After more than two years of getting to grips with virtual (and hybrid) events and meetings, it’s safe to say that attendees now have higher expectations. One-way presentations where we’re staring at a speaker and have few opportunities to engage with the content simply don’t cut it anymore.

With a wide mix of events and meetings happening every day, how do you compete for attendees’ time and attention?

It all comes back to engagement, whether it’s about building a connection with the speaker, as well as among the participants themselves. Attendees will lose interest, or skip the event altogether, if you don’t create space for interaction and level the playing field between your remote and on-site participants.

Here are five tips to create engaging experiences — no matter how your audience chooses to attend.

Tip 1: Be intentional about interaction 

I recently saw a survey stat from the Webex Events trends and ideation workshop, which shows that engagement is top of mind for event planners. In a pre-event survey, 50% of respondents said that they were most interested in engagement and collaboration. 

While event engagement is a priority for planners, there’s still some uncertainty when it comes to effectively implementing it. How can you rehearse if the content comes from your audience? What’s going to happen when you let people speak unscripted?

In reality, some of the biggest events in the world — the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, the Grammys — combine scripted content with interactive elements and real-time engagement.

Don’t be afraid to lean into the uncertainty. Embrace it.

Using engagement technology to crowdsource audience questions, opinions and feedback provides a much richer experience. Event professionals increasingly understand that engagement tech can bring just as much value as elements like audio and video. The key is to be truly intentional about creating opportunities for interaction in your sessions. 

Tip 2: Overcome concerns about engagement tech

As with all things new, take the time to get familiar with the technology.

Do your research, determine what works best for you, and make room for testing the platform. A little tip — add a few polls, quizzes, or Q&A sessions into your internal meeting flow to help your team feel comfortable with the tool.

The next step is to introduce the platform to your moderators and presenters. You can also give them an option to come up with their own polling questions to include in their sessions. And of course, always make sure to plan a dry run with your AV team before going live!

Another important aspect to consider is product integration. Does your engagement tool seamlessly integrate with your event platform?

Slido Q&A and polling is directly integrated into Webex Events, which means both your remote as well as onsite participants can send questions and vote in polls with ease.

And finally — if you are running your event or meeting in an enterprise setting, it’s especially important to ensure that your engagement tech also prioritizes IT requirements including SSO authentication and compliance with industry standards such as ISO and GDPR.

Tip 3: Support an equitable experience for each participant

When it comes to engagement tech, people often think of virtual events. But I believe it’s a must-have feature for hybrid and in-person experiences as well — for two main reasons. 

First and foremost, it gives everyone a voice and a chance to speak out (anonymously or with their name), no matter where they are joining from.

Creating engagement in a hybrid environment is hard. People online struggle to join the conversation as it’s often impossible or awkward to unmute themselves, whereas the less vocal attendees in the room find it intimidating to raise their hand.  

Secondly, engagement tech can also shape the quality of the discussion. We’ve all seen a Q&A where someone derails the discussion by telling random stories or ranting off topic.

With engagement tech, the crowd becomes your second moderator. In addition to asking questions, they can also upvote or downvote the existing ones, ultimately shaping your content and conversation along the way. 

On top of that, you can also pull your audience in by asking them how they feel or what they think. Live polls allow you to have an instant conversation with everyone at scale — no matter if you have dozens or hundreds of attendees.

Tip 4: Collect data and unlock valuable insights

One of the key benefits of using engagement tech is that it allows you to collect rich attendee data on the fly. 

Sure, classic post-event surveys can still be a great way to collect feedback after the event. However, surveying attendees in the moment will not only allow you to capture more responses, but also glean more actionable insights as the event experience is still fresh. There’s a reason why Uber sends review requests as you are leaving the car — people are much more likely to respond while the ride is top of mind.

Another tip is that you don’t have to wait for your event or meeting to start in order to engage with your audience. Open a Q&A or run a quick poll in advance — include it on the registration page, calendar invite or social media accounts so attendees can shape the agenda in advance. During the event, you can also run a pulse check after every speaker or block of sessions to understand what resonated with the audience. 

And lastly, if you have professional speakers, ask them to prepare two angles to their presentation or story and let the audience choose which one they’d prefer to hear about via a quick poll. It will give attendees skin in the game and allow them to shape the flow of the conversation.

Tip 5: Create a deeper connection

Organizers often think of engagement tech as tools to make their events and meetings more fun, and they certainly do. But there’s much more you can achieve.

At the beginning of the pandemic here in England, the National Health Service (NHS) asked nurses and doctors who were caring for COVID-19 patients to regularly record inputs on how they were feeling. Were they overwhelmed or tired? Did they feel a sense of gratitude? 

This was really powerful not only because it allowed everyone to express their thoughts anonymously in a safe space, but seeing the responses across the board also helped them to create a connection with one another. If you know you’re not the only one feeling or thinking a certain way, it fosters the sense of community and reassurance. Applied to events and meetings, you can create connection not only between the audience and the speaker, but among the attendees as well — regardless of whether it’s a virtual, in-person, or hybrid experience. 

But remember — technology is just an enabler. With tools like Slido, the crucial thing to consider is what you want to get out of the engagement tech.

Do you want to:

  • Learn what the audience thinks or how they feel?
  • Make the content sticky or test their knowledge? 
  • Focus on community-building or ask your audience to reflect on a certain topic?

Based on your goal, craft the polls, determine the interaction points, and weave them into the program. By prioritizing engagement from the start, you’ll give yourself the time to think through how it ties to your content and elevates attendee involvement. 

In the end, it all comes down to creating a seamless experience where all participants — no matter where they are joining from — feel included, heard, and connected.