Why Attendee Experience Should Be Your #1 Priority + 6 Ways To Improve

March 1, 2023
Meisha Bochicchio
Meisha Bochicchio
Senior Content Marketing Manager at Goldcast

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For event marketers in 2023, there is one thing that matters more than anything else.

Beyond lead generation. Beyond brand awareness. Even beyond revenue.

The attendee experience impacts it all.

But according to our State of B2B Events report diving deep into the latest attendee preferences, digital event attendees still aren't getting the experiences they deserve.

And to be honest, we kinda get it. As an event marketer, there’s already a lot to juggle and with new digital and hybrid event formats to contend with, the challenge is as complex as ever.

But with digital events now a cornerstone of practically every successful go-to-market strategy, elevating the attendee experience is critical to improving your marketing and sales performance.

At Goldcast, we surveyed more than 500 attendees to find out what they’re expecting from a digital event experience and how event marketers can step up and deliver.

What we’ll cover

  • Where we’re really at with the attendee experience
  • What’s new with attendee expectations?
  • 6 steps towards a better attendee experience

Where we’re really at with attendee experience

We hate to be the bearers of bad news but according to our findings, only 10% of attendees say their virtual attendee experience was excellent.

That means 90% are likely leaving your event feeling less than inspired by something that has your brand written all over it.

Unfortunately, the picture isn’t much rosier when it comes to hybrid events, with only 11% of attendees rating the event experience excellent. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Because the truth is, today’s attendees are still very optimistic about digital events. Our report found that a majority 73% of participants predict hybrid events will become the most common event format in the near future.

Even though attendees may not yet be getting the five-star experience they want, there is still a strong desire to keep — and keep improving — your virtual and hybrid event offerings.

You can get the full data from our free 2023 Attendee Sentiment Report but in case you’re short on time, we’ve recapped some of the top takeaways below. 👇🏾

What’s new with attendee expectations?

When we choose to attend an event, we’re paying for that event in time, energy and in some cases — cold hard cash. We expect to get something back in return.

But while certain attendee expectations are well-established, others can be slightly more nuanced depending on your audience and event format.

❌ 7 things attendees don’twant to see:

  1. Mundane powerpoint presentations
  2. Speakers who offer little value
  3. Getting stuck in an irrelevant session
  4. Poorly moderated panels
  5. Accessibility issues
  6. Technical issues
  7. Hard sell sales pitches

✅ 7 things attendees do want to see:

  1. Speakers who deliver real value
  2. Sessions under 60 minutes (90% of attendees like ‘em brief!)
  3. Easy captioning and accessibility options
  4. Swag that they will actually use and enjoy
  5. The ability to participate in discussions in real time
  6. Opportunities to interact
  7. More networking and engagement with content and speakers

Understanding modern attendee expectations is just the first step. Actually meeting those expectations is something else entirely.

Ready to deliver a better attendee experience? Start with these 6 steps

Step 1. Make event access as easy as possible

Getting registrations is one thing, but actually getting people into the event on the big day — well, that’s more than half the battle. And forcing attendees to go password hunting through their inboxes doesn’t exactly help.

In fact, 72% of the attendees surveyed in our report say it’s the technology that makes a virtual event excellent, with 51% prioritizing automated calendar invites sent straight to an attendee’s inbox upon registration, with a login link in the body.

From automated calendar invites to magic links, offering your attendees a seamless registration and access experience is probably simpler than you think.

“Our priority is making sure people enjoy our event,” explained Ashleigh Frank, Senior Demand Generation Executive at Cognism. “We've been able to build up a following around our event series. We’ve never had that kind of repeatable event that people like before. That's a massive win for us.”

Since launching their monthly webinar series Demandism, Ashleigh and her team have seen an impressive 50%+ increase in attendance rate due in part to the smooth attendee experience from sign-up to curtain close.

“It’s become more important to make something that people actually want to attend, we’re always thinking about how we can create something our audience actually likes,” says Ashleigh.

If you know you’ve got the right content, the only thing left to do is offer a smooth and immersive experience from registration to closing. For teams like Ashleigh’s, it’s this end-to-end commitment to quality that has kept attendees coming back for more.

“The most ideal feedback is when someone says, ‘Hey, I want to volunteer for your next session’. That's just gold for us.”

Step 2. Stay in touch with attendees until the big day (and beyond!)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever signed up to an event, then forgotten to show up? 🫣

We’re human. It happens. But according to our data, nearly half of event attendees said they want email reminders in the run up to the event and on the day of with a login link present.

For ThoughSpot’s Demand Generation Manager Katie Dunn, part of ensuring your attendees get the best event experience is nurturing them just enough to keep the event top of mind and increase your chances of securing a healthy show rate.

To create a seamless brand experience from registration to live attendance, Katie and her team send multiple personalized email reminders straight from their fully integrated event platform, including:

  • Registration confirmation email with automated calendar invite
  • What to expect email approximately 10 days later
  • 24-hour reminder the day before
  • Here's your magic link email on the day of event

And the communication definitely doesn’t fizzle out after the event.

Post-event, Katie passes her sales team key attendee insights like sessions attended, questions asked, booths visited and more, to make sure every follow up message is relevant and personalized.

Step 3. Customize your event for a fully-branded experience

To create a digital event experience that replicates the magic of an in-person event, you’ve got to set the right scene.

For the marketing team at Onspring, fully customizable event branding has become the gold standard. The team has achieved an 87% engagement score and succeeded in keeping attendees inside the event for an average of 8.8 hours.

“From an end-to-end user experience, when you’re using Zoom, you're looking at Zoom. When you use Goldcast, you're looking at Onspring. It's a truly branded experience. It's completely immersive,” says Megan Guerra, Onspring’s Director of Marketing.

From branded favicons and lower thirds to virtual chat banners, there are so many ways to brand your event. One of the simplest, most impactful ways to elevate the attendee experience is to simply tap into the full suite of customization tools available to create that immersive experience for your attendees.

🪄 Ready to get creative with your digital event branding? Don’t miss these 11 awesome examples.

Step 4. Create a safe and inclusive space

Did you know that89% of people with a disability found online events to be more accessible than in-person?

Accessibility is the foundation of a positive attendee experience — if you don’t feel included, seen, and safe at an event, your experience is immediately (and indefinitely) tainted.

On the flip side, when you make the event experience better for attendees with unique needs and abilities — you make it better for everyone.

As an event marketer, it’s your job to be intentional about creating an accessible and inclusive event where everyone feels equally valued, is free to be their true self, and has a stellar experience.

What does that look like? Well, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Select a date and time that allows for an inclusive event
  • Make your registration process meaningful
  • Ensure access to your event is straightforward
  • Include diverse representation in your content
  • Enable closed captioning and live language translations

Step 5. Always, always check your tech

Glitchy wifi, echoing mics, failed green screen moments. It’s just…awkward. 😳

Not to mention a bad experience for your attendees. And getting it right is actually pretty simple.

To make sure your digital events run smoothly, follow these five steps:

  • Make speaker setup a breeze with user-friendly tech and dedicated support.
  • Map out pre-recorded and on-demand content tominimize the stress of live sessions, while adding additional value and visual interest to attendees.
  • Test your entire event production tech stack —everything from webcams to wifi and beyond.
  • Audit for consistent branding including all colors, logos and fonts for an immersive experience throughout.
  • Choose the right platform. The right partner should be able to make all of this 👆🏼 happen with little effort on your end.

✅Cover all bases in your next tech check with our free guide to goof-proofing your virtual events.

Step 6. Encourage engagement at every turn

As event marketers, we know the most engaged attendees are going to have the highest impact on the business. But first you have to define what “most engaged” actually means.

Within our own event marketing team at Goldcast, we define engagement as an experience where every interaction is a brand moment.

From there, we assign a weighting to each of our top five engagement metrics:

  1. Time spent
  2. Chat
  3. Q&A
  4. Polls
  5. Resources

No matter which engagement metrics you choose to track, the point is to make sure every question asked, poll answered, or GIF shared works together to create a lasting memory of your brand.

Because anybody can throw together a slide deck or ask attendees to sit back and watch a pre-recorded video. For an experience to truly stand out, it has to be interactive.

Here are some of the other attendee engagement areas you definitely don’t want to overlook:

  • Swag: Even your digital event attendees love a good freebie. Set aside some of your budget for memorable swag attendees will actually use.
  • Networking: Just say no to stagnant one-way chat. Today’s attendees want to connect with peers, speakers and sponsors via:
  • Video and text Q&A: 40% would opt for the ability to bring attendees ‘on stage’ via video Q&A.
  • Polls: For 39% of attendees, polls are perfect for informing and shaping the conversation.
  • Direct messaging: With easy image sharing for photos and GIFs to increase the fun factor.
  • Sponsor booths: 73% of respondents say they like visiting exhibitor booths.
  • Breakout rooms: For 38% of attendees, pre-set and randomized breakout rooms are a great way to bring attendees together.

Remember, your event is about them — not you. None of the above engagement features will mean a thing if you don’t set the right tone and expectations to help maximize their impact.

Getting better with every event

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our report, it’s that digital events are no longer an afterthought.

To optimize this channel for maximum impact and revenue moving forward, the attendee must be at the heart of every event you produce. While it’s clear we still have a long way to go to deliver on attendee expectations — the right tools and focus can help us get there.

And there’s no time like the present to make it a priority.

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