Can virtual events really offer the same levels of engagement as their real-life counterparts?
As companies across the globe respond to the challenges posed by travel restrictions, an increasing number are moving their events into the virtual space. While nothing can truly replace the thrill of attending a live event, it is possible to create a highly engaging and effective event in the virtual space.
The virtual environment poses a unique set of challenges, however, particularly when it comes to keeping attendees engaged, involved and entertained. Competition from social media, incomplete work assignments, and the distractions provided by home and office spaces make it more important than ever to ensure delegates feel connected throughout the event.
Let’s take a look at some of the innovative ways to create a truly engaging virtual experience.
Take time when planning your event to ensure you’re offering exciting content, delivered by interesting presenters. Where possible, try to include multi-speaker sessions, panel sessions and workshops. Encourage presenters to spice things up with infographics or pre-recorded video and audio clips. Breaking content up with live polls and Q&As will keep attendees interested and involved in sessions.
Create a buzz before the event by publishing information about your virtual event on social media and the event website. This is a great way let your prospects know about exciting topics, speakers and features on offer. You could also provide a handy ‘how-to’ section to help them navigate the online event setting.
Forums will help you to find out more about your audience and their expectations, and, along with panel discussions, will be useful during the event to promote networking. You could also use these after the event for obtaining valuable feedback.
Once you have an idea of the format of your event, it’s important to find the right software platform. Be sure to choose a hybrid and virtual event platform that suits your requirements and has the interactive features you need to create a dynamic event.
Make sure the platform you select has the flexibility to accommodate your planned activities. Importantly, choose a platform that provides sufficient opportunities for attendees to interact in real time (e.g., video chats, virtual meeting hubs). Also find out whether on-demand and follow-up materials will be available to your audience.
Limit potential frustrations that may cause attendees to leave the event early by making sure that you’ll have a responsive support team to call on from registration through to wrap up.
With opportunity to exit a virtual event just a simple mouse-click away, it’s crucial to keep your virtual event moving forward smoothly and seamlessly. Displaying your agenda and offering audio reminders of session starts will keep your virtual event humming along. Use digitally timed sessions to help your speakers to easily manage their sessions and stay on track.
Making use of an entertaining live conference host will give your conference a human face and keep your attendees engaged and entertained. You could have the host present the welcome segment, give attendees a rundown of how to navigate the platform. Between sessions, the host can announce upcoming sessions, networking opportunities and mention where to find support. They could also act as master of ceremonies at the wrap-up session, managing the lucky draw, announcing winners, offering thanks, and making closing remarks.
Live polls and Q&A sessions are simple but effective ways to encourage engagement and participation. These features allow speakers and attendees to interact during sessions, benefitting both parties. In addition to combating audience fatigue through active participation, these interactions help presenters to feel connected with the audience rather than speaking into a void.
If at all possible, offer a variety of different sessions on multiple channels. This allows you to expand your agenda, cover a wider variety of topics, and attract a broader audience. All this adds up to a better experience for the attendee, greater opportunities to involve more presenters, and wider reach for your brand and its partners.
Set up a meeting hub that will allow attendees to network and interact in a similar fashion to a regular conference. Through these meetings and video chats, your attendees will be able to form new collaborations, share ideas and discuss issues, just as they would at a physical conference.
Virtual exhibition halls and e-poster displays are fairly new features that you can add to your virtual event. They allow you to open the event up to sponsors, partners, and suppliers, offering them the chance to display their products and also to interact directly with attendees. Allowing delegates book live video chats with stall holders adds another level of interaction.
The age-old bugbear of live conferences: how to get delegates to visit the exhibition hall or poster display and still have them attending the sessions is easy to overcome in the virtual space. In addition to setting aside time in your agenda specifically for people to attend the exhibition hall, the virtual environment allows exhibitors to post short live adverts throughout the event to attract interested parties to their stalls.
Gamification is one of the more recent features to enter the virtual event market and has proven hugely popular among hosts and attendees alike. It is a great way to motivate people to really get involved in the event. In one iteration, attendees earn points for various interactive activities, such as attending sessions, taking part in live polls and live Q&As, networking, using the meeting hub, and visiting the exhibition hall (to name a few). Points are a way of earning entries into the live prize draw at the end of the event. The more points, the more chances to win the prize.
These are just a few powerful ways to get the most from your virtual event. It is worth researching the latest virtual and hybrid events platforms, such as OnAIR by EventsAIR. Exciting new features are constantly added to these platforms to take the virtual conference experience to the next level.
EventsAIR has been at the forefront of Event Technology and Innovation for over 30 years, continually pushing the boundaries of what an event management platform can do. Built by event planners for event planners, EventsAIR is a secure, scalable, cloud-based solution that can manage everything from virtual, hybrid to live conferences, meetings and events in a single online platform – anywhere, anytime and on any device. In use in over 50 countries by multi-national corporations, professional conference organizers, government departments and tertiary education institutions, EventsAIR is also used in global congresses such as G20, APEC, CHOGM and ASEAN, as well as sporting events like The Olympic Games, World Rugby, Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games. EventsAIR is trusted by event professionals around the globe. For further information, visit www.eventsair.com