There’s been a recent trend at concerts and events where attendees are required to lock their phones in secured bags. Artists such as Adele, Jack White, Alicia Keys, and The Lumineers have banned concert goers from taking photos or videos by employing this bag technique, much to the chagrin of their fans. While the phone-free environment creates a more intimate experience and forces fans to actually be present at the concert, restricting attendees from using their phones can be an expensive and time consuming process.
Forcing fans to lock up their phones may work for big name acts that will draw crowds no matter what- they’ll give up use of their phones, adhere to a dress code, and pretty much follow any rule imposed on them in order to get access to the event. But what about all of the other events where there might not be a big name driving your sales?
For small to mid-sized events, it’s more important to embrace your attendees’ smartphone use rather than restrict it. The majority of event attendees don’t leave the house without their phone, so if you’re not doing so already, it’s time to start using their smartphone addiction to your advantage! Smartphones aren’t just a pesky distraction from your event; they’re a multi-faceted tool you can use to keep your attendees engaged. Here are a few ways you can use smartphones to your advantage and boost audience engagement.
- Don’t Fight It, Encourage It
You can try to designate cell phone free zones or discourage the use of smartphones during specific performances, but you’ll be going against the tide. Pew Research Center shows that 95% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, with 77% of them being smartphones. This means there’s a good chance that the majority of your attendees with have a smartphone with them when they enter your venue.
Rather than trying to restrict cell phone use, actively encourage it with clear guidelines. Providing clear cell phone areas where attendees can talk on the phone, inviting them to take pictures and videos in specific areas, or explicitly stating “there will be time after the presentation for pictures” will embolden your attendees to use their phones but in a structured way.
- Have Fun With It
Everyone loves to play games, so why not turn parts of your event into an interactive game that attendees can take part in by using their phone? This event trend known as “gamification” is a great way to encourage attendees to interact with one another while also keeping them individually focused on the event.
A great way to incorporate gamification into your next event is through a scavenger hunt. This can be a list of activates to perform, areas/items to take pictures of (or selfies to encourage sharing), or people to check in with. Each item can be custom tailored to your event, such as encouraging attendees to stop by a specific vendor booth or checking in to a particular speaking session. This is also a great way to boost foot traffic for exhibitions or areas that may not be getting as much interest as you initially hoped.
Apps like GooseChase, Scavify, or Huntzz can help you set up a fun and memorable scavenger hunt for your next event. Event organizers can also assign points to specific locations or tasks and, at the end of your event, attendees can redeem their points for prizes such as meet and greet sessions, swag bags, or gift cards.
- Be A Social Butterfly
Any event planner or marketer understands the power of social media. Events tend to be more successful and grow year over year when attendees are engaged and sharing their experiences on social media. Setting up a social wall, promoting the use of an event hashtag, and providing attendees social handles they should tag for your event are great ways to use your attendee’s “likes” to your advantage. The more they share, they more people (and potential attendees) hear about your event and see what a great time it is!
- Drive It Home With Data
Everything relies on actionable data, so don’t miss out on an easy way to capture attendee data by restricting cell phone use. Knowing how many attendees opted for a “mobile ticket” option rather than a printed ticket or how many upgraded their type of ticket the day of the event can help you make potentially cost-saving decisions for your ticketing and access control. You can also utilize live surveys or polling for your event to gather real-time feedback from attendees to see if your event needs any improvement. This technique is especially useful for conferences where speakers want to include live polling for their presentations.
You should also pay special attention to the traffic on your event websites and apps before, during, and after your event. Was there an increase in mobile traffic on your website during your event? Were any pages getting more hits than others? Was the traffic being driven from a particular website or URL? Having all of this information can pinpoint any event details that weren’t clear at your venue or before your attendees arrived.