Virtual event engagement is tricky. Social media, news alerts, screaming kids, a pile of laundry, and more can tempt attendees to check-out of a virtual event at any moment.
It is a challenge many marketers now find themselves facing, as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the conference and convention industry. Former in-person events have gone online, and many expect the transition to virtual events to outlast the crisis.
This shift means marketers need to figure out how to host an engaging virtual event. How do you ensure people continue to participate in your online event when there is much to distract them?
Below, we list four unique virtual event engagement ideas you can deploy to keep attendees interested in your online event, no matter how big or small.
Virtual Event Engagement Ideas to Keep Attendees Interested
There are many ways to ensure people do not tune out during your virtual event. We have selected four that are sure to deliver results for you and your event attendees. Let us get started.
1) Consider your event’s date and time.
Event planners know to be careful in picking an event’s date and time, but virtual events come with added elements you will want to think through.
For example, since people from multiple time zones can attend, you will want to be mindful of when your event begins and ends. If you are on the East Coast and start too early, you risk losing West Coast participants. Or if folks on the West Coast do log onto your event, they might snooze through your programming until after their morning coffee kicks-in.
And remember that the pandemic’s upended many people’s routines. Children might be home during the day. A spouse might not be OK with their partner attending a virtual event that goes well into the night.
Keep your attendees’ lives and demands in mind while planning your event. Choose to start and end times wisely, and be sure to keep keynotes and sessions short with frequent breaks built in.
2) Survey attendees in advance
Giving people what they want is the best way to keep attendees engaged in your virtual event. Sending registrants, a pre-event survey is a fantastic way to determine what folks are expecting and interested in getting from your event.
You can use the survey answers to plan your event’s programming, including developing personal agendas for each attendee. The more you give attendees what they want and need, the more likely they will participate throughout your event.
3) Plan to entertain
Even in-person events are not always about learning. They must be fun, and that is particularly true for virtual events.
That is why you want to include entertainers and lighthearted activities in your event’s programming.
Magicians, comedians, and artists are just some examples of entertainers whose skills can translate to a virtual event. Maybe you hire a comedian to MC your event or enlist a sketch artist to make live renderings of a keynote.
And when it comes to activities, live polls and surveys are an excellent start. But you can also get more creative, such as hosting food tastings or a virtual scavenger hunt.
One way to host a food tasting during your virtual event is to pick a type of food you can ship to attendees, such as chocolate or popcorn. Include these items in the gift bag registrants will receive before the online conference with instructions that the food is for a special event. You can have your MC or perhaps the person who made the food, such as a chocolatier, host the virtual tasting.
4) Support networking
Connecting with others is a huge reason people go to conventions and conferences. Accounting for this need is critically essential to virtual event engagement.
Build networking time into your event’s agenda, such as virtual happy hours. If you are hosting a large event, give attendees a way to slip into smaller breakout rooms where people can get to know each other better.
Also, think about creating a Slack channel specifically for guests to connect and engage with one another. Slack is a productivity tool that supports real-time conversation, meaning you can also use it to enable networking among your attendees.
Two Critical Pieces to Virtual Event Engagement
Above are four uniquely original virtual event engagement ideas, but there are many other ways to keep people tuned into your online event.
The most critical pieces to virtual event engagement are to:
- Consider your attendees’ needs and situations.
- Be creative.
While virtual events have their drawbacks, they also come without many of the limitations of in-person events. This freedom allows you to entertain, engage, and connect with your event attendees like never.
Are you interested in learning more about organizing virtual events? We put together an in-depth and detailed eBook walking you through how to run a virtual event.