4 Ideas to engage more Attendees

4 Ideas to engage more Attendees

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 / Michael Kettenring

Keeping attendees engaged seems to pose a major challenge in virtual events. It is simply too easy to wander off in your mind, or literally walk away when watching a session. By improving your virtual event audience engagement, you can take your virtual events to the next level. The question is how?

First of all let us find out at what point attendees actually tend to disengage. In our reviews we have identified 5 culprits:

  • Single sessions exceeding 45 minutes
  • Long monologues by the speakers, reading from a script
  • Static stages and backgrounds
  • Exhibits of sponsors

Here is the good news: they can all be easily fixed.

1. Break up long sessions into short snippets with breaks

The attention span of virtual attendees is simply shorter. So, instead of cramping all talking points into one long session, why not creating episodes covering one topic at a time? Like succesful TV series, we recommend to choreograph the event in such as way that your attendees remain excited. Give attendees a short break in between. You can insert some entertaining snippets, or stream short videos during the breaks promoting your sponsors, or play a teaser about the next session. In essence, the breaks will become your best asset to build a new momentum for the next 45 minutes.

2. Breath life into the speakers

Event planners have put a lot of pressure on speakers in the last year. Speaking into a camera is not everybody’s thing. Confusing green rooms, the missing direct interaction with the audience, and a lack of preparation are just a few observations we made.

Let us learn from successful newscasts who work in teams, having dialogues, behave like entertainers. Any well-choreographed panel discussion with some human elements (how about a joke or some teasing) will beat any monologue. It is more lively, different voices keep the attendee alert, different view points inspire new thoughts and questions. Why not build in some videos during the session? The bottom line for event planners to become producers, or hire producers to do the job.

3. Elevating the user experience

This is where the chosen virtual event platform will make a crucial difference. It is all about the user experience. Let us analyze the location of the virtual event to better understand our options. The location of this experience is the screen the attendee is watching.

While being the center of attraction the streaming session fills only one part of the screen. This leaves event planners with ample opportunities to fill the rest of the screen with other “visual elements”. The goal is to inspire, to entertain, to engage, and to interact with the audience on multiple levels in meaningful ways.

Here are just some tools we have incorporated into our virtual event experience platform:

  • Creating an immersive visual background that enhances the stage design as a whole
  • Providing more information about the session in optional pop ups with speaker information, bios, a synopsis and white papers
  • On-screen polling in real-time to give attendees a voice and evaluate interest
  • On-screen Q&A to foster interactions with the speakers through moderators
  • A chat opportunity for attendees to share thoughts
  • Giving sponsors a platform to promote their knowledge if it relates to the topic of the session
  • Offering some breaks with quizzes, games of some kind
  • An intuitive navigation with search capabilities so attendees find what they are looking for - fast
  • A match-making tagging system that allows attendees to tell the software what they are interested in - so the software serves this content to the attendee even without searches

The use of these interactive tools can be tracked, reported on so the event planner can learn from them and use this to adjust and improve going forward. As an event planner you gain incredible insight into user behavior, which helps you in future projects.

4. Make sponsors part of the event, not a side show

The biggest challenge is always to drive traffic to sponsor sites or exhibits. Most events offer some flat web pages for sponsors without any life, and then sponsors expect everybody to show up. This is not how it works.

We suggest a two-prone approach

The first is marketing-oriented

Give sponsors an opportunity to participate in the real content. Short teaser videos of the sponsor (i.e. talking about their services as they relate to the actual topic of a session), or giving a knowledge expert of the sponsor a seat at the panel discussion, then displaying the sponsor booth link at the footer. There are many ways to give your paying sponsor some value.

The second requires the sponsor to become proactive

And it requires your chosen platform to support your ideas. Once the attendee visits the booth, this booth needs to be able to become an asset itself. This means the attendee needs to be inspired, informed, and get engaged by the sponsor. In other words, every booth should reflect the topics of the event, and knowledge experts of the sponsor organization need to be present for chats, one-on-one meetings and more.

You can turn a simple exhibit into a real asset for attendees. Something your visitors will talk about for time to come.

We are excited about the future of virtual events. We are just touching the surface.....