Guest blog: How to engage and bring value to your event audience

warwick merry

This guest post is by Warwick Merry, Master MC and Success Speaker

Warwick Merry CSP is an engaging MC, sponsorship/exhibiting expert and his wife’s favourite Husband. Contact him via his website or listen to his podcast at

With over 14 years’ experience hosting events, Warwick shares his advice on bringing value to your event audience.

How to engage and bring value to your event audience

By Warwick Merry

So many events are increasing their reliance on technology to communicate and engage with delegates. Push notifications, inter-delegate messaging, and instant polling are great, but what if your audience is hesitant to use all of the capabilities of the technology you are using?

There are age old techniques and newer tricks that continue to make an impact and engage with conference and event audiences all over the world. Here are a few of my favourites that different people involved in the event can use to engage and bring value to delegates.

Pre/post event video

If you are paying a speaker/MC to be at your event, get them to shoot a quick 2-3 minute video saying how excited they are to be at the event, why the event is so important and maybe even a sneak preview on some of the ideas.
Often you can get the MC to do a quick interview online with one of the industry celebrities. Not only does this help promote the event but also gets people excited about what will be happening.

camera filming

Delegate photos on screen

Events are less about what is being done “TO” or “FOR” a delegate and more about what is done “WITH” a delegate. So get them involved and put them on the big screen.
Whether it be photos from the event, the evening sessions, their workplace, the location or even short videos.

If you have people create small media pieces and then put it on the screen as people walk in the room, have a 20 min “Power to the People” session or even a competition of some sorts, it is amazing how people love to see themselves on screen.

Fishbowl sessions

At most conferences and events, you will find someone in the room has a problem or issue in their business and that someone else in the room has experienced it and overcome it. A Fishbowl Session is a great way to share that experience around.

Typically, it is hosted in the round, that is a level floor with 4-5 stools in the middle and delegates seated all around. The facilitator will start with some questions or ask people to raise issues they are facing and then invite individuals or volunteers to take a stool and explain how they faced that issue.

As one issue is addressed, another is raised and the people with the questions and the others with the answers rotate up onto the stools and then back to the audience.

Your facilitator is the most important thing here. They need to make sure that there are no time wasters, no ego driven people and that everyone feels they have the opportunity to speak.
These sessions can be a very powerful way to show how well connected your industry is and how much experience everyone actually has.

fishbowl meeting
photo credit: Alper Çuğun

The mobile app bribe

My speaker mentor, David Staughton, told me this one. He was hosting an event and had mentioned several times that people should down load the app and use it for the conference. He even showed them how to down load it.

The delegates all nodded, smiled and then ignored him completely. Meanwhile the PCO was pulling their hair out saying, “We HAVE to get more users on the app!”

Then the Bribe. David said he had three boxes of chocolates and the table with the most people on the app in the end of afternoon tea gets a box of chocolates. He said that those on the tables who were tech savvy instantly demanded everyone else’s mobile phones and downloaded the app and set everyone up.

woman holding phone

Trained exhibitors

This is a key element for better engagement. Too often exhibitors come across in the extreme. They either don’t seem to care because they are locked onto their mobile phones or they feel too pushy and just want you to buy their stuff.

There are some simple ways for exhibitors to engage with delegates and become a key resource for the event. Essentially, they all become event hosts and in the process promote their own business and the show as well.

Event Managers are getting more attuned to how important it is to look after their exhibitors and sponsors. As part of that, Exhibitors and Event Managers need to consider how they can give a better experience for the delegates and not just focus on a sale.

exhibitor and attendee exchanging information at CNSA exhibition booth

Generous sponsors

Everyone loves free stuff!

Most of us are environmentally conscious enough to realise we no longer need the tacky little plastic piece of branding that will get thrown away or the glossy brochure that will only end up in the bin.

What delegates love is something that money can’t buy or an out of the ordinary experience. Naturally delegates expect it to be on brand for the sponsor, they expect a promotion element, but if it includes a celebration of the event, the sponsors customers and positive promotion to the future, it is a plus.

Sponsors willing to give an opportunity to have a smaller audience with an industry celebrity (maybe the speaker they sponsored), access to a non-public access area, inside information on coming product and other money-can’t-buy experiences will not only be held in high regard, it also creates a buzz around the event.

Slam poetry

This is a personal favourite. Mainly because hardly anyone does it and my clients love it when I do it.
The start of the second day at an event is typically slow. Delegates will have gone out the night before and are feeling a little sluggish. No matter how good the speaker, it is nigh impossible to have a full audience all ready to go, right on time.

Enter the slam poetry…

Once most people have entered the room and the day starts, delegates with continue to trickle in. I get people in groups to talk about what they got out of the day before. It is a great way to reinforce messages and experiences from the previous day. It often turns into a bit of laughter and a relaxed way to slowly fire up as the coffee kicks in.

I will then get about ten points from random people around the room. This reminds others of the points and prompts other triggers in their minds.
Those ten points I will write on a white board or my note pad.

Then on the spot, with no preparation, I make up a poem using all their points and typically the name of a well known person in the industry or one of the speakers.
It is an entertaining way to review the event so far, give people a little more time to get in the room for the speaker and it also creates a talking point.

Warwick Merry

As you can see, some of these ideas cost no extra money and others may need some contribution from sponsors, speakers or your MC. There are many ways you can take your delegate experience, and your event to the next level.

So what are you going to do about your next event?

How will you engage your delegates so they not only attend the event but feel like they are part of it?

If you need some ideas to deepen engagement at your next event, then have a chat to the team at Entegy or get in touch with me.