavenger hunt in a professional event is a big ask, and you will need to incentivize it.
There are also scavenger hunt apps available if you aren’t able to create it all from scratch. Encourage people to partner up or mention others who are already participating to spark a little friendly competition.
image source: Pinterest
Creative twist: work with event planners or non-competing exhibitors to integrate their learning goals into ‘side quests’ for your scavenger hunt, which will integrate the concept more fully into the event.
Education sessions can feel a little disjointed if you don’t put careful thought into them. You have a transient audience, likely with a short attention span. There are plenty of shiny things to catch their attention.
To ensure they engage with you and your brand, you need to work for attendees’ attention and make the most of it once you have it. Use a creative, engaging format that gets attention and leaves them with something to remember.
Want to learn more about creative ways to improve education sessions at your next event or show? Contact the experts at GES.
About the AuthorMore Content by Amy Kelley