Our Top 10 Tips for Making Virtual Events Work
Social media. Text communications. Video conferencing. There’s little doubt that digital interactions are a dominating force in today’s ever-connected world. So even prior to the public health crisis caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), virtual events had already taken their place as powerful tools for meeting and event planners. After all, sophisticated digital platforms are creating virtual environments that mimic the advantages of real events, and attendees are increasingly embracing access to online SMEs and industry networking concepts.
One common question: Can virtual events live up to live events’ ability to foster invaluable face-to-face interactions and peer networking opportunities? When you get down to brass tacks, it all depends on the skill of the event team, the quality of the technology at hand and the willingness of attendees to engage. But there are a number of best practices that organizers can leverage to create a memorable attendee experience in the virtual landscape. Here are our top 10.
1. Break down geographic barriers
One obvious benefit of virtual events is that travel is no longer a barrier to attendees. Event pros are empowered to build an event experience that spans the globe in a variety of ways, including:
a. Offering repeat sessions in multiple time zones
b. Leveraging a mobile event app’s activity stream to encourage attendees to share where they are “tuning in” from and then ask questions about their locales.
But don’t stop there. Maximize on that sense of geographic freedom by digitally featuring speakers that weren’t previously available live. Say so long to travel headaches and sign influencers up for virtual talks, or bring subject matter experts, sponsors and exhibitors into the digital fold by running an AMA (ask me anything) in your event app.
2. Drive pre-event attendee interactions
When hosting virtual events, many planners worry that attendees will skip most forms of engagement, registering for the function only so they can get session content delivered to them post-event. One way around this is to usher attendees into the virtual community and drive interactions well before the event.
Once again, a solid mobile event app will offer features that catalyze pre-event excitement, including various networking options, push notifications and group chats. These tools help event teams facilitate introductions, run icebreakers, answer event FAQs, and promote sessions, sponsors and exhibitors. They turn a “flat” online activity into a multi-dimensional occasion.
3. Facilitate downtime interactions
Let’s face it: Even the best virtual events are subject to brief delays between speakers or digital activities. One way to keep attendees’ interest in play is to take advantage of an event app that offers a Social Wall. Then, instead of projecting a static screen during breaks, you can pop up activity from the app’s activity stream. Other downtime engagement options include running contests and real-time polls on your app’s private social network, or using it to host a Q&A forum for previous sessions.
4. Capture attention with diverse content
Live events radiate energy, but that doesn’t mean going virtual can’t carry the same heat. One great way to keep your attendees excited? Change up your presentation formula. For instance, turn your keynote into a fireside chat interview, substitute an Oxford-style debate for a staid industry session, convert a panel of experts into a gameshow — the key is to switch it up and keep attendees wondering what’s around the corner. Sli.do offers a number of out-of-the-box ideas for keeping your presentations fresh, as well as a snappy polling platform for delivery.
5. Give attendees a chance to interact
True, it can be challenging to keep an audience engaged when they don’t have a way to express their opinions live or directly interact with a presenter. That’s why it’s so important for event pros to ensure they’re offering more than just a webcast chatbox during virtual events.
Luckily, it’s easy to facilitate live Q&A sessions through many event apps’ social tools. Discussions held within the social stream allow speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and the event team to chime in on conversations attendees have started. Want to keep a dialog dialed back or allow questions to remain anonymous? Simply create a moderator profile, then ask attendees to filter their questions directly to that individual through the app’s private messaging feature.
6. Humanize the virtual experience
One of the most substantial gaps between live and digital events is the feeling of personal connection, a natural emotional phenomenon that occurs when humans share experiences. During virtual events, fueling this “togetherness” vibe involves driving interactions beyond the session room, check-in line or coffee break. Instead, event pros must encourage attendees to share their opinions about the event digitally.
A great way to do this is to prompt participants to post photos to the event app’s activity stream. Good shots: What their desks look like, the view out their office window, a glimpse of what they’re having for lunch and so on. Insider tip: The more “human” attendees get, the more warm and natural their community interactions become.
7. Build virtual sponsorship offerings
Just because an event has gone virtual doesn’t mean sponsors and partners have to suffer. The promotion of these stakeholders can be achieved digitally via a multitude of creative delivery methods. Use your event website or mobile app’s content library to create a virtual trade show floor, hosting several recorded presentations and offering sponsor booking links so attendees can engage in 1:1 video consultations or demos.
What’s more, it’s simple to add sponsors to your mobile app’s splash screen or add a vendor directory to your mobile app. Or try creating a virtual networking lounge where exhibitors can offer discovery sessions with smaller groups of attendees. Your event app’s push notification and sponsored post features are great avenues for promoting sessions, special offers or calls-to-action. There are even virtual reality (VR) expo solutions like Easy Virtual Fair that can make the expo experience a successful component of your digital event.
8. Delight attendees by surprising them
Nothing stirs a bored audience like a little surprise. Spice things up using your mobile app’s activity stream to offer giveaways, share a “secret tip” or insider information, or announce an influencer session that wasn’t originally on the agenda. Keeping virtual attendees on their toes heightens the odds that they’ll stick around for the entire event. Word to the wise: To facilitate these last-minute delights, you’ll need an event tech provider that allows organizers to easily update content on the fly, no coding or help from IT pros required.
9. Use gamification to engage
In-app gamification is a fun and proven way to engage virtual attendees. Look for technology that allows you to assign points to attendees’ social interactions, and ideally offers a leaderboard within the activity stream. Getting participants’ competitive juices flowing is a sure way to keep their interest; add prizes in the form of swag or tickets to your next live event to up the ante!
10. Leverage content & data on demand
One of the core benefits of any virtual event is that it offers two-way instant gratification for attendees and the hosting organization. For instance, event teams can instantly offer and update content for attendee download within the mobile app, no manual work involved. And analyzing the digital interactions collected within an attendee data platform provides organizers with real-time insight into high-value topics, speaker ratings and sponsor interactions — information that can be used to ignite hyper-personalized post-event outreach programs later on.
Is your organization hosting virtual events? What value do you get from these functions, and how do you prioritize the value of attendees’ digital experience? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or starting a conversation with us on social media: LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter