A guide to create excitement and encourage virtual engagement among event attendees.
Engaging attendees is always a challenge, even at in-person events, but virtual events create new challenges for event planners. Not everything translates well to an online format. Think about the variety you provide in your live events. What are your go-to things? Do you have individual speakers and panel interviews? Do you have visuals and giveaways? Do the same thing online!
The content of your virtual event should be focused on engaging attendees now more than ever. With so many distractions, it’s difficult to obtain their undivided attention. Here are some things to consider when planning your virtual event that could help increase attendee engagement and make your event a hit. Check off the items you feel are realistic and most helpful towards your virtual event goals.
1. Create excitement
Engaging event attendees is all about driving value and giving attendees a reason to tune in. Get them stoked before the event and create anticipation to increase attendance rates and drive the results from the event that you’re looking for.
Send Swag: Get attendees excited by sending them a swag bag ahead of time, full of branded goodies related to the event. Include goodies they’ll enjoy and that will remind them of your event. Are you organizing a virtual film festival? Be sure to send custom hoodies with your cause and event name to your attendees so they can get cozy while they tune in. Are you planning a more interactive virtual event with social sharing features? Include a fun phone case to commemorate the event. This is also a great way to include sponsor messaging and get their name out to your attendees.
Remind them: Keep your event top of mind by posting fun, interactive reminders on your social pages and your website. Make it easy for potential attendees to check out the event details by sharing your event page and offering incentives if others share your content.
Inspire your team: Make sure to have your internal team aligned and on board with you and the plans for the virtual event. Have a team meeting to go over top points and answer any lingering questions your team may have. Give a hype-up speech! Get them excited and you’ll be successful.
Virtual happy hour/meet & greet: Break the ice and make it feel like a real event by hosting a virtual happy hour the evening before the event. Let attendees network and grow excitement for your full online event experience the next day. This brings more elements of an in-person event into the mix, and can get attendees loosened up before diving into the main event the next day.
2. Be mindful of time
Just like at a live event, attendees need breaks. They can’t sit and listen to hours of content, and they likely have more distractions since they are at home (a barking dog, tv in the background, children grabbing at their feet, etc). If you’re hosting a virtual webinar or information session, or if you’ve got impressive inventory in your online auction, it’s important to think about how long you’re asking your attendees to give their attention. Here are a couple items to consider for your virtual event, to stay mindful of time.
Session length: 40 minute sessions to sit on your computer is a long time. In this new world, should you break this down into two 20 minutes sessions? Perhaps you can break up the content with live polling, or prepare smaller sessions that are digestible for your attendees. Keep it simple and engagement will be higher.
Built-in breaks: Allow for a break every so often. Plan for these breaks ahead of time and include them in the agenda so attendees are aware that they can wait to grab another coffee when that time comes. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste, though. Fill the break times with sponsor messaging since not everyone will leave their computer at the same time.
3. Keep them watching
The more fun your attendees have, the more memorable, and ultimately impactful, the event will be. Organize your content in a way that intrigues the viewer and keeps them eager to see what’s next.
Surprise and intrigue: Announce a surprise speaker, offer bonus prizes or entries for social shares- keep them on their toes! Announcing exciting updates right before or even during your online event keeps attendees excited to learn more and stay tuned in throughout.
Encourage attendee participation: Make sure to use a live streaming service with Q&A features to encourage attendee participation. Use live polling to get attendees input and stats during the event, and share the results.
Friendly competition: Hold various contests throughout your online event. This could be as simple as having attendees share a selfie on social media with your branded swag during the event, or having attendees share a pic of their work from home (WFH) setup. The most creative WFH setup wins some branded swag, or a month-long subscription to your service. Establish a hashtag for the event and have attendees use this every time they participate online.
Other tips: behind the scenes
- Assign a moderator: If you’re streaming a live event with live Q&A features, be sure to have a moderator actively answering the live questions from attendees. Make sure to follow up on all questions asked during the virtual event. It can cause frustration if questions aren’t answered.
- Have a good setup: Drive attendee engagement by offering a professional, organized virtual experience. Use LED backdrops, and add variety to your viewership by using different camera angles, backdrops & good lighting. Have different speakers standing up and sitting. These small details add variety to your event and can keep attendees from totally zoning out.
- Top notch content: Transform your content so it triggers emotions: use visuals, music and stories. Since you’re being mindful of time, it’s that much more important to keep things concise. That means share your content simply and holistically. Keep the focus on the high points, and the info that will be most impactful for your attendees.
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