<strong>Four Best Practices for Using Chat to Engage Your Event Attendees</strong>
24 Jan 2023 | Jessica F. Lillian | 4 minutes
From texting with family and friends to contacting their in-store shopper about their grocery delivery, most people use digital chat in many forms every day. RainFocus’ new Attendee-to-Attendee Chat feature brings the instant convenience and powerful relationship-building of chat to any event.
A chat tool fosters meaningful one-on-one connections within an in-person crowd of thousands, or from a computer screen across the world. These conversations help your attendees learn more about the people around them, share ideas and industry observations, and find new business partners or collaborators. Ultimately, they derive even more value from their event attendance!
We recently spoke with RainFocus’ Chris Wahlquist, product owner, and Shelly Lee, UX designer, about the importance of chat in engaging attendees. Based on their experience working on Attendee-to-Attendee Chat and their countless conversations with users and other expert stakeholders, here are some of their top recommendations for getting the most out of your attendee chat tool:
Take advantage of options to ensure everything suits your event’s needs. Like the rest of the RainFocus platform, Attendee-to-Attendee Chat is highly configurable. Participation can be required or optional, depending on the organization’s goals, and certain attendee segments can be included or excluded. Some organizations may welcome exhibitors, vendors, and/or booth staff in the chat pool. Others may consider members of these groups more likely to conduct sales-focused conversations that could bother other participants, and thus opt to limit chat sign-up to other attendee segments.
Attendee profiles, an important source of the data that builds connection, may include whichever fields an organization deems most relevant. Consider including both professional fields (e.g. product interests, role) and personal fields such as hobbies. A group of people all interested in running may find each other and even organize an early-morning group run! These meaningful experiences amplify event value.
Encourage profile setup as part of your registration flow. Even the best chat tool won’t benefit attendees if too few people sign up for it. Rather than thinking of networking as an add-on or afterthought, incorporate it early. Getting the most value requires attendees to sign and fill out their profiles before the event. Add the ability to opt in to your standard registration flows, and send followup invitations as needed.
As the event draws closer, remind attendees to start browsing others’ profiles and bookmarking people of interest. By the time they arrive at the event (whether in person or virtually), they will be ready to attend meetings and have plenty of new connections to look forward to meeting.
Keep interactions safe with privacy and moderation options. Many individuals are wary of disclosing personal data or opening themselves up to unwanted sales pitches. Fortunately, a good attendee chat tool should include protective features to ensure conversations remain safe and beneficial. Attendee-to-Attendee Chat allows users to decide how much information about themselves they want to display on their profile. They can also delete profile information or opt out of networking altogether at any point.
Although the vast majority of event attendees will chat responsibly, safeguards against spamming, harassment, or any other unwanted behavior provide reassurance to both attendees and event organizers. Attendee-to-Attendee Chat’s blocking and reporting features make it easy to take action against any problematic users. Event staff can review incident reports and ban participants as needed. Automatic profile content filtering offers an additional protective layer.
Include your in-person attendees, too! RainFocus’ teams have been working on developing more networking features for several years — even before the “great pivot to virtual events” in early 2020. Chatting and networking enhances the experience for both virtual and in-person attendees.
Chance interactions in conference rooms and lunch lines have long been key drivers of valuable connections at events. A tool like Attendee-to-Attendee Chat helps replicate those engagement opportunities for virtual attendees, providing a vital sense of belonging. Even so, in-person attendees can benefit as well, so encourage them to sign up. They may find it useful for continuing a conversation with someone they bumped into, or connecting with someone who asked a memorable question during a session. Speakers may have even opted in to networking, which allows attendees to ask them followup questions or discuss a particular point further.