The Art of Optionality: Building a Thoughtful Event Agenda To Drive Attendee Engagement in Any Format

Learn how you can rethink your approach to event planning and create a more engaging experience in any format. 

Dan Lotzof

July 13, 2022

It’s been a long day at the conference. Your brain is overloaded with information, you’ve talked to so many people that you can’t remember half of the conversations you’ve had, you’re hungry, you’re tired and you’ve skipped sessions that you wanted to attend for others that didn’t deliver.

You didn’t hear some of the keynote because you started checking email 30 minutes into the presentation and you’re anxious that you didn’t get what you came for. In other words, an overly ambitious, well-intentioned (and probably carefully crafted) agenda burned you out.

We’ve all been there. A poorly designed agenda is overwhelming and frustrating to attendees – and can be the difference in whether they’ll attend future events.

As marketers and event planners, we know creating meaningful content and connections requires a more thoughtful approach to attendee experience. But oftentimes, that’s easier said than done, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an in-person event, 100% virtual , or a hybrid event.

Here are a few ways to rethink your approach. 
 

Examine Your Event Goals

The first step in creating a more effective and dynamic agenda is taking the time to examine the goals and desired outcome for your event.

What is your purpose for gathering attendees? Who is the target audience and what do you want them to take away? Do you have multiple types of attendees? If so, they probably each have different goals.

What action do you need them to take when the event is over


 

Common, high-level event goals may include: 

•    Showcasing new products and services
•    Building community by creating opportunities for networking and engagement 
•    Educating stakeholders via informational sessions
•    Raising brand awareness by showcasing company culture and employee passion
•    Driving new leads for BOTH your own sales team and your exhibitors
•    Accelerating prospective buyers through the sales funnel 

 

     

    Your goals should be as specific as possible – think through the experience that you want attendees to have and begin to determine the ways that you’ll measure success. This critical exercise will allow you to create an agenda that is fully optimized to deliver ROI – from session formats and length to number of speakers and opportunities for networking.

    By building an event agenda that is specific to your goals – you have the freedom to reimagine the entire experience of your event. 
     

    Elements of Engagement

    Once you’ve established event goals, the next step is to build a content plan and event flow that will best support them.

    To keep audiences engaged, involved and informed, it’s essential to strike excess offerings or sessions from the event agenda that don’t contribute to goals or fit into the overarching theme. Priority should be placed on the content that meaningfully contributes to the spirit of the event – from keynotes, to exhibit halls, games/awards and even what attendees/employees wear.

    When it comes to choosing which content is best suited for any event, and which should be left behind, it’s essential to keep the target audience in mind.

    For example - which speakers will help attendees gain greater industry knowledge? Would the audience value hearing from an additional speaker, or having more time blocked off to network with others? Should the event be full day or should it be shorter, to accommodate busy schedules? Is any of your content better delivered before or after your event?

    With some of these questions in mind, bringing the most immersive and unique sessions to the top, and skimming off any low-engagement experiences, helps foster an event that is more memorable, impactful, and meaningful for audiences. Speakers can also be instructed to take questions throughout sessions (vs. waiting until the end) so that they can customize their content in real-time, based on audience interest.

    Another critical factor to consider is the potential for event fatigue. Any event has a risk of monotonous content and excessive run-times that can cause the overall interest and participation to wane.

    To remedy this, eliminating impractical and repetitive experiences from the agenda can help to trim down the overall length of an event. This ensures that attendees, regardless of time zone or method of attendance, avoid burnout. 


     

    Special Tip: Efforts as simple as moving the presenters or speakers - as opposed to the attendees - from conference room to conference room or from virtual breakout session to session, can help to maintain the audience’s focus. As an added bonus to this approach? Only the event’s speakers need to be briefed on more technical aspects of logistics.

     

     

    From Audience to Allies: Retaining Your Competitive Edge

    A powerful event is an incredible tool for marketers. A well-designed agenda with a clear goal in mind has the power to attract attendees and create buzz around an event – whether it be virtual or in person.

    By strategically prioritizing the most relevant and high-engagement content for the target audience, and paring down overall run-time of an event, the agenda becomes a dynamic tool in generating ongoing interest and demand among potential attendees.

    While content remains the core focus of every event, today’s attendees also seek a streamlined and targeted agenda before they commit to registering. In fact, a more efficient agenda can help drive anticipation and excitement even further, allowing attendees to enjoy the event while eliminating the hurdles and pain points associated with the traditional event flows.

    The modern event landscape requires a modern approach. Event planners, marketers, and brands need their event to be memorable and buzz-worthy. By prioritizing the attendee experience and keeping your core goals in mind, organizations can ensure their audiences will benefit from their offerings and keep coming back year after year.

    Looking to incorporate these strategies into your event planning? Reach out today to schedule a demo for your next event - whether virtual, hybrid, or in-person.