There are several big benefits to making your next conference a virtual one, but one concern that our clients have about virtual meetings and events is that attendees will “zone out”. After all, it’s much easier to check email or scroll Facebook if you’re already on the computer and the presenter can’t lock eyes with you.
With more than 20 years of experience helping clients pull off successful virtual events, Worktank has a learned a trick or two to keep attendees engaged. Here are our virtual event management team’s top 9 recommendations to ensure your audience members stay glued to their screens.
Virtual Event Engagement Tools
In addition to the basics – like presenting compelling content that is both timely and targeted, and ensuring your presenters are polished and prepared – there are several engagement tools you can use to keep your audience on the edge of their seats, even if they are miles away.
1. Live Keynotes
Whether in-person or virtual, the keynote is your attendee’s first impression of the event. It sets the tone and, hopefully, builds a sense of excitement. Keynotes should be engaging, inspirational, and they should always be live – even if the rest of your sessions are pre-recorded.
2. Live Polls
Encourage speakers to conduct live polls throughout each session, and display the results in real-time. This not only adds an interactive element to traditionally static presentations, but it keeps attendees tuned in to see the results.
3. Push Notifications
Push notifications, or automated messages, can be used during virtual events to bring back attendees who may have drifted off, or who have simply lost track of time. A simple reminder that the afternoon session is about to start, or that the keynote presentation is now available to replay on-demand, can re-engage your audience.
4. Live Q&A
Just as you would during an in-person event, make sure to leave time at the end of each session for a live question and answer period with the presenter or panel of experts. You can even allow attendees to submit questions throughout the presentation that can be addressed at the end. This way, they don’t have to worry about remembering what they wanted to ask, and can focus on the rest of the presentation.
5. Knowledge Tests
There’s nothing like knowing there will be a test at the end of each session to ensure attendees pay attention. This is an especially great tool for educational events and webinars. The questions don’t even need to be difficult. It’s really more about holding attendees accountable and keeping them on their toes.
Networking is a big part of conferences and events, but it can still be accomplished online, and can often be easier than trying to track down someone in an overcrowded conference hall. Allow attendees to schedule 1:1 video sessions with presenters, and make suggested connections for attendees based on common interests, random matchups or shared event goals.
7. Theme Days
Ever heard of a school hosting crazy socks day? Or maybe jersey day? If your virtual event spans several days, the same theme day premise can be used to keep things fresh and fun for adults. Even if attendees aren’t on video, you can direct them to post photos on the event’s social media page, and offer prizes.
By adding elements from game design and principles of gameplay into a virtual event, gamification has been shown to improve attendee engagement, as well as knowledge retention. For example, attendees could earn badges or points by accomplishing specific tasks throughout the event and compete for prizes, or just the top position on the leaderboard.
People love free stuff, and virtual event attendees are no exception. If you have the budget (and mailing addresses of your attendees), you can ship them the swag bags you would’ve given out at registration. Or, you can send them e-swag. Not just you as the host, but your sponsors and vendors, too, can email attendees exclusive discounts on products, free shipping codes, early access to e-books and more.
More Tips for Hosting an Engaging Virtual Event
There’s a lot that goes into planning a virtual event. In fact, these are just some of the engagement tools we’ve used as a virtual event management company to help our clients succeed. Production quality is another key contributor to an event’s success. You’ll want to pay close attention to lighting and camera angles, and perhaps purchase better cameras and mics – or partner with a company like Worktank who already has the technology and expertise.
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