Understanding engagement strategies for virtual and hybrid events has become one of the hottest topics of 2022 events. And there’s a measurable reason why.
Have you ever stood on a stage, looking out to a sea of people with all eyes on you? Funny enough, you probably can’t make out a single face because of the glaring stage lights, rendering you incapable of seeing anything beyond 3ft from the stage. The benefit of a virtual audience is that there are no stage lights and although your audience may not be in the same room as you or your speaker, you have so much more to leverage in the virtual arena.
Event planning in itself can be an overwhelming task with all the moving pieces and things to consider when deciding what will keep your audience engaged. With in-person events rapidly moving to hybrid or full virtual events, we’ve had to reimagine audience engagement on a whole new level. 92% of companies continued hosting virtual events even after physical events resumed. (Splash) So it’s safe to say that virtual events are here to stay and it’s time to become experts on knowing your virtual audience.
Engaging Your Virtual Audience
When considering strategies on creating opportunities for engagement, think of attention as a currency. Attention isn’t for free. It’s transactional. In order to gain the attention of your audience you are to pay your dues with attention-seeking content. Attention-seeking content must have the following elements to not only gain but sustain your audience’s attention.
You can’t invite a crowd of brain surgeons and talk to them about dentistry. Knowing your audience is crucial to successfully creating content that keeps your virtual audience leaning forward in their seats. According to Kenes Group, “95 percent — of health-care practitioners (HCP) who attend virtual events list “high-quality content as the most important factor when deciding whether to attend a virtual event” What is high-quality content? Content that is cohesive to the need. For example, is this an educational event? Is your audience there to learn and are looking for an opportunity to grow rather than listening to regurgitated facts? Are your speakers expert-level and held to a higher degree of confidence? Relevant, high-quality content that provides solutions to your audience’s needs in a virtual setting is your event.
Developing engaging opportunities in a virtual setting can be a challenge, but not unachievable. 49% of marketers say that audience engagement is the biggest contributing factor to having a successful event and attendee satisfaction is also considered a success factor by 85% of marketers (Markletic, 2020). Additionally, in one survey, 80% of companies used “attendee engagement and satisfaction” as a KPI to measure the success of a virtual event (Bizabbo, 2020). Offering engagement tools such as polling, quizzing, Q&A, breakout rooms or networking halls should be highly considered and prioritized to offer a connected experience for your virtual audience. Specifically, for hybrid events, you don’t want to make an assumption that your attendees that opted for the virtual experience want to have a voice any less than your in-person attendees. Assuming and building an experience for all attendee types to have engagement opportunities is key.
Now that you’ve paid close attention to your audience, analyzing, designing and developing more compelling content, you’re ready to implement your program. But your content challenge isn’t over. It simply shifts now to content delivery. A known best practice in virtual events is to start strong. When you start with a strong intro that’s exciting and engaging, you are offering an instant motivation for your audience to pay attention. Think of delivery as momentum. To keep your audience engaged, you have to move them through the flow of fresh content rather than sitting in the stagnant waters of a long, boring, speech. Looking for more tips on how to hook your audience?
American Express has some great ideas on how to hook your audience in 30 secs, check it out here.
Remember when we talked about momentum? Movement and timing is key to a program that either has multiple speakers or a list of key points to cover. Let’s look at the TED Talk model. TED Talk is an event that brings together the world’s greatest thought leaders and presents informative, inspirational talks crammed into an 18-minute segment of golden nuggets of knowledge. They are addictive, metabolizable, and give a jam-packed appetizer-sized talk that makes you feel like you ate a whole meal. According to Forbes, “Like it or not, your next presentation is being compared to TED.” Challenging yourself to shorten the length of time in each talk or segment of your program, will allow you to find the juiciest parts of your story. That is what will keep your audience on the edge of their seats.
Pre-Event and Post-Event Content
Many event planners make the mistake of seeing the event itself as the primary source of engagement. There are a lot of missed opportunities here. **“The average no-show percentage of virtual events is 35%. This is slightly higher than in-person events.” (Markletic)
We live busy lives, people get sick, plans get cancelled. However, there is power in campaigning an event with engagement opportunities such as pre-event virtual cocktail hours, polling, giveaways, etc. This builds value, takes away the static of a “Save the Date” email and gets them excited for the main event.
See more on how Jumbo helps you have complete control over your audience engagement here.
But even for those no-shows, having post-event content on demand can act as another invitation for them to hop back in to watch what they have missed. According to Intrado, “Organizations hosting virtual events found that 45 percent of registrants attend live. 10 percent of registrants who don’t participate live attend on-demand.”
For those who attended live, content reusability reaffirms the value of your event, fills in the gap of knowledge they may have missed while note-taking, and it offers the opportunity for them to share your content. On demand content is the best way to make your event memorable, leaving them with a good taste in their mouth and ready for the next event served.
In conclusion: The moment you open your doors to in-person events, there is no absolute control over your attendee experience. There’s trying your hardest to create an experience for a lot of bodies, walking around, trying to figure where the bathroom is. With virtual events, there is more access to control, more visibility, there is a holistic view and experience that you choose for your audience. Even better, you get to watch it, measure it, and participate in it in real time. By opening up your events to a virtual audience and mastering the art of virtual engagement, you increase impact, visibility and opportunity. You’ve unlocked the mystery.