Before the onset of the pandemic, virtual events were not on many people’s radars. Organizers and sponsors suddenly found themselves with no choice but to take their in-person events to the virtual world, but many ended up struggling to maintain high audience engagement levels.
Many modern event platforms provide basic virtual engagement tools, such as polling, chat, and live Q&A sessions. However, they barely scratch the surface when it comes to building a strong community. Attendees have high expectations, and many are growing fatigued by the amount of time spent in front of the screen. As such, they’re just one click away from leaving the event, especially given the many distractions that come with working from home.
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Fortunately, things don’t have to be this way. Virtual events also offer some unique benefits but, most importantly, they can also help you keep your audiences engaged and prepared for the transition to hybrid events and, ultimately, the return of in-person events. However, to take advantage of this opportunity, organizers and sponsors must focus less on the traditional top-down webinar approach and instead focus on engagement, interactivity, and personalization.
Here are our 15 proven ways to make that happen:
1. Offer Compelling Event Content
The best content isn’t an advertisement, but something that helps solve a problem educates or entertains. Virtual events are no exception to this. However, given the short attention spans of online audiences, it’s best to curate your best and most relevant content and split it into easily consumable chunks. Take a cue from the recommendation engines of Amazon or Netflix to offer personalized suggestions that truly resonate with your attendees.
2. Leverage Quizzes to Hold Attention Spans
Virtual engagement activities can be difficult to get right, which is why it’s important to focus on activities for attendees, rather than doing all the talking yourself. Activities like quizzes offer a great way to keep attendees alert and measure attention levels. They can also provide some useful insights, which you can draw upon to continuously improve your events. One effective method is to use a pop-up feature that appears on the screen to give attendees a few seconds to choose an answer and show they’re participating.
3. Promote Interactive Real-Time Sessions
No one wants to watch an endless stream of webinars, so it’s important to customize your sessions and promote active engagement. For example, you can use real-time polls and surveys to enable attendees to customize their sessions and make them feel like they’re part of the conversation. There should be ample opportunities for them to provide feedback and ask questions of their own during live Q&A questions.
4. Provide Easy Access to On-Demand Content
Every attendee who joins a virtual event does so with their ideas and goals in mind, which makes it important to provide as personalized an experience as possible. A digital library gives your attendees instant access to the content that interests them on demand. This might include pre-recorded sessions from past events, as well as other useful content like tips and guides.
5. Keep Attendees Informed with Push Notifications
Providing multiple ways to communicate is especially important for promoting virtual audience engagement, and there are many opportunities too. Most people keep their mobile devices on them, which is why it makes sense to use a mobile event app that supports push notifications. This allows hosts to instantly communicate important updates and other information, such as event schedules and alerts.
6. Use Gamification to Increase Engagement
Gamification is the use of mechanics traditionally associated with video games in non-game scenarios. This typically involves assigning points, ranks, and badges to attendees based on their participation levels, but you can go even further to organize things like virtual scavenger hunts too. Gamification adds a fun and competitive element to your events, and it’s a proven way to promote higher virtual engagement levels.
7. Setup Dedicated Social Media Channels
To promote your event, as well as encourage networking before, during, and after the event, you should set up dedicated social media channels on all the platforms that are popular with your attendees. For example, you can set up dedicated LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages, or Slack channels based on specific topics covered by your event. This will allow attendees to connect over shared interests long after your event too.
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8. Include Live Keynote Presentations
It is important to offer a mix of live keynotes and pre-recorded sessions. Even if your events offer the best virtual engagement features, attendees probably won’t want to sit through a full conference day consisting solely of live sessions. Always allow time for breaks and networking activities between live sessions, and be sure to record everything. That way, attendees can access recordings on-demand long after the event, including sessions they might have missed.
9. Translate Your Content to Reach More People
If there’s one area where virtual events excel over in-person ones, it’s that their potential reach is practically limitless. However, if your target audience includes non-English speakers, then you will need to make efforts to accommodate them too. Aventi's virtual event platform offers native integration with the Interprefy translation platform to translate closed captions in real-time.
10. Have Breaks in Between Sessions
One of the biggest challenges when hosting a virtual event is combatting screen-time fatigue. That’s why it’s important to allow for breaks between sessions. Virtual breakout rooms should be part of the platform, allowing for team-driven activities, such as mini yoga sessions, trivia contests, standup comedies, or virtual happy hour ideas. Themed events during breakout sessions can also make your events more memorable.
11. Connect Attendees via a Mobile Event App
Aside from leveraging push notifications, a dedicated mobile event app is the key to successful networking. With integrated social media elements, such as instant messaging and live activity feeds, you can start connecting people early. Ideally, attendees should have access to your mobile app as soon as they register, so they can scroll through profiles and reach out to others who share their interests with virtual ice breakers.
12. Present Attendees with Exclusive Gifts
Virtual engagement activities aren’t the only way to earn your attendees’ attention. Presenting them with a little event-related swag can also make the experience more memorable. These high-touch experiences might include giving attendees an inside look into your business via private social media groups. Customized memorabilia and other gifts can also boost virtual event engagement, especially if you encourage attendees to share pictures of themselves enjoying your gifts.
13. Encourage Networking Opportunities
Many people join events for networking and social opportunities, and virtual events should not be any different. Your event platform should facilitate one-to-one conversations, allowing attendees to connect and with subject matter experts in between sessions. Group chats, meetups, and virtual water coolers also provide opportunities for people to get to know each other, as well as promote lasting relationships.
Recommended Resource: Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay, but there is no reason they should not offer a comparable experience to real-world events. Learn how event sponsors and exhibitors can utilize virtual booths to recreate face-to-face interactions with their attendees at virtual and hybrid events.
14. Focus on Smaller Event Groups
It’s much harder to replicate the atmosphere and engagement levels of in-person events with huge numbers of attendees. Smaller event groups allow for more meaningful engagement, so it’s a good idea to focus on relevant audiences rather than headcounts alone. For large events, it’s also best to split activities, such as breakout sessions and workshops, into smaller groups, ideally with specific focus areas.
15. Select the Right Virtual Event Platform
Finally, the most important thing of all is to choose the right platform for hosting, managing, and promoting your event. Many platforms still don’t cater well to virtual and hybrid events, so it’s important to choose an integrated solution that offers all the features we’ve covered above. At the very least, you’ll need a platform that supports private video calls, one-to-one meeting scheduling, and virtual networking between sessions.
Aventri brings your virtual and hybrid events to the next level by providing powerful tools and analytics that drive meaningful engagement across online environments. Request your demo today to see how it works.