Debunking The Myth of 100% Attendee Participation in Events


“I want 100% of the attendees to participate in this activity!”

It’s a phrase that I hear from meeting planners all the time. They are convinced that the attendee engagement experiences won’t work if only 60% of the people do it.

I have an alternative point of view.

First, understand that there really isn’t any single activity that will get 100% attendee participation:

5 attendee engagement activities that never get 100% participation:

  1. Your Audience Poll: Most of you will achieve 60-85%. The people who don’t participate either are not interested or didn’t get the tech to participate.
  2. Your Scavenger Hunt Game: I recently heard about a game that got 90% participation but most participation rates are much lower. More like 20%-30%.
  3. Your Trivia Game: I have some clients who get 50-70% of attendees. We do have clients that get more – but those are exceptions.
  4. Your Social Media Wall:  The level of participation depends on the audience demographics and the calls to action that the event organizer creates.  Many get about 20-30% participation in a conference or event – without encouraging participation or showing the social screens in large public places. However – the people that are into it are really into it.
  5. Your Mobile Event App: Because it will only be used for a few short days – I have never heard of any event getting 100% of the attendees to download the mobile event app. It’s a huge effort to visit the app store to download, install, and login. I am constantly surprised by the low numbers of usage of these apps.

6 attendee behavior types – and how many you have at your events:

Second, I believe that there are different types of attendees that have different types of preferences in your event. Here is a list that we adapted from the book Groundswell years ago. The list has held up pretty well:

  1. Creators
  2. Critiquers
  3. Collectors
  4. Sharers
  5. Joiners
  6. Inactives

These different attendee types have different needs from technology and your audience engagement experiences:

Creators – This is the person that can take a white piece of paper and make something magical out of it. They represent about 10% of your audience.

Critiquers – These are the people that couldn’t do anything with a white piece of paper. However, they are more than willing to write 40 pages of reasons why the creators creation is really bad.  You have them all around you. They represent about 30% of the audience. (In an event – you can use this skill to your advantage.)

Collectors – These are the people that like to collect a set of something. You know they want all the badges, or to get to all of the stations, etc.  These people are about 25% of your audience.

Sharer – These people prefer to share the ideas of others, rather than come up with their own.

Joiners – These people like to join. Sign up for this, that and the other thing.

Inactives – These people don’t want to get involved. They want to try and hide. They represent about 20% of your attendees.

Now the percentages are just rough estimates – some crowds vary in size. In our experience – if you use these numbers as a guide post – you can increase your outcomes.

Knowing that, if only 10% of the audience willing to create videos and other content, you’re winning!  Even though almost everyone carries an astounding content-creating tool called a smart phone in their pocket, they won’t all want to use it.  Sure, they’d love to see a picture of themselves with their arm around their friend’s shoulder, but 90% won’t go to the effort to create videos.

You can increase your overall participation rate by giving opportunities and rewards for attendees to behave the way they prefer, whether it’s to create, critique, collect, share, or join.

Also, rather than trying to get maximum involvement within a single session or workshop, instead go for layered engagement.  When designing your meeting, we have different types of activities that appeal to these different audience behavior types.  Sprinkle these different kinds of engagement activities throughout your one day or multiple day event.  Eventually you’ll get a higher percentage of your audience participating, just not all at the same time.

So, you’re not going to get every attendee to create, but if you can focus on appealing to these different groups and accepting the percentages won’t reach 100 percent but perhaps 30 or 50 percent, you will succeed.

If you’d like to see how you can create more engaging and interactive content using the wide variety of choices within our SocialPoint Audience Engagement System, feel free to contact us with questions or to discuss your event with one of SocialPoint’s Digital Strategists. We’ll help you generate greater attendee engagement at your events.

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is a thought leader, researcher, speaker and award winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine added Sam to its annual innovators list. Since then, Sam has won awards from Exhibitor Magazine, IBTM World, RSVP MN, International Live Events Association and MPI for innovation in event technology.