Introducing Julius Seizer, one of the profiles you might see after you take the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment. If you’re a Julius Seizer, you rule at engaging members and driving event attendance, but chances are you struggle to break the acquisition and retention cycle. Your event might be full of first-timers and tourists, who come to consume your offerings and leave without furthering your mission. For long-term loyalty, repeat attendance, and overall sustainability you need to boost engagement. It’s time to seize your current momentum, build on existing strengths, and make some important tweaks, particularly in the area of high-quality connections. Carpe diem! Let’s get started building your engaged empire today.
What is Engagement?
We know engagement is more than just “showing up.” It’s about more than attendees. You need participants, volunteers, mentors, contributors, and word-of-mouth marketers. You need members to set aside their phones and their everyday tasks so they can focus on your event and the value they can give to it and get from it. You need individuals who are compelled from within to take action, work together, and tackle the hard stuff that leads to success in your field. And you need everyone to come back next year and do it all over again. So how can you reach that level of sustainable engagement?
Interestingly, the way to achieve engagement isn’t by adding more programming, speakers, certifications, and other “stuff.” It isn’t by having the best food or the coolest venue. Yes, of course, you need high-quality offerings to have a great event, but all these things will come to nothing if people don’t connect.
Hardwired to connect
It turns out human beings are hardwired to connect. When we connect we feel engaged. But not just any connection will do. Psychologists tell us there are two types of connections: high quality and low quality. High-quality connections allow us to fully express ourselves, they withstand setbacks, and they open us up to new possibilities. They also spark action and creativity.
Event marketers need high-quality connections for lots of reasons. Here are just a few:
- attract and retain new members, even millennials
- break the acquisition and retention cycle
- build loyalty and encourage advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing
- increase productivity and creativity to achieve goals and work towards your mission
- drive engagement that sustains your organization for decades to come
- If your event suffers from low attendance, poor feedback surveys, lack of engagement, or general lack of progress, you probably have too many low-quality connections. Even if your event is well attended this could be the case. Low-quality connections kill engagement, close minds to new ideas, and actually damage your organization.
How to build high-quality connections
Building high-quality connections (and eliminating low-quality ones) might sound daunting. The good news is that, as a Julius, you already have a well-oiled machine to help you. A few tweaks will get you on your way to connection and engagement. Try these four items for starters:
Boost your brand experience.
As we mention above, you do need a killer brand experience to attract people to your event in the first place. As a Julius Seizer, you’re doing a lot right in this area. Focus now on ways your event can help people connect. Do you have comfortable seating for casual networking? Do you have interactive sessions, like roundtable luncheons or panel discussions? Do you have a new-member orientation to welcome first-timers into the fold? Consider adding an online component to connect members before, during, and after your event—event-specific hashtags, online forums, or LISTSERVs are just a few examples.
Spread the word.
Consider energizing your marketing communications with more compelling triggers and targets to raise awareness, reassure the interested, and prove the value of your event. If your marketing is limited to email and direct mail, consider adding a channel or two. Social media, microsites, print collateral, virtual reality experiences, and YouTube can all help your members connect with each other, your organization, and your mission.
Time your communications with the buying cycle.
Your organization already has fantastic tools and resources that your members can use to change more lives. It’s up to you to connect each member with the help they need WHEN they need it. Strategic pre-conference communication not only gets members in the door; it shows your value and helps them see why they’re there. And don’t stop communicating just because your event is over. Maintain momentum and engagement throughout the year with regional events, active social media use, and regular progress updates.
Let your hair down.
Build engagement with a culture of authenticity, openness, and vulnerability. You can encourage authenticity with storytelling, idea sharing, group activities, and unscripted networking events. Unlike relationships, high-quality connections can occur in an instant—like in the hallways between sessions. If you build a culture of openness, you’ll increase the number of opportunities members have to connect with one another on really meaningful levels. Compare this to forced networking that simply encourages people to exchange business cards. Which one sounds more promising for your organization’s goals?
Motivation vs. Inspiration
It’s hard to convince or motivate anyone to do anything. For real engagement, your members need to be internally compelled and inspired to take action. High-quality connections entice members attend your event year after year and contribute while they’re there—not because they need a certification but because they might miss out on valuable interactions with their friends and colleagues. If you foster high-quality connections engagement will follow, and your event attendance, member retention, and goal achievement will all take care of themselves.
Ready build engagement and sustainability? Take the Rottman Creative Engagement Assessment to see where you rate on the Engagement Scale. From there we’ll help you forge a plan to rally the troops, engage your loyal followers, and sustain your empire for decades.
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