Virtual events, in our opinion, present a truly unique opportunity to those who are willing to be brave and try new things. And certainly, those who are willing to think outside of the box when it comes to virtual event planning could well take market share during this ‘New Normal’ that we find ourselves in now.
However, that being said, the age-old issue of event planning and management remains; How do we ensure that we engage (and perhaps more importantly delight) event guests when hosting events virtually to ensure they come back for more?
Here are five steps to increase engagement when hosting virtual events:
Step 1: Utilise chat tools. In using chat tools you can ask viewers to submit questions, comments or thoughts through the use of a chat tool. Ultimately this will increase engagement as those who ask questions will want to stay around to find out the answer and of course it will encourage others to get involved too (not to mention those who want to see their name in the limelight too on the chat feed). The key thing here is that you should assign a moderator to the task of fielding the questions and make sure nothing blasphemous or irrelevant makes it through.
Step 2: Create robust content. As a result of going virtual, your content is going to be under even more scrutiny than ever before. Ultimately the event platform is merely the vessel for your content getting to the right delegates at the right time and thus it’s essential that your content is engaging, authentic and compelling. Don’t scrimp on costs or timescales here. Work with the right people, from designers to copywriters, to subject matter experts, and then plan all content in with plenty of lead time to make sure everything is produced with your end user (your audience) in mind. This will not only draw people in but also encourage them to stay on too.
Step 3: Make the most of social media. Where possible encourage live tweeting. You can start an online discussion by asking delegates to post their questions. Use a hashtag to help people find and follow the conversation and make this clear on all pages of your virtual event. If delegates have to scramble around looking for relevant hashtags or who to @, you’re likely to lose their focus quickly, or worse still frustrate them. You can also make use of plenty of other online discussion tools, such as Discord, Reddit, Slack and even WhatsApp groups too. As previously mentioned, the key here is to find the best platform and tool for your event. It should feel relevant to the brand and be the right fit for the types of people attending. Pick your channels carefully.
Step 4: Use breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are a great way to encourage greater engagement within the platform itself through peer to peer networking and also the perfect way to tailor content to the right people. Ultimately this is one of the main reasons most people attend events; to network and build up a contact book. And certainly, breakout rooms they are especially important right now given we can’t all meet in person over a coffee. Some of the best customised platforms also include the opportunity to see someone via video too. This means if a conversation via IM or chat is going well, delegates have the opportunity to immediately switch on their video and take it one step further and have an even more personal conversation. Providing these choices to delegates and tailoring the right content to the right people can really set your event apart from others.
Step 5: Track and learn for next time. The great thing about doing everything virtually is, unlike a physical event, there are so many more metrics that are possible to track online (especially when it comes to engagement). You can see how long people spend in each place, what they click on, where you lose them, who they talk to and so much more. And the benefit from all this data is that when you come to round two of the event, not only are you far more informed, but it gives you a great basis to build upon for the future. This will also keep both the sales and exec team extremely happy too as they can be presented with a more robust, quantitative and data driven report proving return on investment.
Never before has there been a greater need to make sure virtual events are bespoke so that those who attend will receive a truly unique experience. With so many brands bartering for our attention right now, all of whom encouraging us to join their events from our living room, it’s clear that to win attention and truly engage delegates, the key is to offer something different. Building an event platform from the ground up means that anything is possible and that it can be built both around the brand itself (their ethos and what they stand for) and of course what the attendees want.
Joe is a director at independent creative agency Evensix