There’s more to a great event than memorable speakers and a beautiful venue. And, what if you take away the venue? These days, virtual events are not only sometimes necessary, they are even becoming the norm.
So how can you boost engagement at a virtual event? How can you ensure that your participants come away inspired and engaged?
We’ve compiled a list of the nine easiest ways you can drive high guest engagement at your next virtual event.
1. Clarify what good engagement means to you and how it can help you get ROI
It goes without saying that good engagement can lead to better business outcomes.
But have you thought about how guest engagement can help you meet your specific goals?
Maybe you want to increase your brand awareness or boost your lead generation?
Perhaps you want to educate your audience on the benefits of a product or service you offer.
Whether it’s to gain new customers or to make some noise to attract business start up funding, decide on your goals before you host your event and think about ways you can tailor your engagement to drive action towards your goals.
If, for example, your goal is to drive product awareness, you could run a social media competition for your attendees where you encourage them to post about the event for a chance of winning a prize.
2. Select a virtual event platform that allows for customisation
Think about how you envisage your event panning out. Will everything be live-streamed or will some segments be pre-recorded? Will attendees be able to speak, ask questions, or join in interactive games?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a platform for your event, as long as you keep it engaging. Before you decide on a hosting platform, it’s a good idea to sit with your team and consider the format of your event. There are plenty of hosting platforms that offer a Zoom alternative. You should aim to use a platform that fully supports the format you are planning.
3. Create polls to learn about your attendees
What is the quickest way to find out what your virtual audience thinks of your event, product, and brand?
Creating polls, of course!
One of the most effective ways to boost virtual guest engagement is by using polls. Your attendees can provide their opinions of your event and provide feedback if they have any. But as well as the obvious, creating polls can also offer a valuable way for you to maintain engagement with your guests after the virtual event is over.
Let’s say you run a HR company and you want to start delivering useful content to your guests regularly. Whether it’s about resources for remote teams or leadership or helpful information and articles on communication in the workplace, you can use polls to find out what kind of information your guests will find helpful.
The more you know about your guests, the more you can tailor your engagement to keep them interested in your brand.
4. Keep it audience friendly
Screen fatigue is a real thing, and the last thing you want is your guests “zoning out” or even switching their camera off because they’re tired or bored.
If you want to keep your attendees engaged, you need to focus your event on the interests and needs of the audience. An effective way to do this is to plan segments of your agenda that put your guests in the driving seat. That could be making time for audience questions or asking people to collaborate in practical workshops. Offering networking time is also a powerful way of making your guests feel important and valued.
Remember that virtual events cannot exist without your guests. Also bear in mind that it’s easy for them to log out at any time. Your guests have joined your event because they believe it will be beneficial to them, so make it that way.
5. Plan relatable content
Good content is the foundation of any successful event, but it must be content that your attendees can relate to.
Imagine speaking for an hour on a topic to 300 people who do not need (or want) to know about it.
The talk would be boring, at best!
It doesn’t matter how well you or your speakers know your subject matter. It doesn’t matter how many facts and figures you spill out to your audience. Your content will have zero impact if your guests can not relate to what you are saying and there is no value for them in the information.
Work with your speakers to ensure the content is insightful, actionable and tailored to the needs of the customer. This kind of customer-focused communication can also take place before and after your event by texting your guests useful content that will encourage them to stay engaged and take action.
6. Excite your guests with entertainment, gamification, and more
There is no easier way to keep your guests engaged than to build their anticipation and excitement.
While planning your virtual event, think about ways you can excite and intrigue your guests. What are their current challenges? What can you offer as a solution? What are ways you can make your event fun and engaging?
Excitement creates powerful emotions that powers inspiration and action. It’s a basic psychological principle—the more you get your guests buzzing, the more they will want to interact at your event.
An awards or recognition program is an excellent way to excite your guests by putting the spotlight on the attendees and their achievements. (Get tips on how to run a successful virtual awards program.)
7. Arrange breaks throughout the virtual event
Physical events usually have a few set breaks with a built-in lunch or snack time included for extra networking. Don’t forget these much-needed pauses in your event.
While it’s impossible to get your virtual guests chatting around the sandwich station (technology isn’t that far advanced just yet!), you can ensure they have regular breaks away from the screen.
As we mentioned earlier, real-world distractions don’t disappear during virtual events so it’s important to keep your audience’s attention by giving them the breaks they need. You can always play a slideshow or a small video during the break that subtly promotes your brand and products.
8. Pick a good time
This may sound glaringly obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of people who host virtual events at inconvenient times.
Granted, you may have to cater for virtual guests in different time zones. But either way, it’s importantant to appeal to the majority of your guests. You also need to be mindful of working hours and inconvenient times such as weekends or late nights.
Don’t panic—thanks to the power of technology, there are enough channels of communication to find a time to suit all of your attendees. Also, consider offering a recording of the virtual event to any attendees outside the time zone or who may wish to watch at a more convenient time.
Of course, to encourage as much live engagement as possible, you will want to decide on an event time that is appropriate for the majority of your guests. Then, send a reminder to notify them before the event. This reminder will be important!
9. Provide networking opportunities
Last but certainly not least, be sure to provide networking opportunities for your event attendees. For example, you could break up the participants in small groups where they introduce themselves and their company, product or brand. You could also provide opportunities for one-on-one chat opportunities for those interested in specific attendees. (But make sure all parties are amenable.)
Let attendees know in advance there will be networking opportunities so they can have virtual business cards, LinkedIn profile links and other shareable information ready and updated for interested parties.
A successful and engaging virtual event
Just because your event is virtual doesn’t mean you have to miss out on an exciting, engaging event. With the right tools and planning, you can boost engagement at your virtual event and bring significant advantages to your business.
How well you plan and execute on your virtual event will turn your next virtual event from mediocre to memorable!