How to Use SMS for Live Events and Conferences

Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera  |  June 11, 2019

Live events and major conferences are a great place to engage with clients, prospects, and anyone relevant to your business, but it can be hard to find time and space to connect and engage. 

SMS technology can make live events and conferences more engaging for attendees and make the overall experience more personalized and accessible. 

How to use SMS to boost audience engagement at live events 

The following ways for integrating SMS technology into your event planning strategy will create a more engaging experience at your next company event or conference! 

Use SMS as a virtual information booth

SMS can be an extremely helpful tool to engage and aid on several fronts during events and conferences. With a large amount of attendees navigating a large-scale event, it can be difficult to get around, find the bathrooms, or even get basic information like the WiFi login.

Usually, this type of information is provided by the conference staff who use floor space to set up an information booth, and participants often have to wait in line to get their questions answered.

SMS keywords and short codes can speed up the process and get event attendees settled faster. If you have a remote information staff ready to respond questions via text, you will avoid a large accumulation of people around a specific area, freeing up floor space where an additional vendor or partner can set up.

These type of solutions are already being implemented with great success in malls and other large areas where big crowds gather and are in need of basic information or access to a concierge type of service.  

TIP: Read about the hottest SMS marketing statistics of 2019! 

Read more: SMS Marketing Statistics →

Allow the audience to answer a speaker’s question in real time

During expositions and presentations, speakers often try to interact with the crowd. The best presenters keep a crowd engaged, and one way to do this is by making it easy for the audience to participate. Using SMS, speakers can ignite a conversation and make their presentation more interactive.

Attendees can answer a question proposed by the speaker through SMS. This not only engages participants and makes them part of the event experience, but their aggregated responses provide data for the speaker to share and start a conversation during their exposition. 

Have attendees text in their questions during the talk

It is common practice to leave a period of time for Q&A at the end of a session or presentation, but Q&A can be inefficient. People are scrambling for microphones, staff members are running around the room trying to coordinate, and often, attendees have a hard time articulating their questions in a concise way.

SMS can make the Q&A experience better. Attendees can text their question in during the talk. The speaker or moderator can monitor the incoming questions and address the most common questions or the most interesting ones. Additionally, the use of SMS for questions is a more inclusive way to have attendees engage as many of them may not feel comfortable speaking in public into a microphone, but may still have a relevant question or comment. 

Give attendees a piece of the stage

Texting can also be a great way to give all participants, and not just the speakers, a piece of the stage. Via SMS, individuals can text comments or show support, which can be displayed around the event venue on screens displaying a carousel with messages texted in from attendees. This is a great way to generate debate. You can even build a campaign asking attendees to text in selfies and display pictures of them enjoying the conference or reception.

Some SMS platforms designed for live events have features like a live map display that’s linked to the participants to text in. Advocacy organizations often ask event attendees to write to their elected officials, which are based off of their home address. In the image below, UNICEF displayed a map showing where each of their advocates were from. This generates a sense of community and make attendees realize they are part of a whole.  

UNICEF map and conference

Go directly to attendees' phones without an app

Many of the applications for SMS  can be done with a custom-made app for a conference. Many events encourage their attendees to download their app and have them interact in it. But downloading an app is costly in time and storage. In general, people are less likely to do it. The bonus is SMS is already installed on their phones.

Furthermore, SMS keywords and short codes are a great way to capture individuals’ information. Attendees can text a keyword to an SMS short code, which triggers an auto reply with a link to a web form or an SMS chatbot. This type of interaction can serve several purposes, but one that is incredibly useful is the distribution of conference material. 

Related: See how to use chatbots for marketing and consider implementing them into your strategy!  

Having on-demand distribution of presentation slides, articles and other relevant documents of interest via SMS is a more efficient and environmentally friendly option to traditional print-out distribution. Additionally, it makes it easier for attendees to gain access to these files, more so now that the individuals make wide use of their laptops, tables and phones. 

Send SMS alerts when session times or rooms change

Staying on schedule at an event or conference is crucial. Speakers may only come to the event for the set times they are presenting, contracts with vendors may be strict, and the space is only rented out for so long. To stay on track, you need to manage large crowds and mobilize them when appropriate. 

By having attendees subscribe to your event’s SMS alerts, you can directly communicate and broadcast when a session is starting, when a break is ending, and broadcast changes to the day’s schedule at a moment's notice. This allows your event to run smoothly even when unexpected things occur. 

TIP: View the grid below to learn more about the top-performing SMS software solutions!
 
Still hungry for information? Read our guide on SMS marketing to learn more today! 
Diego Rivera
Author

Diego Rivera

Diego is an academic economist, a professor at American University and a Tech Start-Up Research and Marketing Consultant at Phone2Action. He has served as a consultant at the World Bank Group and as an adviser for Chilean politicians. He is passionate about the Shared Economy, CivicTech and GovTech. In his free time, Diego plays soccer and loves to travel.