The outbreak of Covid-19 resulted in a substantial shift in the organization of social events. In-person events came to a standstill, and virtual events proved to be a blessing in a world mired in lockdowns.
With the pivot to remote working, people have now adjusted to this new normal, and long-distance travel for a conference or meeting may be less appealing. Moreover, virtual events are often more accessible, inclusive and cost-effective. Companies have been able to get a higher return on investment with lower costs and better reach. In fact, 86% of B2B companies see an increased ROI on their hybrid events within seven months.
Still, virtual events face a similar challenge as in-person events: attendee engagement.
Engagement is critical for the success of any event.
Successful event planning necessitates the best possible use of technology. However, while technology implementation appears to be straightforward in theory, it is riddled with numerous problems and challenges. Getting the platform to work the way you envision is the biggest challenge and then the content must be strong enough to keep the attendees engaged. Otherwise, they may quietly wander off into another tab on their window or even leave your event altogether.
According to a Bizzabo report (download required), attendees are twice as likely to rate virtual events as boring compared to in-person events, and more than a quarter of attendees watch only 20% of the online session.
Even with so many options for increasing engagement, the difficulty of getting individuals to participate remains crucial. Attendees are beginning to develop online fatigue after participating in only virtual events over the past couple of years. The emphasis should be on tailoring engagement tools to attendees’ interests. But before we dive into how you can drive a successful virtual event, let’s look at a few other challenges virtual events face:
Uncertainty About ROI
Many event planners have a difficult time persuading their clients and partners to invest in online events. Not all businesses are inclined to set aside funds for virtual events. Tying the ROI to spend and event metrics is crucial. Clear objectives and rewards can not only help persuade but will also help you advance your content strategy and marketing.
Lack Of A Content Strategy
One of the most significant issues for virtual events is the lack of relevant content. With an audience’s limited attention span, businesses must stay on top of the content strategy. The topic must be relevant to the attendee’s everyday life to keep them engaged.
Inadequate Technology Expertise And Assistance
Virtual events come with their own tech stack and tools, many of which aren’t as easy to learn. A lack of technical skills and support is one of the biggest reasons attendees may not get the best experience from the virtual event.
How do you design virtual event engagement that generates traction?
Despite all the problems, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to make your virtual events engaging and interactive.
Conversations, Not Monologues
To help ensure engagement at your event doesn’t nosedive, encourage attendees to speak up and share their opinion through in-event polls, quizzes and chat Q&As.
Breaks And Entertainment
If sessions last beyond an hour or so, give your audience a short break. Design networking opportunities between sessions using breakout rooms or by leveraging interest-based networking options.
While content remains king (or queen if you will), do not underestimate the role of powerful visual design in impactful storytelling. Design should not be an afterthought, but a key component of the event experience. Virtual venue designs and branding can help companies extend the experience of an in-person event to the virtual space.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls
Keeping best practices in mind is great, but make sure you avoid the following pitfalls, too:
• Do not organize a virtual event without a plan (including time management and a solid content strategy). Holding the session without a rehearsal is not a smart move.
• Do not pack too much content in. This reduces the time available for fun and engaging exercises in between. Design opportunities for attendees to connect with one another.
• Choose a platform that can help you with multiple use cases. Choosing the wrong platform can be a big mistake in spent dollars and lost time. Be careful to choose a virtual platform that will be easy to use on most devices and allows for branded and customizable experiences.
These practices can help you execute a best-in-class virtual event and deliver the maximum return on investment for your marketing dollars. In-person events are slowly making a comeback, but they will coexist with virtual events for the foreseeable future.