People are most engaged when they feel a part of something. When meetings talk at attendees rather than including them in the action, attendees turn to their phones, nod off, or even worse, leave the meeting altogether because they are not engaged with what is going on 10 feet in front of them.

Events and meetings that are designed to be highly interactive keep attendees from feeling the need to multitask. While there are surely important things going on outside the doors of the event, what matters to attendees should be whatever it is you have planned for them.

Here are five ways to make any event more enticing and engaging for attendees than just about anything else.  

1. Make It Experiential and Hands-On

Adding an experience pulls attendees out of the daily grind and into an exciting challenge. When an experience is captivating, attendees are too busy working alongside their peers, trying new things and engaging with the matter at hand to think about the world outside the event. When you get people out of their seats for teambuilding activities, games or experiential sessions, you’re taking a step in the right direction.  

2. Stop Fighting Distractions; Overcome Them

Did you know that today’s average human attention span is only eight seconds? Goldfish have a longer attention span than we do! What does this mean for event planners? It means that eliminating distractions in today’s world is hard! Instead of working yourself into the ground fighting distractions, plan for them.

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If you carve out time for your attendees to check their phones, socialize or simply take a break from the action, it is quite possible they will save whatever it is until the designated time.

3. Turn It into A Networking Opportunity

Despite being as connected as ever, most people don’t have networking opportunities every day. Marketing your event as a place where people can personally connect with individuals they may not always have the chance to could do wonders for your attendees’ engagement levels! Not only do they get to catch up with colleagues or meet new people, but they can also build relationships with people that will outlive the event.

Try building networking opportunities into your event promotion so people come excited and expecting this and be sure to highlight it the day of the event so it’s top of mind.

4. Inject a Dose of Fun and Competition into the Event

Making an event memorable and engaging enough to deter people from multitasking requires you to deliver something unexpected and exciting. It may surprise some attendees to walk into an event and realize you have something fun planned for them. Capitalize on the low expectations set by events of the past and change it up!

There is a variety of ways to this—just do a quick Google search.

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One of the most interesting ways we’ve seen is events incentivizing attendees to focus by setting up a light-hearted game that puts the attendees in charge of policing each other’s phone use. Whether the culprit must do a funny dance in front of the room or their table loses points, it’s a great way to keep people present.

5. Bring It to Life

When participants are immersed in a themed event, they aren’t focused on what might be happening back at the office. Themes help keep your content cohesive and provide a unique shared experience for attendees.

Plus, creating a theme and bringing it to life is a fun part of event planning and makes planning your agenda easier because you have something to tie everything to. Remember, if you keep your theme consistent, your attendees will notice and will be on the lookout for the next thing!

Meetings and events are prime opportunities to bring everybody together, provide training, promote teambuilding and deliver information. But if they can’t capture the attention of attendees who have competing distractions knocking at the door (or ringing in their pocket), then as event planners, we are not taking full advantage of this fantastic opportunity.

When events are interactive and engaging for attendees, the effort is well worth it in the end.

Sue Wigston, COO, Eagle's Flight Headshot

Sue Wigston is the chief operating officer for Eagle's Flight. Her extensive senior leadership experience and facilitation skills have established her as a trusted partner and organizational development expert. She has a proven track record of successfully leading culture transformation in Fortune 500 companies and has established herself as an authority on training and development.