Creating Audience Engagement & Interactivity at Virtual Events
Creating Audience Engagement & Interactivity at Virtual Events
Online events have doubled over the past year, which has opened the door to amazing opportunities to connect with global audiences and speakers. Some of our clients have seen their attendance numbers increase by 30%, just by moving to virtual format.
One question we get asked often at Royal Blue is how to capture and interact with a remote, virtual audience. Keeping your guests engaged is paramount to attracting and retaining those new attendees but how do you keep them engaged?
Continue reading for some suggestions that you can implement at your next virtual event to maximise interactivity and participation of those in attendance.
PLANNING STAGE: Set yourself up for Success
Start engaging your audience as soon as they register, before the actual event.
SWAG at home or virtual
Send out specially crafted packages that include branded swag-items and encourage participants to share the event details on their social media by taking a photo of their exclusive goodies for a chance to win a prize.
If swag packages are your thing, be clear on the costs and have a plan. If you are delivering packages yourself, make sure you specify the applicable regions in your event information. Alternatively, work with a partner that can facilitate the deliveries for you. If an online conversation is important, add branded items (hat, mug, t-shirt) with the event hashtag. Provide items in your swag that are useful and relevant to the event (notepad/pen, fidget spinner, USB stick, charger, a prop to wear to the celebration). Offer virtual swag as well, which can include digital coupons, sponsor materials and other downloadable files that are consistent with your program and theme.
If it’s suitable, provide your attendees and participants with virtual backgrounds. Establish a theme for each and keep it consistent with your event branding. You can also develop different backgrounds for various groups. For example; sponsors, panelists, award winners, award nominees, special guests, attendees, volunteers etc. Remember to include your event hashtag here as well!
Wine, dine and celebrate from home
Consider partnering with a restaurant/caterer to offer an at-home dining experience with a set-menu. If you are planning a fundraiser, seek in-kind support for the contents of your package. Either way, you will need to ensure your food and beverage partner can handle the quantity of meals you need to order. If appropriate, provide opportunities for guests to add-value to their experience with optional items such as a signature cocktail package (a box that includes all the ingredients, a specialized glass and unique recipe from a local mixologist), as well as dessert selections and meat / non-meat alternatives.
Add additional program materials and branding to your home delivered meals and swag to complete the experience and encourage recipients to dress for the occasion and post pictures, to the virtual event platform or social media, of them enjoying their delicious refreshments at home.
DURING THE EVENT: Start on the right foot
Make the most of time gaps at the start of each event to capture attention and offer unique activities to keep people excited.
Pre-event Yoga / Meditation
Get the energy flowing with some pre-event yoga / pilates or teach a short meditation each morning before your event program begins. This is a great way to encourage some physical / mental activity before a day of sessions in front of the computer or laptop.
If you have an entertainment budget, consider including an entertainer for a pre-event show. It could be a comedian, a musician/band, a visual artist or a cooking demonstration. Virtual events provide the opportunity to secure performers and other participants anywhere globally, use this to your advantage.
Gamification, polls and quizzes
During the downtime before your program begins, consider adding movie theatre style fun facts, mini quizzes or challenges. This can provide engaging activities while still incorporating the theme of your event, not to mention a great way to keep your sponsors involved.
Gamification widgets can enable attendees to interact in various areas of the platform and meet certain criteria to earn points. Think scavenger hunt, space raiders or other online games. Adding a leaderboard will also promote some healthy competition and excitement amongst attendees.
Sprinkle trivia questions throughout a speaker panel. This works especially well when you have lots of talking heads. Adding short bursts of trivia questions or multiple choice polls will give the audience a break from just listening to adding their valued input.
Most platforms include a chat functionality, which provides an easy way for attendees to network with each other and provokes conversation around the content of your program. If possible, allow attendees to network directly with each other as well. Set up direct messaging between and enable chat, VOIP and video calls. Be sure to provide breaks and opportunities within your program for this type of engagement and add ice breaker questions, polls and random placements to keep people connected.
To make it a bit more fun, consider encouraging attendees to use emojis or GIFs to communicate with each other. This can inject lots of humour within the chat environment, but be careful not to overdo it, you may want to restrict it to a certain time of day or zone within the platform.
ENDING YOUR PROGRAM: End on the right note
Engagement doesn’t end the moment your program is over. Work through ways to keep the interaction going and build this into your event strategy.
Happy hour and networking
End your program in a way that allows your audience to interact with other guests. Include a happy hour where speakers, presenters and special guests are available for networking or build breakout rooms with different departments or themes to keep the conversation going. Consider a finale performance or closing ceremony and provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate that signature cocktail mentioned earlier.
Learner quiz and participation badges / certificates
Was your program a learning or professional development event? Launch a quiz at the end to see how much attendees learned from the experience. Incentivize participation by offering prizes or quirky badges/certificates like ‘Most Engaged Learner’ and ‘Most Questions Asked’…you get the idea!
Post event Survey
A true tried and tested approach to gathering feedback is a post event survey. Encourage participants to provide valuable feedback about their overall experience. Craft your questions carefully based on your measurements of success. It might also be worth incentivizing participation with prize draws or other perks you can make available.
Missed opportunities are a thing of the past, send out a link for people to watch a replay of the event afterwards. Keeping your content available on-demand will not only add to your viewing data and analytics, but it will be appealing to attendees because it means they have the flexibility to watch and re-watch the program in their own time. By increasing the number of clicks and re-watches for certain videos, you build strong analytical data that is powerful for future decision making and securing sponsors.
Don’t forget about accessibility
Remember to ensure your events are fully accessible and inclusive, so everyone is able to enjoy your programming!
Test your website or platform in advance to confirm your content is available on all devices;
Be sure to ask at registration if there is anything attendees require to help with their virtual viewing experience;
Have a plan for adding live captioning, enlarged font, and an interpreter, if relevant;
Remember to add alt text to all images and Include information on how to access your event across various devices.
Always test the event experience across multiple browsers and operating systems to catch any glitches.
By paying attention to these details you enable more people to interact and enjoy your event.
What are some fun, exciting ways you have been involved in virtual events this past year? If you are stuck for ideas or would like to explore this further, contact us.
Maria Dueck Business Development, Royal Blue Events Management