How to Engage Attendees in Virtual Events

As our favorite annual tradeshows, conferences, and other events get postponed, and inevitably moved to a virtual setting, there’s a lot to adapt for hosts and attendees alike. Acknowledging that virtual events are tricky is an understatement. More specifically, engaging with attendees at virtual events can prove to be a challenge. Here are some tips to make sure your event is a hit:

Break the ice before the event

Reaching out to attendees before the actual event is crucial. Outlining an agenda in advance will allow attendees get to know you, prepare questions, encourage friends and colleagues to sign up, and most importantly: get excited. Additionally, reaching out to attendees can spark a conversation to give you a better feel for what attendees are expecting from your event and even give you the ability to cater your content accordingly. In a virtual setting, feeling acknowledged as an attendee is difficult, so reaching out early on is essential. A great way to reach out to attendees is through an email campaign.

Assure production value

In virtual events, nothing is more frustrating than technology issues. Making sure your technology is prepared is a first step, but going the extra mile to assure high-quality production is important to truly be successful in engaging your audience.

Put a face and name to the voice

For many webinars and other virtual events, attendees stare blankly at a slide deck while hearing a presentation from a voice they’ll never get the chance to associate with a face, and maybe even to a name. To truly engage your attendees, it’s vital to humanize the presentation by having every speaker and presenter introduce themselves. Another good way to sort of normalize and humanize the entire event is by having two screen presentation options—the first being just the slide deck, and the second being a live stream of the presenter speaking with the slide deck. This is a simple way to bring the presentation to life and add to a sense of normalcy.

Push notifications

A great way to boost engagement is to send out push notifications to attendees. In-person events typically utilize push notifications to alert attendees when a workshop is about to start, when food is available, and more. In a virtual space, however, push notifications also serve a valuable purpose. Content of these push notifications can include fun facts, resources, reminders, and more.

Leverage the power of social media

Similar to push notifications, social media is a great way to make announcements, share fun facts, and more. Typically, events will take advantage of hashtags and other aspects of social media that allow them to really segment a target audience and the event attendees. Moreso in a virtual setting, however, social media is a great place to share moments, interact with attendees, and more.

Enable messaging

Nearly every virtual event platform offers a messaging feature—take advantage of that! This is a great way to open conversation between attendees, allow them to ask questions throughout the event without interruptions, and more.

Keep it short or segmented

The attention span of an adult is already tested in many in-person events. We’ve all been there—trying to keep our eyes open during an hours-long presentation where the speaker is just as uninterested as the audience. Virtual events decrease that attention span significantly—so make sure your event is short, or at the very least make sure that you segment the event to allow for breaks and get the attention of your audience in smaller time frames. And you may ask yourself…  what do you do during those breaks?

Provide entertainment value

Segmenting your event allows for you to provide non-related entertainment value in small increments. During the breaks you could have a DJ or some other form of talent if not for the entertainment value, then to get people talking.

Incentivize through swag, gift cards, etc.

Similar to in-person events, you will want to engage attendees and increase participation by providing swag, gift cards, and other incentives.

Get feedback

Of course, the last way to engage attendees is through feedback after your event. Moving forward, this feedback will be especially valuable. Let’s face it—events may be online for a while, if not permanently. Getting, accepting, taking and evaluating feedback is the best way to possibly improve virtual events for the future.

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