Virtual Event Engagement Tips
Once you have prepared your event content, chosen your platform and booked various event partners (speakers, panelists, entertainers, etc.), the next step is to engage your attendees with virtual event engagement. This is the fun part because you can now invite team members from all over the globe, if you want to!
Many ‘content rich’ virtual events have failed because they did not keep their teams interested and engaged. Engaging your attendees should happen the moment they sign up for your event. Communication is key.
Engagement Tip#1 – Communicate
Once someone has signed up to the event, your first obligation to them is to communicate your offering. This means that you share as much as you can about the event. Start with sharing the unique aspects of the virtual platform. Think about structure and flow when designing the virtual venue, so that they can navigate the layout of the rooms and be able to travel between rooms with ease.
Many participants need to feel familiar with the space in advance of the event, so be mindful of this and have tutorials or demos available if needed. If possible, activate your help button before the event, to support attendees who are struggling and feel lost.
Engagement Tip#2 – Share Your Agenda
Next, share your event agenda as soon as possible, even if it is not entirely complete. This is crucial. Attendees will be more likely to attend an event if they can anticipate the value of the content and potential internal connections. Once they register, providing updates and information is critical; if what you are offering is not interesting enough, they may not attend on the day of the event unless it is mandatory.
Engagement Tip#3 – Roundtables & Breakouts
If you are holding Roundtable Discussions or Breakout Sessions, share the topic(s) and speaker(s) with your attendees well in advance. Roundtables and Breakouts are typically small and fill up quickly so this is a good way of creating a buzz and a sense of urgency.
Engagement Tip#4 – Connection Opportunities
Give your attendees an opportunity to meet your Speakers in advance by sharing the speaker profiles, social media connections, etc. Many Speakers are open to connecting with prospective attendees before the event, as it is beneficial for them to understand who their audience is.
If possible, have a section in your virtual platform that allows attendees to engage with other attendees via chat, networking areas or 1-to-1 meetings. If Jane is a social butterfly and loves meeting new people, providing opportunities for networking is one sure fire way to get her engaged and in attendance at your virtual events.
Connecting and having shared experiences builds comradery and adds value to your event and ensures engagement, as people make new friends with others also interested in the same topics. No one likes a dry meeting, in person or virtual, your agenda should be sprinkled with fun and opportunities to connect with others mixed in amongst the learning, just like sprinkles on your donut!
Engagement Tip#5 – Incentivize!
When designing your Communications and Marketing Plan, include “touch points” to directly engage your attendees. For example, when your attendees sign up for the event, make sure they immediately receive a welcome email that shares a ‘teaser’ or a ‘nugget’ of information about the event that peaks their interest. Incentivizing engagement is also important, so sharing the benefits of attending upfront is imperative.
Engagement Tip#6 – Gamification
If your event spans several days, continued engagement with your audience is vital. Layering in gamification with contests is a popular method. Including a contest with a leaderboard that allows attendees to gather points by engaging with the platform and fellow attendees is very effective. Points can be awarded for sharing on social media, engaging with other attendees, visiting sponsor tables, connecting with speakers, etc. Allow the attendees to collect points by attending more sessions. The chance to win one of several prizes is more appealing, so you might want to plan to have many winners, as opposed to one Grand Prize winner.
Engagement Tip#7 – Branded Swag
Who doesn’t love swag? One excellent way to bridge the gap between virtual and live, is having a branded Swag Bag or Event Box sent to the home of participants filled with a variety of fun items that will be used during the event. Items such as ingredients for customized cocktails, specialized appetizers, materials for group virtual activities, games, and even fuzzy slippers will add something special to the virtual event experience. Not only does this bring three dimensional elements to a two dimensional event, but it creates a tangible and tactile connection that bonds the attendee to your event and sets the tone for the experience. The attendee not only realizes that this event will be filled with surprises and is curious and engaged while attending, but they feel valued and appreciated which is very important.
Engagement Tip#8 – Entertainment & Activities
Adding entertainment and activities during the event is a perfect way to break up the monotony of talking heads. Maybe include a magician to perform an array of magic tricks or invite a caricaturist to document the event in an ongoing customized drawing. For something completely fresh and new, invite a musician to attend the event and write a song about the event. Have attendees add words to the chorus or submit song titles for prizes. Whatever you do just remember that keeping your audience engaged during the event is vital.
For the keeners in the crowd who love games and are a bit competitive, create trivia challenges or game shows that link back to your content. Watching your points add up or your position climbing on a leaderboard will keep audiences engaged; especially if there are prizes involved!
When planning a virtual event, organizers often get so wrapped up in the content and making the technology work, that engagement for the audience is often overlooked. In the end it may not matter how much time and energy was spent on speaker selection and content development if the attendee experience was not part of the plan.
In live events we design a room to have many textures and levels and places for your eye to land. We layer in entertainment and experiences and surprises to keep attendees energized and engaged. This layering and variety is even more crucial in virtual events. In order to have a well-rounded event with engaged participants, you need to give the event texture and include your audience engagement strategy as a core element in the event design. It will be well worth it in the end.
If you enjoyed reading this blog, consider downloading our complete E-Book, Donuts in the Lunchroom that focuses on Engaging Teams Through Virtual Events.
Good luck with your next virtual event!
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