7 Ways to Increase Virtual Event Engagement
When taking your event virtual, it can be hard to wrap your mind around how to take the most important parts of your previous in-person engagement experience and successfully move them online. And among the sea of virtual events now prevalent, it can be a challenge to fight fatigue and truly capture your viewers’ attention.
That’s why the number one question we continue to get asked is: “How can I keep a virtual audience engaged?”
Fortunately, we’re living in an age where technology can be adapted to meet the current needs. First, make sure to start with the basics and tackle engagement in each of the main areas of your virtual program:
- Virtual Exhibit Hall
- Virtual Sponsorships
- Virtual Networking
- Virtual Keynote & Breakout Sessions
Additionally, there are a plethora of options beyond the basic polling, Q&A, and networking sessions. Here are a few more of our favorite ways to kick up engagement and take your virtual event to the next level!
- Use Show Graphics
- Integrate Social Media
- Occupy the Second Screen
Keep reading to learn more!
Create a virtual exhibit hall using an interactive online platform. These platforms can create branded “booths” that people click into, where they can then experience a video produced by the exhibitor, have a live Q&A via the chat box feature, or schedule a time to hold a video conference and talk further about their products.
- Click here to learn more about how to create an engaging exhibit hall – from platform functionality and driving traffic to the virtual hall to fostering interactive opportunities with attendees and exhibitors.
Virtual sponsorships can be approached in several different ways depending on the target audience. One way is to treat it like a social media campaign where you can post commercials for your sponsors on the exhibit hall landing page, registration page, or any other area with high user traffic. Or you can take a more interactive approach – creating memorable, shared experiences, sharing valuable and well-produced content, and other opportunities that spark meaningful, business conversations between your sponsors and attendees.
- Learn more about the many ways to virtually engage your sponsors – pre-show, during the event, post-show, and beyond.
Networking is one of the most important piece to factor into the virtual event puzzle, as it's one of the main draws for attending an event. But it’s also one of the most difficult. While your remote attendees won't be running into each other in person at the conference breakfast or at the evening reception, you can still use technology to create those chance or planned encounters. And perhaps facilitate even more organic and strong connections.
Since your virtual audience is more relaxed, and all exploring the virtual environment together, we've found that they are often more open than ever to collaborate and go outside of their comfort zone to meet new people. Combining the functionalities of your distribution platform with the wealth of data that comes with a virtual event, you can truly create valuable and meaningful networking opportunities in new and creative ways.
- Read more about how you can create networking opportunities at your virtual event, along with examples of what we've seen.
Keeping people in front of a computer screen to watch your keynote sessions or take part of a breakout can be another challenging element of an online conference. They key is making these sessions as engaging and interactive as possible.
- Include Participants in the Programming. For your general sessions, pre-select a few individuals to join the speakers on-air to pose a question during a fireside chat or introduce a speaker. Encourage watch parties and highlight a few groups on-air through a zoom feed (this is great for essential industries where viewers can join with co-workers – healthcare, manufacturing, foodservice/retail). During awards, highlight groups of nominees on screen before the big winner is announced, then keep the big winner around for a few words. Don’t forget that pre-recording is an option too. If your viewers submit videos, they’ll stay tuned-in hoping to see themselves on-air.
- Party Favors. In advance of your conference, discuss options with your keynote on how to engage the audience in different ways. One idea is to mail out some props or swag to those who have registered. During the session, have your keynote call out to the virtual audience to pull out their branded notepads and markers, then draw their interpretation of what is being described. You could even have the attendees take pictures of their drawings and upload them to social media with a designated hashtag, which could be circulated throughout the conference. Either way you’ll find they are more likely to remain at their computers and listen through when a physical activity is involved.
- Interactive Discussions. There are online platforms that can set up a panel session via screen share. However, rather than having it look like a standard conference call, a behind the scenes technician can set up the attendee’s screens to show the live streaming panelists side by side at all times, making it feel more like a true panel discussion. Participants can even ask questions real time through a chat room.
- Pre-Conference Submissions. Send out a call to action in advance of the conference and have attendees submit ideas, videos of product demos, or sales pitches. Your speaker can draw for the submissions and talk to each one, tying it into the theme or overall conference messaging. This not only serves as an educational opportunity but is a great way to give your attendees visibility.
Graphics elevate any program, but now you can use them to engage with your audience as well.
- For instance, a ticker scroll at the bottom of the screen, can be used to highlight a few of your most active attendees by name. Or use pop-up graphics to share fun facts or other information throughout the program. The audience won’t want to turn away because they may miss something!
- With fundraisers and galas, use Pay-to-Play. Create a catalog of options participants can purchase that activate something in the program. Pass elements like an animation that plays across the screen or a visual notification about a sponsored dollar amount can be less expensive, where non-passive elements like selecting a song that ends the program or a verbal shout-out from the emcee can be on the higher dollar amount.
- Use a social media curation program to highlight the feed during the “walk-in” loop, or pick your favorite posts and have your emcee show them live on-air for program segues.
- Another option is to have your breakout session presenters pose a task to the viewers and ask them to reply on social with a hashtag – it can be education-based or just cheeky.
- One of our favorites is to encourage viewers to share photos of themselves in teamwear or sharing TikTok videos of their new normal as it relates to their industry. This shows pride in their organization, gets a little self-branding/sponsorship, but also grows your social media engagement.
AKA other browser windows, a cell phone, a tablet, or other distractions competing with your on-screen program. Most participants multi-task with email, working on a project, reading the news, etc, so think of ways you can monopolize their screens.
- Start with some of the suggestion above (using cellphones to bid on items, share social media posts, etc.), and then take it a step farther to the program. Share links to supporting documents or articles via social media, so they’ll open it on their second device to get those extra tidbits of information.
- Encourage them to take notes on what they’re hearing from the speakers and submit for a chance to win. In this case, their second screen would be a Word doc or, if your platform has a notes area, they’d have your event platform full-screen to be able to utilize it.
- Post questions in the chat related to what the speaker is discussing and encourage responses, which again, requires them to have the event platform full-screen to do so.
Don't Forget Post-Event!
While these are all ways to keep engagement going throughout the event, don’t forget about post-event engagement.
- On-demand is a great way to keep them coming back for more. Have a weekly roll out of never-before-seen content, or host monthly networking nights where attendees come back for follow-up chats or topical discussions.
“Networking” and "engagement” have always been very vague words. They are not something on their own, but rather facilitate certain types of interaction. For example: meeting a specific person, establishing a business relationship, selling or prospecting in a B2B environment, learning something new, and so on. If you look at the engagement tools available in a virtual environment with the result in mind, it will be easier to identify which ones should be used and which ones will be most effective.
READY TO TALK VIRTUAL EVENTS?
LAI Live will help you stay connected with layout and design options customized for your most vital content. We are ready to listen, brainstorm, and execute ways to spark engagement at your next virtual event! Reach out to our team today to start talking all things virtual event design and online meeting management.