Engagement 101: Setting the Scene

What defines meaningful engagement? It depends heavily on the type of event or experience we are looking at. And it’s not just about the type of event. The best way to get quality engagement depends on “who” the audience is, and “where” they are.

What we consider a “better” audience experience depends on the situation. for example, are we:


– Educating an attentive audience with a keynote speaker

– Motivating solidarity at a team building event, or

– Inspiring expo attendees to communicate with vendors


The path to better engagement could be completely different in each example. So, we need a more in-depth understanding of the audience experience so we can understand how to make it better.


“The word ‘engagement’ doesn’t help us truly understand the audience experience. It’s just a simple conversation starter.”


So how do we define engagement for a specific event or experience? We need to break it down piece by piece.


Engagement 101: The Three Building Blocks



Generally speaking, there are three important variables of engagement that ultimately make up every event or experience – impacting motivation, inspiration and/or education:


The User: Cognitive functioning, mood, cognitive fatigue, motivation, interests, behaviors/habits, personality

The Environment: Distractions, stressors and features

The Content: Messaging, format (video, keynote, hands-on/interactive), overall experience organization and flow


These three factors can work together to create a seamless, impactful experience. Or, if one is overlooked, we can easily fail to make a lasting impact.


The User

Given the busy lives we live and the many cognitive challenges we face every day, we have good reason to think about the mindset of the audience as something that requires our attention.

When our people are unmotivated, uninspired and discouraged, it appears that very little can be done bring them back to life. In other words, quality engagement depends on the psychological state of each person.

It’s not enough to make an experience memorable and influential by designing an environment, we need to offer material tailored to the moods, interests and backgrounds of the audience.


What Happens When It Goes Wrong? An attendee of a large sales conference is mentally fatigued after working too late and the bustling event environment is triggering sensory overload. Exhausted, cognitive functioning is at a low and he/she doesn’t care about the experiential environment, nor the great content if offers. An uninspired user is not motivated to learn or interact with others.

The Environment

An environment that is filled with distractions – like noise, light shows and displays – will prevent attendees from having meaningful interactions with vendors and understanding valuable information. Great content stimulates focus, encourages conversation and boosts an experience overall.


What Happens When It Goes Wrong? When the environment is poor, the audience suffers. Lasers that reflect beams of light from the walls and pulsating heavy beats seemed like a great idea to capture the attention of an audience. Instead, attention is divided. One person feels stressed by the loud tunes, and another is imagining that the laser show is actually an epic lightsaber battle. Overall, the environment takes away from the experience.


What and how content is delivered will determine if the event is yawn-inducing or yawn-reducing.

Authentically present material that’s relevant and meaningful to maximize levels of motivation and attention, while also heightening a person’s ability to process information. Significantly increase the rate of attention and retention by presenting content that’s consistent to the event’s objectives.

What Happens When It Goes Wrong? If content falls short, more interesting information pulls audience attention. Bored attendees are more interested in engaging friends on social media, talking with peers, or doing work than engaging with event content. For internal business events, uninspiring content can cause messages from the top of the organization to be misunderstood and improperly implemented across different teams and regions of employees. When content falls short it is easily forgotten and does not inspire action.

The Key Elements of Engagement: The User, Environment, and Content

When we break it down, it’s easy to see that better “engagement” is different for everyone. The results of every experience depend on its users, environment, and content. These three core factors create an engaging or disengaging experience and we need to think about each of them separately to start optimizing our experiences for the better.

To go even more in depth into “engagement” check out our blog post on “The Seven Principles Of Neuroscaping”, which discusses the different cognitive factors that can make or break an experience.