Impact Series: 5 Reasons to Engage your Audience

Early this August, a crowd gathered at 6:30pm for the second installment of our Creative Impact Series, hosted by Google at their downtown Chicago office.  The view of Chicago's skyline from the 17th floor was the defining backdrop.  Kicking the night off were three amazing speed-round talks by Elizabeth Graettinger, Principal and Founder at Graettinger Cole Impact Consulting; Jeremy Hodges, Chief Officer at Project Art Collective; and Aaron Horowitz, Vice President of Business Development at Vokal.  

Engagement levels were high throughout the evening, with attendees representing a range of industries from advertising and brand marketing, media and communications, consulting, arts and arts education, business development, start-ups, tech, creative, product and service design, music, non-profits, architecture, environmental, social services, and legal.  

Jeremy, Elizabeth, and Aaron each received 10 minutes to offer up their insight on what it takes to successfully measure impact and define metrics in the creative, non-profit arts, and experiential brand space.   All three provided a wide range of personal and professional anecdotes, client and brand case studies, which was a perfect segue into the second half of the evening:

now ... Let the audience do the talking

The goal of this summer's series was to shift the focus away from the challenges involved in designing metrics and toward crafting solutions.  breaking away from the power-point heavy, "i'm telling you what I think you want to hear" panel discussion format, we decided to increase audience participation and agency through a series of collaborative break-out sessions.  

the assignment

working in teams of 3-5, all attendees (audience members, speakers, staff included), worked in teams to address pre-drafted campaigns that ranged in scope and topic from combatting illegal ivory trade through a partnership with new york fashion week, to a national literacy campaign at the d.c. mall, to landscape design alongside highways in detroit.  participants were asked to sit with people they did not already know, with the goal of building relationships and forming more thought-provoking dialogue.  each team received a short brief outlining the scope of their assigned campaign, suggested directions for measuring impact, target demographics and outcomes, and a series of questions to answer:

  1. what is the impact being measured?
  2. how do you define success for this project and/or campaign?
  3. what metrics will you use to measure impact and/or success?
  4. what are your biggest challenges?

involving the audience in the discussion accomplished five key things:

  1. tasked participants with becoming part of a solution and determining the outcome of the evening
  2. assigned a larger portion of responsibility to attendees in crafting and sustaining a dialogue
  3. increased levels of audience engagement, agency, and ownership
  4. provided a space for answering and asking questions as a team
  5. enabled attendees to network in collaborative, organic, and problem-solving environment with peers, colleagues, future mentors, and speakers

To be certain, the most successful point in the evening involved the overwhelming engagement of attendees during the break-out sessions.  It was exciting to see how eager everyone was to jump into teams, working together to identify key metrics that could make each project a success, returning to the larger group with incredibly well defined and inspiring results that appealed to industries ranging from healthcare and fast food to athletics, public transit, landscape design, public art, and conservation.

Our hope moving forward is to expand this conversation within Chicago and to additional cities, including the introduction of an online forum that enables audiences to engage and ideate after and between live events.  this may lead to helping brands internalize their own process for designing measurable impact, working with teams to better identify challenges and collectively craft solutions.