The last couple of years has forced event organizers to shift their strategies from in-person to virtual events. But it’s unfortunately been a challenge. Shifting attendee expectations and new protocols have made it difficult to manage event planning and prove ROI.
Thankfully, the quick emergence of virtual events has birthed innovative and creative methods to level up attendee engagement and provide immersive virtual experiences. Collectively, event managers have overcome some of these challenges to create fun and rewarding experiences for event-goers.
How can you fully engage your virtual attendees? This article will discuss five virtual event audience engagement ideas and discuss how to keep attendees focused and delighted with your virtual event.
Why Is it Important to Engage Virtual Attendees?
Fully immersing virtual event attendees in the event experience quiets their digital (and home) distractions and keeps them focused. One way to do this is to implement activities that mimic the in-person experience (as much as possible). We will discuss these activities in this article.
Mimicking in-person events with high-engaging activities will give attendees many reasons to stay engaged and stick around to receive the benefits of your virtual event.
Virtual event engagement is also not limited to digital meetings and video chats. We’ve learned a lot about engaging attendees virtually in the last year as the virtual setting has opened up even more creative engagement opportunities.
🍲 Virtual cooking class? 🥙
🕺 Digital dance party? 💃🏿
Yes, you can host these virtually—and so many more! Read on to learn more about how to power amazing virtual experiences and plan high-engaging virtual event activities.
5 Ways to Power Virtual Event Audience Engagement
1. Engage Attendees With Live Chat, Polls, and Q & A Sessions
Live chat and Q & A
People like attending in-person conferences because they can interact with experts and ask them questions directly. This activity is nonexistent in virtual conferences—unless you implement live chat and Q&A to your virtual content sessions.
Live chat is an essential component of high-engaging virtual events. When presenters, sponsors, and hosts participate in live chat, it elevates the event mood and compels attendees to participate. Live chat also gives attendees a chance to contribute to the conversation, making them feel valued.
Implement live chat throughout the event and live Q&A before and after sessions to give attendees a chance to present questions to speakers before sessions start and ask questions when they’re over.
PRO TIP: Take it a step further. Give members the ability to virtually applause presenters during content sessions to show their support for their memorable moments. Use this data to discover what content resonates with attendees based on top applause moments.
It’s no surprise that 81.8% of virtual event organizers use event polling to improve interaction. Poling enables attendees to offer real-time feedback, making them feel valued and more connected to your event.
Run event polls for:
- Session feedback
- Event feedback
- To understand attendees more (Why did you attend this event?)
- Topic feedback to guide discussions
- Icebreaker questions
- Pre-event surveys
- Post-event surveys
PRO TIP: Keep polls simple and add a time requirement to compel participants to take action. Think multiple-choice and Y/N questions, if possible, to keep from overwhelming people. Relay to attendees that answers will be kept anonymous.
Engagement should live at the session level
Live chat, polling and Q&A can be lacking if they don’t occur at the session level. Attendees shouldn’t have to navigate to another window during a content session if they want to interact. Session-level chat removes these engagement barriers and focuses live chat sessions to each room.
In addition, make it easy for attendees to recognize engagement features. Notice how Socio’s session-level engagement features distinguish chat from polling and Q&A, which improves user experience and makes organizing and moderation more manageable.
2. Make It Personal and Wow Attendees
Without some personality and engagement, virtual events can become stuffy and unengaging pretty quickly. Get a little personal with attendees and make the experiences memorable.
Below are some ideas on how to get more personal with attendees and dial up the fun:
Start Q&A sessions with icebreaker questions such as:
- What was your favorite pet’s name?
- What is one food you never want to stop eating?
- What is your biggest pet peeve?
- Show us your most-used emoji
- Do you work in bed? What is the strangest place you’ve ever worked from?
- If your life was turned into a cartoon character, what would the character’s name be?
Pre-event swag and gifts
How do you keep attendees thinking about your event even before it occurs? Send some sponsored event swag to their homes and encourage them to share to generate some event buzz. Or send coffee, tea, or any item that you can use during the event to increase engagement.
If there’s one thing we learned over the last year, it’s that any party or event can be held behind a computer screen.
Hold virtual event tea parties, fitness classes, meditation sessions, cooking classes, paint parties—anything that would connect attendees and bring a little fun.
Select 5-7 different party ideas, and during the registration process, ask attendees to choose their favorite party choice. Choose the most popular options and send gifts to attendees’ homes before the event to get them excited. Pull in sponsors to offset the costs and bring them more exposure.
So, for example, if you plan a stretching class, send branded/sponsored mat or towels to registrants who chose them, with instructions to share and get excited about their upcoming classes.
3. Get Competitive Juices Flowing With Gamification and Interactive Challenges
Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition? Competition gets people fired up and engaged—not to mention it puts them in a mode to experience some fun.
You’ll be amazed at how a few games and friendly competition drive attendees to become more active and participate in your event’s activities. We’ve seen it over and over again.
Rewarding gift cards or themed (also sponsored) prizes help as well. For example, your sponsor can give away two lifetime software memberships to attendees who could benefit from their product.
Incorporate gamification in your event’s activities. Host a virtual scavenger hunt and start a leaderboard where entrants can earn their way to the top, and the top positions win prizes. The attendee who earns the most game codes gets the prize.
Make earning fun by hiding game codes throughout the event platform. Hide them in virtual sponsored booths (provide value for sponsors), content sessions, and give them to sponsors to give out in video breakout rooms. Reward game codes for answering questions or engaging in other interactive activities.
Wondering how to make your virtual events engaging, interactive, and fun? Check out our on-demand webinar, “The Fun Starts Here: How to Amaze, Delight, and Engage your Event Attendees!” Get an in-depth look at the event industry’s latest engagement tools (with real-life examples) and best practices on how to use them to delight and amaze attendees.
4. Personalize Attendee Journeys to Delight Event-Goers
Create moments of delight for attendees by personalizing their event experience.
The attendee journey starts with registration and ends with their post-event feedback. At every touchpoint in between is an opportunity to delight and engage attendees and keep them connected.
What does this look like? Maybe their event experience starts with curated agendas or content suggestions you know they would enjoy. Recommend topic-focused networking sessions on subjects in which they are interested. Do they like coffee more than tea? Invite them to your coffee chat, where attendees post pics of their latest coffee-filled creations.
The key is to think less about generalized experiences and more about targeting individual demographics to personalize experiences.
Personalization starts with proper segmentation. You need to know attendees’ characteristics and demographics to personalize their experiences with the right content and interactions.
During registration, ask attendees some questions that will allow you to personalize their event experience. Information such as their job roles, preferred business topics, preferred content formats, and the industry they work in is valuable information.
5. Facilitate Meaningful Networking and Seamless Connections
Networking is one of the main reasons people attend virtual events. Yet meaningful networking has been lacking at hybrid and virtual events because the functionality is simply not there to get the job done.
The key to powering effective networking is personalizing experiences for attendees and focusing on smaller groups and one-on-one meetings. Networking is impossible via event-wide live chats as messages will get buried. Facilitate topic-specific and focused conversations so attendees and sponsors can connect easily and build lasting relationships.
One way to facilitate virtual event networking is via topic-focused Video Rooms.
With Video Rooms, you can:
- Facilitate small-group and one-on-one discussions
- Create topic-focused discussions or breakout rooms
- Host sponsor-led presentations, demos, or discussions
- Personalize the attendee journey by exposing attendees to networking sessions depending on their roles and preferences
Another way to boost virtual event networking is to offer sponsored virtual booths. A virtual booth is a digital space hosted by an exhibitor or sponsor that includes banners, logos, videos, and ways to connect with the sponsors. Virtual booth exhibitors can run live discussions, demos, or chats with event attendees.
Virtual booths will drive revenue via sponsorships because they allow sponsors to engage with attendees and expose their brand to more people. The booths facilitate sponsor-attendee networking and can integrate with your video rooms and live chats.
Choose the Right Virtual Event Platform to Power Engagement
Choose a virtual event platform that offers multiple virtual event audience engagement features and provides robust analytics so you can track your event’s performance.
Socio is an end-to-end event management platform that turns virtual events into immersive, memorable experiences. Fully customizable and feature-rich, Socio is easy to use and removes the complexity from event management, powering event managers to create ROI-driven events that host amazing virtual experiences.
Below are some of Socio’s virtual event audience engagement features:
- Live chat
- Live Q&A
- Live polling
- Video rooms
- Virtual booths and exhibitors
- Small group and one-on-one networking
- Personalize attendee experiences
- Robust analytics
- And more
Want to learn more about Socio’s virtual event engagement features? Schedule a personalized demo here. We’d be happy to walk you through the platform and show you all of Socio’s exciting features.