Difference Between Passive and Active Engagement at Events - textSectionComponent

Visiting an event is a great way to expose yourself to new things and explore topics in greater depth. You can either approach it from afar, keep yourself to yourself and simply observe, or you can actively interact and engage. Whichever approach you take is often stemmed from how you enjoy learning. Some like to sit in a lecture and be talked to for an hour while writing notes, whereas others prefer workshops where they can gain hands-on experience.

With this in mind, it is important that events can accommodate all attendees. Therefore, offering both passive and active engagement is key to success.

For example, if you were to go to a careers fair, you can interact with those at the event and get a better understanding of what the job entails, or you can simply read the boards and take in the information that way. Alternatively, if you were to attend a concert and the artist were to ask the crowd to join in by either clapping or holding up a torch, for example, this can create a far more immersive and exciting experience for some, but not add much for others.

In this article, we explore what the difference is between passive and active engagement at events and why it is important to accommodate all attendees.

What is Passive Engagement?

Passive engagement is, in its simplest form, having something done to you; for example, sitting through a lecture or watching someone demonstrate.

Passive engagement at events can be articulated by showcasing the product or service. As an example, if you were advertising a drone, a brilliant way to use passive engagement will be to fly it around. By doing this, those walking by will not only be intrigued, but they can also witness how the device works.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Passive Engagement?

As with everything, there are both pros and cons to passive engagement. The method will work for some but not others.


  • Flexibility: as the attendees don’t need to necessarily interact with you, the participation rate is usually higher. If they wish to interact, they can, but if they don’t, they won’t feel pressure to.

    Having the choice can sometimes leave the attendee feeling more comfortable and confident; therefore, they are more likely to approach you.

  • Can be cheaper: as you will not require multiple people to talk and interact with attendees, you can cut costs and hire just one or two.

    To simply present and demonstrate should only take one or two people; therefore this is fewer people to pay and can provide you with more expenditure to spend on other things, such as further advertising through other channels or freebies to hand out at the event.


  • Some may not be enticed: it can be challenging to find the balance between being passive and not dull. If you are not actively reaching out to attendees or getting them to interact, some may just walk right on by.

    As mentioned previously, it is hard to please everyone as people prefer to interact in different manners. To avoid this, ensure the advertising surrounding you is eye-catching; consider tv screens with videos or PowerPoints along with some audio.

  • May not provide enough information: while some find passive engagement an effective way of learning, others don’t. Some will prefer to get hands on with the product or engage by asking questions.

    As mentioned above, to offer enough information, you want to ensure that the advertising surrounding you is punchy and insightful. It should both look aesthetically pleasing whilst also providing the attendees with a sufficient amount of information.

What is Active Engagement?

Active engagement is, in its simplest form, doing something; for example, using the virtual reality headset that is being advertised or playing the latest game to experience it. These methods would be considered as experiential marketing; for more information on this, take a look at our previous article.

Active engagement at events can be articulated by encouraging attendees to get involved. An example would be, if you were hosting an event to launch a new phone, you could have multiple workshops taking place where attendees can get their hands on the phone and test it out.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Active Engagement?


  • Attendees may be more interested: if the attendees can try a product or service, they are likely to be attracted to it more.

    For example, if you walk around a supermarket and they are offering free samples, this is a great way to get shoppers to try before they buy. This also demonstrates confidence in the quality of the product.

  • More interaction with potential customers/clients: by having the chance to interact with attendees, you can have a more personal experience. Having this kind of interaction is beneficial for both the host and the attendee because it can build on a potential new relationship.

    Also, attendees are more likely to engage and get involved if they can have a conversation and try it out themselves.


  • Some might be put off: as stated previously; some simply don’t like being approached or asked to join in, they would prefer to be taught by listening or simply observing (also known as auditory and visual learners).

  • Can cost more than passive methods: as you are required to offer more to the attendees, it can ramp up the costs of the event. Rather than just hosting a lecture, you will also provide workshops or sample products. However, it can be argued that the payoff is worth it.

In conclusion, to run a successful event and appeal to the whole audience, you should offer a mixture of both passive and active engagement. Even though research has found that 65% of millennials are driving the “Experience Economy”, there is still the other 35% that should be considered.

If you would like to get involved in the events industry, why not consider event crew jobs in Liverpool, London or Bristol? Here at Gallowglass, we have been working in the industry for 30 years. From setting up the world’s biggest stage to improving the smooth running of a local garden party, we cover all bases.

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Conor Hourihan

Business Development Manager, Gallowglass Group Posted on 29 Jan 2020
About the author
A Music Production graduate, Conor has spent the last 12 years in customer service roles. Joining Gallowglass initially as a Crewman, his talent for gaining clients' trust and forming lasting relationships, made him a shoo-in for our business development and marketing team. When he's not liaising with clients, Conor is our visuals expert - overseeing video content and imagery for our website, app and new vehicle and uniform branding.
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