14 Ways to Engage Event Attendees at Your Annual Conference

December 22, 2021

Explore event engagement ideas that will leave your audience engaged and wanting more.

1. Have an emcee that keeps the audience engaged

When it comes to customer engagement event ideas, one of the most important things you can do is ensure that your emcee, or master of ceremony, can not just keep your audience plugged in, but also motivated and wanting more. 

Your emcee’s duties could include kicking off your annual conference, introducing guest speakers, and any trainers you may have. This introduction is important and helps set the stage for why this person is not just relevant to your conference, but also credible in the field they are discussing. Your emcee may also provide special announcements, prize giveaways, Q&As, and more. 

When it comes time to wrap up your annual conference, your emcee will most likely conclude the event. With all of that stage time, you will want someone who is comfortable talking to your audience, being on stage, or if you are having a virtual event, someone who is comfortable going live or hosting virtually. And a great emcee will leave your attendees glad they came to your event. 

2. Feature a well-liked guest speaker

Conferences big and small, in person as well as those online, share one similar goal: to max out their audience. After all, hosting a conference or event isn’t cheap, and can take months and months of preparation. From signage and booths, stage designs, speaker line-up and schedules, content and takeaways, staff and meal planning—no detail is left unturned.  So when it comes time to fill an arena or have people tune in, you want them in real-time, so you get the most bang for your buck. 

Any event planner for an engagement will agree that a well-liked, respectable speaker is one way to ace your attendance goals. Not only will your guest speaker attract the attention of their followers who may also want to attend your conference, but it also will help you amp up your social game with buzz-worthy news to post about. Just make sure you give your conference name a hashtag so people can follow along and stay updated on your event. 

Great speakers usually only allot so many days a year for speaking at events and their calendars fill up quickly. Making sure your ideal guest speaker is available for your event is one reason why pre-event planning and rehearsal is important. Not only that, but you may also need time to go over event content examples and any community engagement event ideas you have with your speaker so there are no surprises on stage. 

3. Close your event with a live band or DJ

Audience engagement activities are vital in ensuring everyone gets the most out of your conference. Depending on your company, service, or reason for your annual conference, you may have different trainings, content or products you want to debut—which is great!  Just don’t forget to let your audience cut loose and have fun. 

Whether you use a band as one of your pre-event engagement ideas to kick off your conference or as an event engagement strategy to close out your event, having a band or DJ perform is one way to leave attendees with a fun memory.  Not to mention, it’s another great way to promote your annual conference and increase attendance. 

4.  Gift swag bags for your audience and special guests  

Never underestimate the power of amazing swag! SWAG is the brilliant acronym for Stuff We All Get and comes in many forms. From inexpensive takeaways like customized stickers, buttons, and snacks to coveted branded gear like name-branded tumblers, jackets, hoodies, bags and more.

What you give your attendees depends on your budget. And if your event attendees are paying an entrance fee for your event, you definitely want them leaving with at least one customized item from your event. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be a luxe item if it’s not in your budget, and you can always feature a swag store at your event for attendees to purchase your event or company branded items. 

There are many different approaches when it comes to swag or swag bags and thinking through what they might want at the event is always helpful. For example, including a branded tote to carry their essentials, a hoodie for cold conference rooms, a refillable tumbler to stay hydrated, a sticker to deck out their laptop, an extra comfy customized tee, and a notebook for jotting down notes throughout your event is a great way to give items with purpose.  

5. Door prizes, drawings, and cool grand prizes 

There’s something to be said for having a captive audience, and while you can’t keep attendees from arriving late, stepping out early, and leaving mid session for a bathroom or food break, you can help curb the distractions with fun giveaways. 

For in person event engagement ideas, have your emcee announce at the beginning of the conference that there will be prizes drawn before, during and after each session; however, and this is most important, attendees must be present to win. This is an easy way to increase attendee engagement, minimize distractions, and keep your event running on time. 

When it comes to digital event engagement ideas, you can use prizes and giveaways here too. The best way to do this if you are hosting a live virtual event is to host the drawing live, call the winning name, and just like in an in-person event, the recipient has a specific amount of time to claim their prize. Instead of walking up, the person can comment or even call in.

From fun giveaways and door prizes to generous grand prizes, ask your Gemnote rep how you can make your annual conference shine with unforgettable (and customizable) prizes for all sorts of budgets.  

Shown: Apple Watch

Shown: Sony Bluetooth Speaker

6. Help your attendees network and have fun

One of the best ways to get people engaged with your product or service is by letting them network with others. Since they are attending your annual conference, either in person or virtually, they are more than likely already invested in what your company offers in some form. Now help set the stage so they can connect with others who share this same interest. Offer a meet & greet, breakout session or interactive experience so your attendees can network with other event goers. 

By offering a meet & greet, breakout session or interactive experience, your attendees will be able to network with other event-goers. Give out name tags so attendees and your staff won’t be intimidated by having to learn multiple names at once. 

Trivia, scavenger hunts, and other games to engage audience during an annual conference can be a lot of fun. Just make sure they are easy to start and stop, and don’t involve a lot of complex instructions. 

Need virtual audience engagement activities? Zoom offers up to 50 separate breakout rooms so you can help your attendees get to know each other and further network. You can even split the groups yourself or automate the process. Make sure you have a moderator to help keep things moving in a positive direction as well as to help break the ice and ask questions when things get slow. 

7. Have a Marketplace at your event 

Having a marketplace that features product training or additional information on the services you offer is a great way for attendees to take in information at their pace. This is a great hands-on approach that allows them to ask questions, see demonstrations, and more. Plus, it’s also a way to recognize any vendors and partners that you work with. They might also want to give away free customized swag for a memorable impression as well. 

Need digital event engagement ideas? You can still involve your partners and sponsors in your virtual event. From email blasts and prizes to videos, social spaces and more, you can recognize the partners and suppliers that help your company shine in the digital space as well.  

8. Have a charging area

Your event attendees may not need to have a fully charged battery for the sake of your trainings; however, allowing them to stay connected is important. While some attendees may want to be available to their own employees or teams, others may need to be accessible to their families or others in the event of an emergency. Additionally, your event attendees may rely on their notes devices to take notes or pictures and post about their experience throughout your event. By allowing attendees an easy way to charge and recharge their devices, you may set their mind at ease so they can stay focused and connected during your event.  


In addition, if your attendee engagement ideas involve an app they’ll need to download or they want to check out your website to purchase products or services, you definitely don’t want a low battery to slow them down. 

9. Surprise your audience

While you probably can’t beat Oprah’s famous, “You get a car, You get a car, everybody gets a car,” most epic talk show moment ever, you can still delight and surprise your audience with a special announcement, product release, or limited-time promo that’s exclusive just to your attendees. 

Even as we enter 2022, we can expect virtual events to continue due to both the pandemic, and in a lot of cases, the added convenience for attendees. But just because it’s easier, for your attendees—and your company— that doesn’t always make it better or more memorable. The same effort you put into your IRL events should go into how to make your virtual event engaging

When it comes to virtual event engagement ideas, make sure you surprise your attendees with a special offer that is just for those participating in real-time. If your marketing budget allows for it, maybe you surprise them with an exclusive offer or service that has a cash value. 

FOMO, aka fear of missing out, is real, so why not use it to your advantage to increase event engagement activities? After all, everyone wants to know the inside scoop. For major kudos, you might consider letting your event attendees shop a pre-sale before it’s available to the public. When it comes to creative ways to engage conference attendees, giving them exclusive perks is not just a win, but a thank you for their time.  

10. Harness the power of social media. 

Not only is using social media to promote your event important, but it’s also a valuable tool to keep the momentum going throughout and after your event. Make sure your event has a hashtag and offer discounts for following or liking your page. This is a great way to maximize exposure and reinforce or create brand recognition.  

Not only can you use incentives to keep attendees sharing on social media, but you can also leverage any prizes and gifts you’ve already invested to recognize your winners online. In addition to having fun content to share, this can also lead to additional exposure when your recipients' friends and families are able to like and comment on the post. Best of all, when your conference gains traction on social media and your attendees are sharing, you can drop subtle hints about your next event. 

Whether it’s offering a discounted price for guests to register early or just to drop more “sneak peeks,” social media is a great way to keep the conversation going.      

11. Make sure to recognize your employees

Even if your annual conference is for customers, you’ll want to reward and thank your hard-working team who most likely will play a part in making your event a success. Employee engagement event ideas can include incentives and games, paid time off after your event, team-building ideas, and more. Not only will this boost morale at your event but will also foster a great working environment that your attendees are sure to notice.  

No matter how you choose to reward your team, you’ll also want to include something they’ll love using now and well after the event is over. This is why ideas staff engagement events that include customized apparel are such a hit. Not only  can they also be used as their event uniform, but when you invest in brands, like The North Face, Adidas, and Carhartt, your employees will receive a high-quality gift that’s sure to last.

Events for employee engagement whether or not they are combined with your annual conference are a great way to boost morale, encourage teamwork and create a culture you’ll be proud of. 

Shown: The North Face Fleece Jacket

Shown: Adidas Polo

Shown: Carhartt Button Down Shirts

12. Offer reusable tumblers

There are so many reasons to gift reusable tumblers. Not only will this help your attendees stay hydrated but it will help eliminate plastic water bottles from overflowing the trash cans during your event. Plus, it’s a sustainable option that’s a win for everyone. 

While these items may seem like more of an investment on the front end, you can always include your reusable cup in your swag bag. Plus, when you personalize it with your company’s logo, your attendee will be reminded of your event and company for years to come. Reusable tumblers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, brands, and prices. Ask your Gemnote rep how you can get a customized tumbler in your budget. 

13. Host a swag store 

You already know the power customized swag can have for amplifying your brand and increasing brand recognition and loyalty, yet most swag budgets won’t allow you to capitalize on all the cool customizable items your attendees would love. For those customers who want to leave your conference with cool merch, why not offer a swag store so they can purchase additional branded gear? You can also add snacks, drinks, power banks, chargers, notepads, pens and other necessities —or luxuries— to the mix. Throw in the items you gave away as grand prizes and items from your drawings, and everyone can leave feeling like a winner! 

14. Offer photo ops with cool props and backgrounds

A picture really is worth a thousand words. One way you can amp up the fun as well as give your attendees fun content to share online is by hosting a photo station where they can take pics and share online. This is a great way to mark the occasion, and will also make fun content your company can share in a recap video or to market your next event!

In addition to understanding how to how to engage event attendees, it’s also important that you know how to measure event engagement so that you can be sure your overall event strategy is providing the results you want. Whether you invest in additional event engagement tools or offer an event engagement survey followup, marketing your annual conference before, during and after the event is a great way to provide and receive useful information!

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