It's no secret that digital (formally virtual) events have recently taken over from many traditional in-person events. Hosting a successful virtual event takes a different kind of planning. One question on the top of the event manager's mind is, "How can I keep my virtual attendees engaged?"
It's certainly more manageable when you have a large group of people in the same place. Networking happens organically. Plus, people are drawn to music or laughter and find entertainment opportunities easily.
If you want to sponsor a successful virtual event, increasing engagement is a must. Use these nine tips to ensure that your virtual event is the one people will remember.
Conduct a Pre-Event Poll
You can start getting attendees involved even before your event formally starts. Conduct a pre-event poll to understand how they heard about the event. Also, be sure to include some questions that will help you create an even better experience for attendees. You may find unique digital event ideas to address their feedback. You can ask things such as:
- Which social platforms do you use most often? Your analytics will let you know where to promote your event.
- How interested are you in . . .? Ask the attendees to rank different factors such as the topics covered in the sessions, networking, and talking to vendors. You could gauge their interest in the issues you're discussing to give you some insight into which sessions might have the high numbers of attendees.
- How easy was it to access information about the event? If there is an opportunity to respond to this type of feedback before the event, it can be constructive. Easy access to events and information is crucial because people don't want to spend personal time digging through useless information. The easier the accessibility, the happier the attendee.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you'll need to respond to the feedback you receive.
Encourage Presenters to Prepare for the Virtual Sessions
Speakers accustomed to presenting to a room full of people need to change their presentation approach to keep attendees at a digital event engaged. Here are some of the issues you'll want them to consider:
- Lighting and camera placement. The presenter's face should be well lit to avoid having them look like the allusion of an apparition. A camera set at eye level will help the audience make virtual eye contact.
- Background. Minimize background distractions to help the virtual audience maintain focus on the presenter.
- Body language. It's challenging to pay attention to a talking head. While the camera should be at eye level, an angle that lets the presenter use their hands, as this audience will find this to be a more natural and inviting look.
- Use visuals to good effect. Encourage presenters not to read from a set of slides but encourage them to use graphics to expand or go more in-depth on their topic.
- Look at the camera, not the monitor. Eye contact is still critical, even in a virtual setting. Presenters shouldn't look at their monitor but focus on their camera.
Consider Shortening Session Length
It's far more challenging to hold the audience's attention when they aren't seeing the presenter in person. The hour-long presentation that makes sense in a face-to-face event may seem unusually long for a virtual attendee. Besides that, the presenter must maintain a good level of enthusiasm that wanes without in-person feedback. Consider reducing the length of the sessions at your event by 15 to 30 minutes. Keeping a session short is always better than losing attendees who will leave if it goes too long. And plan to include pauses in the session to make sure the audience is engaged and understands the material.
Encourage Questions Throughout Sessions
Some presenters traditionally ask their audience to hold their questions until the end of the formal presentation. Waiting until the end of the session can have some merit, but it's easier for the attendees to lose concentration in a virtual environment. Setting up a moderated chat other than the speaker can keep the audience more motivated. The moderator can ask the presenter questions if they come in a natural place in the presentation. For example, if a question comes in after the presenter has changed topics, the moderator can hold the question until the end.
Schedule Live Q&As
Nothing will keep your attendees engaged more than the chance to participate and get their questions answered. Some presenters like to have a live Q&A session at the end of their presentations. But, sometimes, attendees don't have questions until they've had a chance to think about what they've heard. It may not be reasonable to have a separate Q&A for every session, but scheduling one on a broader topic that covers several sessions is an excellent way to let people participate.
Consider Priming and Synthesis Sessions
Providing context for event attendees is always a good idea. But, again, the concept of priming and synthesis sessions can help. At the start of each day, schedule a short session hosted by a knowledgeable organizer or expert to point out the relationship between the day's sessions and the event's theme. Next, schedule a challenge session where you encourage attendees to share their experiences and how they plan to take action based on the day's information.
Use Mobile Apps
Attendees aren't always sitting in front of a computer; they're on their cell phones or tablets. Creating a mobile app for attendees will keep them involved because they can view interactive floor plans, search for exhibitors, take notes, participate in games, and more.
Take Advantage of Chat Rooms
Chat rooms promote engagement. You can set up chat rooms on specific hot topics while having a moderator or subject matter expert manage the interaction. You can also use chat rooms to help vendors talk in more depth to interested prospects.
Use a Tool that Drives Engagement at Virtual Events
An all-inclusive virtual event management tool like VEM™ from eShow will let you manage the entire event experience. It's a tool that drives engagement by offering virtual exhibits, video chats, interactive polls, chat tools that promote two-way communication among attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors, and much more.
How Can You Increase Engagement at Virtual Events?
It is possible to promote engagement at a virtual event! As technology evolves to adapt to these new landscapes, it is becoming easier to achieve your goal for any virtual event. eShow applies its 25 years of collective experience in the event industry to continuously developed professional solutions and web-based tools to help you manage any size event from start to finish.
eShow's Virtual Event Management platform gives you the tools you need to increase engagement and to manage your virtual event in one place, regardless of its size.