Virtual events have become a staple of the business world because they give attendees access to a world of new information, education, and networks of people and businesses.
However, it can be hard for attendees to get the full value of a virtual event when there are many distractions (enter your kids, the cat and social media). In this article, we’re going to be running through the hows and whys of keeping people engaged along with some tips and tricks to help you keep your attendees actually attending your events!
These days it can be hard to stay focussed while doing any task, there's always a beep, a buzz or an alert trying to grab your attention. Being online puts you in a virtual battlefield with everybody fighting for your attention - if you're not careful your virtual events can become a victim of this attention battle too.
The rapid switch to virtual events (hello 2020) means that businesses are still learning how to throw a successful event, so it's not surprising that 9 out of 10 virtual attendees in 2020 reported leaving an event early - up from two-thirds in 2019.
The largest contributing factor, an event’s failure to engage an audience.
This makes attendee engagement a priority for anyone hosting a virtual event, the more invested an attendee is in an event the more they get from attending. Engaging an audience means a switch from talking at the attendees to creating a dialogue with the attendees.
There are many ways to do this, so let’s go over some of our favourite ways to keep attendees engaged and give you some of the science behind it.
1. Attendee attention spans
While in-person events may last all day, when it comes to virtual events, something called virtual event fatigue makes that impossible.
According to Markletic, the ideal time for a virtual event is 60-90 minutes, with most people preferring 60 minutes. During an event, people are likely to get restless after about 20 minutes, so it's important to include breaks throughout your event. You want your attendees to have a breather and stretch their legs between sessions.
Including energising breaks is a good way to prep your attendees for the next session. One way to do this would be to have a stretching programme led by an instructor. Giving the body and mind a break is key to fighting virtual event fatigue.
Another key, actually vital, component in keeping your attendees engaged is stable internet connection. Close to 2 out of 3 virtual events have technical issues due to poor internet connection. That can cause frustration and confusion, leading your audience to log off, so definitely one to invest time and resource into ensuring it all goes to plan. Once the foundation is in place, then you can look for more creative and fun ways to engage your audience! With that, let’s talk about engagement strategies.
2. Maximise event engagement
Engagement and attendee interaction should be a central component of your event planning, with the type of engagement depending on the type of event you are planning.
For example, B2B marketing is mostly focused on exchanging ideas and growing personal and business relationships, so it’s important to include many avenues for networking. Events should incorporate breakout rooms, chat boxes and networking games to encourage attendee participation. From the landing page, to the virtual programme, to the creation of post-event community space for attendees to keep in touch, engagement should be incorporated throughout the event.
Ideally, engagement starts even before the event. For example, sending attendees relevant podcasts or videos to create hype leading up to the opening day. Attendees are invested in the event from the get go, making them more likely to show up, and spread the word in advance. Plus, when attendees log on to the event they can start talking to each other immediately since they have something in common already!
The most important thing to remember about engagement is that the event isn't there to throw information at attendees, it's about getting your attendees to participate and feel like their voices are a part of the event.
By far the most common way this is done is through polling, 71% of marketers use polling to make sure that their audience doesn’t lose attention. Aside from polling, and with a good imagination and event team, there really are endless ways to engage with the audience!
From the landing page and the virtual programme, to the creation of post-event community space for attendees to keep in touch, engagement should be incorporated throughout the event.
With that, here are some creative, unique ways to engage your attendees:
Maybe you never thought a magician would be a part of a virtual show, but with the right planning (and budget), any kind of entertainer can be incorporated into a virtual event! For a smaller virtual event, your company may hire a sketch artist to draw the meeting notes - making for an interesting way to encourage engagement and a great social media picture after the event! Other options for incorporating entertainers include hiring a magician for small tricks between sessions or a yoga teacher for small guided stretches.
Another creative way to incorporate an entertainer is to send participants a box of chocolates and hire an expert to guide them in a chocolate tasting! This creates an experience for attendees that focuses on all their senses. By making an effort to engage creativity and uniquely with attendees, businesses can leave an unforgettable impression on attendees!
Event goodie bags
While an email is a dime a dozen (or several dozen depending on the week), a physical package brings a magic feeling of surprise and curiosity. Virtual event planners who send packages can create a personal bond and can expect more people to show at their event.
Hybrid events can maximise this connection by sending their attendees a bag of event-relevant items that will be incorporated throughout the event. For example, gym equipment, like a massage ball, can be incorporated into stretching programs between sessions. You could also send products that will be demoed during the event and attach prompts to the items that attendees then have to read out loud to start a discussion. For example, a deck of playing cards with prompts for breakout room discussions on them.
Incorporating physical interactions with virtual ones keeps events lively and extinguishes virtual event fatigue by bringing the event out of the screen and into attendees’ rooms.
Gamification is a great way to engage attendees by incorporating game-like systems (i.e. competition, point-scoring, etc) around content. It encourages participation and induces dopamine in participants as they engage with each other.
Incorporating play, through the addition of point systems and competitive team scenarios facilitates better networking by having attendees work together for a common goal. Gamification is also well known for maximising learning, meaning attendees will be able to absorb more from your event. And on top of all that, it's also a great tool for sponsors to gain extra traction with attendees and increase their return on investment.
This one’s pretty simple but so important: those presenting at your event should be engaging!
Good presenters captivate audiences and get their points across in fun and informing ways.
One of the best ways to do this is through the use of storytelling, an amazing tool that personalises a presentation and connects intimately with attendees - making them more likely to remember what was said. Other tips include making sure to repeat important points, including a Q&A session and keeping eye contact directly with the camera. The energy of an energetic, engaging presenter can do wonder to lift attendees’ mood, fight fatigue and leave attendees feeling fulfilled.
So that's it, folks! Lots of information, but really finding ways to engage with audiences is an endless, creative endeavour - so have fun with it!
It’s also the perfect time to get started right now, with the huge growth in the virtual event market creating unique avenues of engagement makes your brand more relevant.
Here at Tame, we’d love to be a part of your next event and help you maximise your attendee engagement. We offer free, personalised demos of our hosting platform, so you can start brainstorming new ways to engage with your attendees.
Marketing Mag: “The neuroscience of making virtual events more engaging”
Markletic: “8 Eye-Opening Ways to Combat Virtual Event Fatigue”
Limelight Networks: “How Video Is Changing the World”
Markletic: “10 Proven Virtual Event Audience Engagement Ideas”
Intela: “Storytelling Works. Doesn’t it?”