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Choosing the Right Tools to Boost Audience Engagement and Retention

Published on
May 16, 2023

Engaging with your audience during a live event isn’t just expected, it’s essential. But you already know that. However, you might not know exactly what works, what’s overkill, how much you should spend, and what corners you can cut? It reminds me of my recent renovation fail.

During the pandemic it felt like the right time to get to a couple of home improvement projects. My wife and I set out to retile our guest bathroom. So, we ran to the big box home improvement store, filled our cart with supplies, and raced home to ultimately ruin a perfectly good bathroom. It wasn’t that we didn’t buy all the right tools for the job. We just didn’t learn how to use them properly. After a lot of flailing, trial and error, and lots of wasted tile, we eventually surrendered and brought in an expert. In hindsight, the project cost us twice the amount it should.

Bottom line, just like my bathroom project, running a critical event is a big job and while we might have this image of a perfect event in our minds, execution is a whole different ball game.

We may think that having all the right tools and latest gimmicks is going to produce a compelling event, but if we are not using them correctly then it will seemed forced and will actually have the opposite effect.

With so many options out there, choosing the right engagement tools for your critical event can be daunting. However, with a little work and proper implementation, crowd interactions and engagement tools will not only elevate a program, but the audience will also truly lean in, get involved, and ultimately learn more on the journey. Any opportunity to gain a little edge to boost retention and heighten the experience should be taken.

Picking Your Engagement Tools

Quick Poll: Choose your favorite engagement tool:

  1. Polling
  2. Live Q&A
  3. Gamification
  4. Event Invitation
  5. Script/Content

I bet not many chose 4, event invitation.

But, if you consider that the totality of any program, from the initial invite all the way through to the end of the program as the “engagement,” then every element should be resolute.

Did the invite stand out? Was it just words in the body of an email? Or a well-produced graphic that was clear on what the event promises and what to expect? Better still, did the invite include a teaser video to stand out from the white noise?

The point being is that engagement begins early and quality matters with every detail. How well a live event, broadcast, hybrid meeting, or virtual program is produced makes a huge difference to the audience, and it starts well before your hosts and speakers arrive on location.

During the planning phase of any program there will be hundreds of decisions being made. Some will be more critical than others, but they all need to be on point and true to the whole project.

Ask yourself this. What is this event about: education or collaboration? Are you just trying to educate your audience, or do you desperately need their feedback?

Certain virtual engagement tools are designed for different outcomes. What do you care about?

Let’s take a closer look at many of the tools that are being used today. Many, if not all, will be familiar. But they are worth highlighting.


Polling is the easiest way to quickly get your audience involved in a program and gauge who they are and what they know. For best results, ensure your polling questions are purposefully thought out and are integrated into the content.

Also, keep questions and possible responses bite size. We want everyone to participate, so avoid polls that read like data dumps as opposed to well thought out insights.

A man's hand holding a phone. On the phone's screen, it says "Survey" with a sample question from a customer satisfaction survey.


A live Q&A session is the best way to see what is truly on the audience’s mind. Audiences want to learn and they want to be heard. So, questions can be a great way to reveal what topics may need more attention or clarification. By dispersing smaller Q&A segments throughout a program and not waiting until the end, you give yourself the advantage to course correct and make the best use of the time you have with the attendees.


No matter what form of gamification is employed, make it simple and fun. Overly complicated and difficult games can be more frustrating than useful. Sales teams are competitive by nature, and love games. Consider games that require teams to work together. It’s not only great for learning, it doubles as a team-building exercise.

Word Clouds

Word clouds are a composite of words displayed on screen in various sizes. The sizes vary based on frequency of submission. It’s a quick visualization of key words or topics that stand out to your audience.


Leaderboards can be used in conjunction with polling, gamification, and trivia tools. Further, pre-event engagement can be used to connect with attendees, to not only remind them of the date of the event, but gain insights into their knowledge base before the event.

Other Considerations

Now other forms of engagement such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality, the Metaverse, and holograms are being used too. But currently they are expensive, somewhat clunky, and not always a value add. That will change in the near future and their use will become more seamless. Just not today.

Also, inclusive participation has to become more than just a desire for your next broadcast, webcast, hybrid meeting, or live event. You must really plan out its implantation and ensure it is integrated into the content in a cohesive and purposeful way.

One last note. My wife now wants to do the kitchen. While we have learned a bunch, we now know our limits. We both agree on the overall vision of how it should look, but we also know enough to realize that we can’t pull this off on our own. Perhaps consider hiring an expert for your next event.

We also decided to stop watching every episode of This Old House.

About The Inception Company

The Inception Company ( is a leading technology-driven production company that builds and supports hybrid and virtual engagements since 2005. The Inception Company’s key offering Pando™ Meetings is the only hybrid and virtual platform with a fully integrated production studio. Its built-in 40 ft interactive video wall simulates the experience of a live meeting in a virtual setting so clients can focus on storytelling and engaging their audience from anywhere. The Company, headquartered in Fairfield, NJ delivers scalable meeting platforms, broadcast, video production, and meeting services solutions customized to all client needs.

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