Prior to the pandemic, there was a rising trend in the creation of virtual events. With target attendees based across the country, or even globally, virtual events provided an opportunity to reach the greatest audience pool possible. They also provided attendees with more flexibility to connect to pieces of the event they deemed most relevant to them, rather than travel and spend long days sitting through lengthy lectures and waiting for breakout sessions and networking breaks. Due to the globalization of today’s businesses, many internal company events were shifting to virtual as well.
Now, with the need to social distance, countless events have been cancelled and nearly every other event has shifted online. However, virtual events present shortcomings that can’t be achieved when truly face-to-face at conferences. This time period presents a true opportunity to analyze these virtual challenges. Businesses are finding creative ways to address them and facilitate networking opportunities through improved virtual event engagement methods.
Acknowledging virtual event challenges
It goes without saying that it can be difficult to achieve the same personalized connection and result when virtual compared to the attendee engagement seen in offline, in-person events. While video and web conferencing platforms like Zoom allow users to pick up on facial expressions and added cues, virtual events are often less personal by nature.
On top of this reality, technical issues like poor Wi-Fi connectivity or delays hurt the attendee experience. Virtual events also present less commitment. If attendees don’t add calendar reminders or receive pre-event emails, they often forget to tune in, leaving event organizers with lower live attendee numbers than they’d like.
Finally, virtual event organizers are tasked with meeting the accessibility requirements of all viewers, such as those who are hard of hearing or who may struggle to follow along virtually due to varying specific learning needs.
So how can event organizers account for these virtual engagement challenges and overcome them? Here are some key ways to improve virtual events engagement.
Adding accessibility tools
One way to make items more accessible and digestible virtually is by adding captions to webinars and virtual events as they happen live. These are important for individuals who need them to participate, such as deaf or hard of hearing individuals, as well as others who prefer to watch views with the captions. Captions are shown to increase viewer engagement and information retention as well.
Additionally, live, interactive note taking tools also provide attendees with a means to capture important information and highlight points they want to go back and reference as the event happens in real-time. These transcripts can be embedded into the web conferencing tool or video platform the event is being hosted on, such as Zoom, to offer a seamless user experience and keep attendees engaged. Verbit’s tool, Live Room, offers this ability to event attendees.
Offering interactive elements
No one wants to sit online for a virtual event and be lectured to. Attendees will begin checking their email and taking care of other business tasks if you don’t include interactive elements to keep them engaged.
Built-in offerings such as live chats and conference community forums are helpful tools to utilize. These tools can allow attendees to chime in throughout the event, collaborate with each other and hear from their peers. Polling questions should also be offered throughout as a way to keep attendees actively listening and feel that they are helping to drive the conversation even while remote. Additionally, social groups can be built on Facebook or LinkedIn to support additional side conversation or to help them follow along effectively by posting key points as they are mentioned.
Finding ways to offer networking for virtual events is also a key to success and engagement. Connections can be made by providing an attendee list of others also attending prior to the event so they know who to look out for, or can connect via LinkedIn prior. People matching is an additional tactic conference organizers use that can be shifted to an online forum as well. People matching provides attendees with a relevant ‘conference buddy’ per se to connect with prior, during and after the event. Attendees can be paired based on shared interests, job functions or even hometowns.
Breakout rooms are another means to facilitate networking throughout the virtual event. You can have the attendees exit out of the main conference session and work in smaller groups. Providing them with questions to address in these breakout rooms and present back to the larger conference is one way to facilitate this. These breakouts allow them to dive into more specific conversations based on their roles and job titles for example, so shared challenges can be discussed as well. Finding ways to get personal will help to overcome the fact that your event is a virtual one.
Additionally, incorporating elements such as video, music, interactive live transcripts and movement breaks are also proven to effectively spice things up and keep attendees engaged.
Offering post-event materials
Event organizers spend a great deal of time preparing for the live event, but it shouldn’t stop there. They can give live webinars and virtual conferences additional legs and make them relevant for greater periods of time post-event.
Organizers would be wise to make recordings available of their events and email all registrants notifying them that they can watch the events on-demand at their leisure. They can also target additional leads and relevant consumers, not just those who registered, with the on-demand videos or via newsletters for additional reach.
Creating alternative means for individuals to consume the event content is also helpful:
- Attendees and non-viewers can both benefit from blogposts with key highlights which include links to relevant resources discussed at the event.
- Some companies produce post-event podcasts featuring these key highlights and takeaways in an audio format with select quotes referenced. Business podcast engagement is quite high as of late, as many professionals are turning to podcasts to learn from relevant thought leaders. These also provide a great way to reach audiences who are on the go and listening to podcasts while exercising, driving or relaxing at home.
- Snackable videos or trimmed-down clips can also be helpful to post on your social channels. These can include noteworthy quotes mentioned and key sound bytes that individuals can benefit from should they not have the time to watch the full event.
- Notes in the form of transcripts can also be helpful, especially if they’re provided with the video itself. Searchable transcripts like Verbit’s can also help viewers search the video to easily pick out relevant terms, skip to that piece of the video and reference what was said.
Today’s tech and meeting tools are well built to handle the new needs of virtual events and conferences. Event organizers should not look at just the event itself when considering engagement strategies. They should be sharing the agenda prior to the event to get attendees excited and prepared for what’s to be discussed. They should be engaging them with quizzes and feedback surveys after the event. They should look to help them develop personalized connections and facilitate networking opportunities throughout.
Virtual event organizers who make full use of the tools provided to them by web conferencing and video streaming platforms, as well as the communication tools they can utilize to engage attendees after, will be the most successful.
Verbit has been working a lot with businesses utilizing web conferencing platforms for their events and we’re happy to help showcase how you can make the best use of them. Contact us here for more advice.