Illustration of woman sitting at a laptop looking fatigued.

Engagement, engagement, engagement. It has plagued us since the dawn of events and remains the biggest challenge for planners. One of the main barriers to engagement is attendee fatigue. And with digital and hybrid events, there’s a new type of fatigue – technology fatigue. We put our collective heads together and came up with five strategies that we believe will be particularly helpful for your own event.

We’re all familiar with the feeling: eyes glazing over, brain shutting down. Coffee was working, but now you just feel DONE. As planners, we’ve added yoga breaks, large periods of downtime, and reduced event hours to prevent this feeling from hitting our attendees. These are super important, but if your sessions are turning into sleep sessions, these strategies will not cut it. The solution is to make your content engaging and invigorating. If you can get people to connect to and care about what they are experiencing, then it doesn’t matter if they’ve only had three hours of sleep the night before. They will shed their fatigue and engage. Without further ado, here are our favorite ways to overcome technology fatigue.

Keep it small

“Humans are built to read people’s faces—but when you’re looking at a mosaic of 50 to 100 people, it’s hard to see who’s nodding their heads versus who’s nodding asleep. It’s harder still to decode a sparkle in the eye or a wrinkle of the brow. So make sure you’re doing everything in your power to let people see and hear each other in smaller groups.”

This is a simple change to make to sessions and can be utilized in a variety of ways. You can set aside a portion of the session for breakout discussion groups. You can create separate meet the expert sessions as a follow-up. Adopt the sports bar model and stream the session to a small satellite group. We’re just riffing here, but this shows how easy it is to apply this to your own event.

Be playful

“Bring out our inner kids. Old school is cool. Incorporate non-tech elements into interactive events. Encourage folks to use pencil, paper, and scissors. How about incorporating origami, coloring, or stickers into an exercise? And if you’re giving away prizes, consider an experience rather than a bauble or thing. It can be a one-on-one session with a top executive or influencer. It can be a mentorship experience. It can be membership in a team. Get creative!”

We love the experience as a reward idea in particular. Sure, we love an apple watch as much as the next person, but the impact of a 1:1 with a hero or someone that inspires you is something that you’ll remember to the end.

Make it personal

“Personalize the experience with tracks and recommended session. Choosing content that is meaningful to your audience can go a long way toward making attendees feel invested in your event.”

How many episodes of This is Us did you binge last weekend? And I bet you cried at least once for each episode. You were invested in the characters stories and couldn’t get enough. Adding personalization and recommendations for your event can help you reach that level of audience investment.

Listen carefully

“Speaking of listening to each other, here’s a shout-out to audio. Podcasts are booming for a reason. There’s something intimate about hearing the human voice without the picture. Even if we’re just listening, we feel like we’re part of a conversation. So look for opportunities to provide an audio-only feed.”

There is an element of meeting your audience where they are that we love about this. We don’t have to stick to the classic lecture-style breakout followed by a happy hour at the bar. Digital events have allowed us to reach an audience that simply didn’t go to events, because these types of sessions didn’t work for them. In the planning phase, you can simply ask your audience what formats they like, and then work to provide them, whether that’s small groups, audio-only, or fireworks with an energetic emcee.

Get hands on

“Get people engaged. Hands-on engagement keeps people present and makes them feel like their thoughts matter. Try virtual whiteboarding apps like Mural for visual collaboration.”

This one is fairly obvious, but there are a bunch of cool new tech tools that have come out to get people to work together in creative ways. When they have to look someone in the face and interact with them in a meaningful or new way, they’re less likely to feel fatigued.

We really enjoyed these five ideas, and hope you give them a shot at your next event. After all, who wouldn’t want to transform what would be a sleep session into a hands-on engaging experience. And if you want to see how UNTETHERED is testing out these ideas, head on over to their website to learn more and join the movement. Keep up the great work #eventprofs!

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