To make your virtual event stand out from the rest, you need to make it memorable and engaging. To do this, keep your attendees busy and make them active participants as opposed to a passive audience forced to sit through countless presentations! According to Markletic (2020), 49% of marketers said that audience engagement is the biggest contributor to the success of a virtual event.
In this piece, we'll give you our top tips for successful virtual event audience engagement so you can keep your attendees happy, interested and most importantly, tuned into your event.
1. Allow attendees to have their say with live polling
By allowing attendees to vote on certain matters, they'll not only be able to express their opinion but they'll feel valued and that they're surrounded by like-minded people. Plus, real-time polling can be fed back into the content discussion, making the content more relevant, personalised and engaging.
You as the planner will also gain valuable insight into the thoughts and sentiments of your attendees, which is always an extremely useful thing to have when planning content for future virtual events.
2. Encourage active participation with Q&A
Humans are naturally inquisitive, so let them channel this! Make sure your event platform has live chat or Q&A functionality so attendees can ask questions and engage with the content in real-time throughout the sessions. Attendees will feel heard and valued when their questions are answered, plus hearing their name being read out always gives people a kick!
Having a Q&A functionality will also improve your content, as you'll learn what people want to hear about.
Make sure you're active on social media throughout the event too, in case any attendees ask questions or discuss topics from the event on social channels. You could also consider sharing the questions asked at the event on social media, to engage your broader community in the conversation. Like, comment, interact and maintain your presence.
3. Spark conversation with a live feed
Give your attendees the freedom to discuss, debate, ask general questions and interact with each other throughout the event by using a live feed.
Just a heads up, you may need to post a few times yourself to encourage them to join in, but once a few people are posting, confidence levels will grow and you'll soon see a buzzing conversation going on all day. Even if attendees aren't necessarily talking about the sessions themselves, it's a great way to foster new connections and keep the conversation in your event space.
You could also encourage your speakers to start conversations in the live feed; they're the experts and who your attendees came to see in the first place.
4. Offer interactive workshops
Audience engagement is a great way to break up the day for attendees sat at their laptops consuming content. Keep it fresh and battle screen fatigue by mixing it up and organising some interactive virtual workshops. Break your groups into smaller, intimate sessions with speaker hosts discussing and interacting with the attendees around a specific topic of their expertise. Attendees can apply the concepts to real world situations, chat and brainstorm ideas in the more intimate groups, and walk away with practical takeaway skills and knowledge.
Use interactive whiteboard tools, or more creative brainstorming tools to get everyone involved and doing something a little different to break up their day. Again, giving them something unique and more thought-provoking will also give them more to talk about with other attendees during networking or on the live feed. It's a win-win!
5. Send virtual goody bags
This is a good way to get people talking. Sending attendees virtual swag bags with things like extra exclusive content, discounts, offers, free passes, downloadable e-books, the list goes on! If you have the budget and it's feasible logistically, you could even send them a physical goody bag or some treats such as mini-wines and some snacks. Who doesn't love a freebie?
You could even create a competition by sending them a creative challenge, such as building something related to your event out of the materials you send them. You can then ask them to post on social media with their creations and judge the best one for a prize.
6. Gamify their experience with competitions
Competitions are a great way to get people involved, especially when there are prizes up for grabs! You could ask attendees to post their favourite session quote, or their funniest networking moment for example, from which you then choose a winner. Alternatively, you could make it more simple by offering prizes for the most engaged attendees for example, which we recently did at EventLAB Online 2020. Not only is it a fun way to get attendees interacting, but it's also a great incentive for attendees to sign up and stay for the whole event. Plus, if you have sponsors you could ask them to donate the prizes, meaning it won't cost you a thing.
If you have a smaller group, you could physically send attendees a creative challenge, such as building something related to your event out of the materials you send them. You can then ask them to post on social media with their creations and judge the best one for a prize. Get creative!
7. Make time for networking
This is kind of an obvious one, but important nevertheless. You could provide the best content and most amazing speakers in the world, but if you don't provide an outlet for your attendees to discuss, debate and ponder what they've listened to, you're really missing a trick!
Show them you've thought of everything and offer them this outlet by scheduling networking sessions (and/or having a dedicated networking zone) so attendees can interact with like-minded people. Not only will this keep them interested and engaged, but it will also show them you care about them as attendees and want them to make valuable connections, not that you're just trying to get a certain number of attendees through the (virtual) door.
8. Consider running some virtual activities
Depending on the nature of the event, there are many forms this could take. You could have 'Complimentary Drinks' as part of your end-of-day networking session, you could run a cook-along for lunch, or even run a virtual yoga session before the event starts! Browse some options at our Virtual Experiences Marketplace.