Did you know that around 77% of people in business use virtual events and conferences to connect with remote employees and around 78% of businesses use video conferences to hold team meetings? Given these stats, it’s quite clear that virtual events are becoming the new normal. They’re here to stay.
But what point is it holding a virtual event, if it fails to make any impact whatsoever?
The key to holding a virtual event that drives value isattendee engagement. 49% of marketers believe to be the largest contributing factor to running a successful virtual event - but many organizers do not know how to effectively engage their attendees. Indeed, according to Meetings in America, around 91% of people in businesses admitted to daydreaming during meetings while 39% admitted they fell asleep at some point.
Why is engagement such a challenge?
Many organizers think that engagement at virtual events can be solved by simply inviting famous speakers to the event, and having them present or lecture on a given topic - but this is a mistake.
Keep in mind that virtual events can be interactive spaces - where attendees can learn and connect with experts and thought leaders, as well as chat and network with other professionals. The differentiator between a flat event and a memorable one is having active attendees instead of passive participants.
If you’re a business that’s struggling to increase engagement at your virtual events, don’t worry, we’ve put together 9 ways you can make sure your next event is interactive, interesting, and impactful.
1. Define what good engagement means to you and how it can deliver ROI
Boosting engagement at your virtual events can lead to better business outcomes in terms of quality lead generation, increased brand awareness, and much more.
So, before you host a virtual event, set your event goals, and then understand how good engagement can help you meet them. For instance, if one of your goals is to drive leads for your business or that of your sponsors, then encouraging attendees to watch a product demo, or consume marketing material can help you run effective and targeted post-event nurtures.
Or let’s say your goal is to drive awareness around a product launch during the event. You can run a social media contest for your attendees, encouraging them to post about the product and event, for a prize. This should help to boost your reach. Of course, the virtual event platform you choose should have the functionality to link from within your event to social media platforms.
It’s also important to choose a virtual event platform that lets you easily track and view the impact of engagement on your ROI. For instance, begin able to see which session topics had the most engagement, and the questions attendees had at those sessions, can help you plan your post-event marketing strategies and campaign messaging more effectively.
2. Choose a virtual event platform with customization capabilities
Customizing your virtual event with intuitive tools is a parameter you cannot ignore if you’re looking to increase engagement.
A platform that offers a customizable interface, different types of widgets, and interactive tools will allow you to leverage interactivity and participation in creative ways, offering your attendees so much more than a set of speakers on a stage
Don’t get us wrong. Having great speakers is definitely important, but it’s not the solution to engagement in itself. Your platform should have in-built tools to encourage your attendees to ask questions and take part in conversations, such as Q&A or a Chat at the least. Without this, the discussion will be one-sided - and nobody likes that.
Additionally, keep in mind that even the best of us have limited attention spans. Give your attendees a variety of ways to stay engaged at your event. When they want a break from Stages, give them other spaces to connect and interact with others at the event. Customization will enable you to create breakaway rooms for example, and limit the number of attendees per room so that smaller group discussions can take place.
3. Create Polls
One of the best ways to drive engagement from your audience is through the use of polls. It’s also the easiest way to find out what your attendees think of your event, product, and brand
When you are managing a virtual event, you can share different types of polls about the event or about anything specific that happened during the event. The attendees can share their opinions, evaluate the virtual event, and provide feedback if any. Understanding what your audience thinks of your event can help you set up the next event to be bigger and better. For example, if a poll result showed that attendees like a certain track or session topic than others, you can include them in your next virtual event, which will likely increase the engagement for that event.
4. Hire entertainment
Listening to a lecture or a presentation hour after hour can be too reminiscent of sitting in school or university, so schedule in some entertainment to keep things interesting and fun.
For example, at the virtual summit, the organizers of (Almost) HYBRID brought in NYC’s Premiere hip-hop improv team North Coast for a live performance. And North Coast made their performance even more interactive and personalized by asking the audience questions about their favorite parts of the event. Even before the act started, attendees were already reminiscing about the best moments from the event in the Chat.
Afterwards, North Coast delivered a customized improv hip-hop sketch that was pulled from the unique experiences that the attendees had shared.
Just like North Coat, book entertainment acts that will keep your attendees attentive and active. Bringing on comedians, creative videos, sketch artists, and even magicians is sure to keep everyone riveted.
5. Leverage gamification
Gamification refers to the application of mechanics that are traditionally associated with video games in a non-game scenario - such as in a virtual event. Incorporating gamification adds a competitive but fun element to your events, and it’s a proven way to promote higher virtual engagement levels as 59% of organizers use gamification as a way to improve engagement.
For example, for visiting a virtual booth, an attendee can receive some points. After gaining enough points, they can win a prize. You can even have smaller contests at each virtual booth so the attendees have to interact with the sponsors, leading to a win for you, your sponsors, and your attendees.
Or, you could award points based on interaction as well, like taking part in a poll or asking a question. This way, your audience knows they need to pay attention to the session as a poll could come at any moment, as well as listening to the content in order to ask a relevant question.
There are many ways to use gamification strategies to improve engagement in your virtual event but you need to remember to track participation and clearly communicate the rules.
6. Use translators to make your content more accessible
One way to substantially increase engagement is to improve inclusivity and accessibility. One simple way to do this is to have your content translated into different languages. Unless the event was specific to the locality that you’re in, you can assume people from different countries will attend your event, considering the event is online.
If the content is translated, your attendees will feel more comfortable participating. It’s reported that around 65% of non-native English speakers prefer content to be in their native tongue although they are proficient in English.After all, simply translating your website for the United States, China, Germany and Japan can give you access to 50% of worldwide sales potential.
7. Schedule breaks during your virtual events
It’s been proven that planning breaks can increase attentiveness, prevent fatigue and improve motivation. You can use a push notification to inform attendees of breaks, and even encourage them to grab a cup of coffee in the interval, which everyone is sure to appreciate.
8. Use a mobile app
Mobile phones are used 58% more than computers and laptops, which means that when you make your virtual event accessible by mobile, you make it so much easier for your audience to access it quickly, no matter where they are.
Now, we know phones can be a great source of distraction during any virtual conference or meeting, but you can counteract this by making engagement via mobile simple and seamless.
Moreover, mobile apps can offer businesses further insight into their event and brand. Do people interact with sessions differently when they are on mobile for instance? Do they have more conversations with attendees? These are all interesting points to consider.
9. Promote interactive real-time sessions
A lack of real-time conversations ruins the momentum of an event. By introducing opportunities for real-time interaction with your online attendees, you can help develop a sense of community within your event.
Just like how impromptu conversations take place at offline events, you can also help your attendees forge new relationships and connections if you create spaces for real-time socialization. Enabling networking is an important part of this.
With the right platform, you can increase engagement at your virtual event, and make it truly valuable and memorable for everyone involved. Keep in mind the tips mentioned in this piece, and choose a customizable platform that can execute all of them. With a little creativity and customizability, you can create an amazing, engaging virtual event experience that everyone will be talking and writing about for years to come.