How to Maximize Audience Engagement in Virtual Events?

By 
July 11, 2023

Virtual events don’t have to be boring. We’ve all been there; you join the room, d listen to someone talking for an hour or two. Maybe you take notes, maybe you don’t. This kind of virtual event won’t have a memorable impact on attendees for years to come. To achieve this, you need to consider ways to maximize audience engagement in virtual events. 

And this guide will show you how. 

Here are some top tips on how to maximize audience engagement in your virtual event, from planning and preparation, to reflecting on its success and keeping the hype going long after.

Remember that virtual events are an excellent extension of a brand. But they are also invaluable in building a community of like-minded people – and community in business is powerful

The more you engage with and expand this community, the more they will advocate for your company and spread news of your virtual events. With a bit of careful planning and the right messaging, you can turn potential event participants into an engaged audience into an active community that shares a sense of belonging.

Before the Event

For planners, the virtual event begins long before that first attendee checks in. Whether you are hosting your first event or your 10th, there are essential steps to maximize engagement in virtual events.

Before you begin, it’s worth investing in tools like Bevy, whether you are hosting an event for a local community or global audience. Such platforms provide community organizers and event planners with insights, resources, and more. For example, if you’re unsure of the business value your community can bring or the types of community-building initiatives that have the greatest ROI, you can turn to the platform for expert advice and data-led evidence. After all, the best way to build one community is to learn from another!

Establish KPIs

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the metrics you will use to determine your virtual event’s success. They measure how close (or far away) you are to your goals. If you run a business or work in marketing, you are likely familiar with using KPIs regularly. But event planning can benefit from establishing KPIs too.

Your KPIs could be based on the number of attendees, the feedback you gather after the event, or the number of items you sell. Or, it could be something completely different. It all depends on the nature of your virtual event. 

Perhaps you have a Slack channel or Facebook group for your company. In this case, you may choose to monitor the number of new members who join after the event. This is a crucial part of your community-building strategy. It shows you that your audience values your content, gives you a platform for sharing additional resources to keep people engaged, and gives you an audience base for future events.

First of all, consider how you would define “engagement” in relation to your event. Next, set specific and measurable goals you hope to achieve. 

Create a Buzz

Don’t expect people to be as excited as you are about your virtual event. You need to create a buzz around it to maximize engagement in virtual events. The initial step in your client engagement strategy might be sending fun, virtual invitations. But if you’re depending on people to sign up themselves, you need to entice them to do so first. 

Image sourced from sweap.io
From sweap.io

Reach out to your existing community through newsletters and surveys. Show members that you value their input and want them to be part of the conversation, and encourage them to share your event with like-minded people.

It’s also worth leveraging social media to promote your event with tactics like:

  • Sneak peek content
  • Create hashtags
  • Ask for opinions
  • Start conversations
  • Send a free itinerary/ebook/FAQ sheet

Separate your planning into different stages with different timeframes for each stage. For example, your initial communication might be to ask for opinions. You then might decide that it’s time to send out some sneak peek content to spark conversation. Then, shortly before the event, you could send a reminder with a free itinerary. Aim to keep your virtual event fresh in people’s minds for a set period before the event begins. 

Consider partnering with influencers in your industry to promote your virtual event on Instagram. By tapping into their followers, you can quickly expand your reach and drive Instagram growth for your event.

Find the Best Speakers

Your speakers are everything. They can make or break an event, particularly if it's virtual. Select them carefully based on their expertise, confidence, and delivery. Once you’ve chosen your dream team, coach it thoroughly. Ensure they get plenty of practice and know how to keep their audience engaged.

Your speakers should be experts in their fields. But they should also be approachable and relatable. Think about how they will interact with their audience. Are they comfortable enough to integrate jokes and light-hearted humor into the mix, for example?

Send Swag Bags

This is where the real fun begins. Who doesn’t love freebies and swag bags? These could be virtual items, but they could also be physical. Inside your swag bags, you can include things like:

  • Stationary
  • Mobile business card
  • Water bottles
  • T-shirts
  • Badges
  • Itinerary
  • Special offer/coupon
  • Photos and details of speakers
  • A thank you note

Of course, you could always send swag bags out after the event instead. You could send them to every attendee. Alternatively, you can send them to people who asked the best questions, attended the most sessions, or wrote you a review. 

During the Event

Now it’s time for the main event. Here, we’ll look at ways you can boost engagement during virtual events. 

Gamification

Virtual events are set to become more popular, particularly since Covid-19. According to a report by Airmeet, 82%% of event planners plan to invest in future virtual events in the next 12 months. This tells us that to stand out from the crowd, your event needs to be unique and engaging. 

Gamification can help you achieve this. It is the practice of including game elements in something. Think virtual badges, points, and scoreboards. Gamification can also include things such as competitions and polls. In essence, you are rewarding your attendees for taking specific actions. 

For example, your guests could collect points for each activity they complete. This could be answering questions, meeting new people, or completing a set task. If your event has a large number of attendees, you can split them into groups using conference platforms you know, or better alternatives like Dialpad or GoTo Meeting. Their groups will then become their temporary family throughout the event. 

They will be competing against each other or other groups. Think of an enticing grand prize for whoever wins the most points. Showcase this prize beforehand to get people excited about participation. 

Keep Social Media Alive

Social media can be the gift that keeps on giving. You need to use it to your advantage before, during, and after your event. Have someone monitor your channels and create posts that provide insights into what is happening right now. 

Your speakers can also encourage social media engagement during the event. For example, they could ask guests to go onto Facebook and answer a poll. Or, share an anecdote, result, or story about the event topic they were discussing. Those who do this can be rewarded. 

Give Them Space to Chat

As well as encouraging social media interaction, you should give your attendees space to chat during the event. Part of engaging an audience is about making them feel like they are part of something. To truly build a community effectively, you need to ensure they feel supported to share ideas or ask questions, can learn from others in the community, and connect with industry insiders.

Offer a live chat where people can introduce themselves and converse in real-time. In addition, provide a virtual lobby where people can hang out and discuss topics with each other. If you split people into groups, this can also encourage virtual event engagement as they will have something in common with each other. 

Consider having a ‘coffee break’ after a set amount of time. Invite people into the virtual lobby and encourage discussions. You could, for example, ask a riddle that you will want an answer to when the event resumes. Or, ask groups to nominate a team leader to speak on their behalf. There are lots of ways to encourage conversation to maximize engagement in virtual events. 

Another great option is to encourage engagement across multiple channels. Integrate bots into these to monitor activity. Additionally, make sure to use the best webinar software platforms to ensure a smooth and engaging virtual event experience.

Live Q&A Session

Finally, be sure to host that all-important live Q&A session. This could be multiple sessions throughout the event to cover specific topics. Alternatively, host one big session at the end to cover everything. 

As well as encouraging questions from your attendees, your speaker should also ask questions themselves. It’s important to strike a balance so that you are giving guests enough time to think about questions they may have. 

Additionally, offer attendees a way to get in touch if they think of any questions after the event. This is especially helpful if they’ve had a lot of information to absorb. Questions might not come to them right away. 

If you choose to give a phone number, consider using phone systems with auto attendant so you can effectively attend to every call. 

After the Event

Hopefully, your virtual event was a huge success. It takes a lot of planning and careful consideration. Well done, you! But your job doesn’t end here. There are steps you can take afterward to increase engagement in virtual events going forward and continue to build your community outside of the event.

Gather Feedback

Feedback might be the single most important aspect of any kind of activity. Your feedback will give you valuable insights into your efforts and help you improve for the next virtual event. And they will help you analyze your metrics and determine whether you met your event goals. 

From Bizzabo

Don’t expect attendees to give feedback on their own—you need to ask for it! You could either ask at the end of the event or send out a social media post requesting it. Another alternative is to email each participant asking them to complete a questionnaire. Don’t be afraid to give attendees a gentle reminder if they fail to provide feedback. 

Remember, a thriving community is one that feels valued and empowered. Let people know that you value their opinion and want to learn from them to improve their experience. You’ll be able to leverage this data to improve satisfaction in the future and ultimately drive business growth.

Offer a Recorded Copy

Last but not least, offer attendees a recorded copy of the event. This will help solidify the information your speakers shared. It may also answer questions that they might have. 

As a bonus, here is another fun idea about how to run a giveaway to maximize engagement in virtual events. At the end of the event, ask attendees to watch the recording back to see if they can spot something. This could be an image, a fun fact, or an idea that the speaker shares. Your guests can email you with their answers for a chance to win a prize. 

Ready to Increase Virtual Event Engagement?

Hopefully, now you have some great ideas as to how to maximize engagement in virtual events and harness this to build your community. Putting these tips into practice will make your event even more memorable while also creating engaged communities that feel connected to your brand. 

Remember, it’s all about encouraging participation and discussions, making people feel valued, and continuing the discussion among your community long after the event has ended. It also provides a good opportunity to meet new people and make new friends to grow your community and your business. What’s not to love?

July 11, 2023

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