Learn how you can improve virtual attendee engagement at your next hybrid event.
Life is returning to normal. But not quite how it was before. In the event industry, hybrid events—which grew exponentially due to COVID-19—are now a firm fixture of the industry.
Here’s the issue though, the no-show rate for virtual attendees is 35%. It’s no trifling matter, with 71% of event organizers saying that connecting the in-person and virtual audience is their biggest challenge. That is a serious problem, especially considering 73% of event planners agree that these events will become even more common in the future.
The question is, does this mean that hybrid events are intrinsically flawed, or is it a simple case of event planners playing catch up to accommodate this new wave of virtual attendees?
The answer is unclear. But what we do know is that virtual attendees are feeling neglected right now. If you’re an event planner or plan to host virtual events for your business in the future, read on to discover how to improve virtual attendee engagement at your next hybrid event.
Give out event goodies
You can engage your virtual attendees before your event begins by sending them a goodie bag to their home addresses. The great thing about this gesture is that the goodies don’t need to be that spectacular. The thought itself will endear yourself to your attendees, thus they will be more likely to click the “join” button if they’re incentivized with free stuff.
But what do you pack the bags with? You can’t go wrong with branded merch, event programs, and vouchers. Alternatively, you could switch it up and send them a virtual event bag with discount codes, free trials, and more vouchers. Be creative here!
Use the unique power of NFTs
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a remarkable development in blockchain technology. NFTs are unique digital transactions that take the form of electronic files such as photos, music, films, and documents. It’s a confusing concept to get your head around, but practically speaking, it’s an exchange of digital content.
In the age of the internet, you can copy and share just about anything, en masse, for free. But thanks to blockchain technology, NFTs are not transferable. Each one is entirely unique. In the context of virtual events, you can offer your attendees something previously thought impossible: unique digital content. Now, if that won’t engage people, what will?
For example, DC comics collaborated with NFT platform Palm Studio to launch its first NFT collection. The NFTs are digital versions of the covers of iconic comic books. Every fan who registered got one for free, with the option to win even more during the event.
Build a high-quality production
Think about how much energy and attention you put into executing your floor plan and sets at your physical events. You wouldn’t invite your guests into a hall with plastic seats and a lonely mic on a bare stage. No, because good event planners know pageantry and appearance are important.
That’s how you need to treat your virtual guests. It’s no good for them to click on a Zoom link to see a lousy stream of your physical event raging on without them.
Sprucing things up production-wise can include things like getting quality cameras, mics, superior set design, lighting, paying close attention to camera angles, and so on. So when your virtual attendees log in, don’t let them feel like second-string guests. Be a professional and build them an occasion too.
Strive to produce engaging content
There is a lot less room for error with virtual attendees when it comes to content. If your speakers and content are boring, your physical attendees will have to sit and take it. But your virtual attendees will start checking their emails, start gaming, or if it’s bad enough, they’ll start cleaning around the house.
Don’t give them a chance to start browsing Netflix. Engaging content starts with good production quality, as we previously mentioned, and original content. One piece of advice? Cut the fluff and keep your content short but sweet. Your guests will thank you.
Consider micro-events and micro-experiences
A hot trend this year in virtual and hybrid events is micro-events and micro-experiences. In short, they are events inside events; small, more concentrated experiences inside your overarching main event.
They offer a more personal touch to virtual attendees who might feel lost amongst the noise of the main event. This is a great way to boost virtual attendee engagement and can range from workshops, networking sessions, Q&As, gaming experiences, and other hands-on content.
Incorporate creative icebreakers
Icebreakers can be dull and predictable corporate affairs. But they don’t have to be. Done right, they can be engaging. They can make a cynical virtual attendee a convert, and more importantly, they can be fun!
Speaking to Spacehuntr CEO Dietrich Moens, he said,
“Our team loves ice-breakers. We do them for all our brainstorming sessions. I understand people’s hesitation because they can be quite generic. But with a bit of creativity, they can be great for team-building.”
Don’t worry. You don’t have to waste time trying to think of your own. You can steal some of the Spacehuntr team’s favorites for your next event.
Be thoughtful about your presenters
You know your audience better than anyone, so trust your intuition when it comes to selecting your special presenters. Perhaps you could have a comedian, a respected expert in your field, or an influencer.
Consider one thing, though. The nature of your presenters can determine the nature of your event in a big way. The respected expert angle is an organic and professional route to take while hiring an entertainer might come across as a bit superfluous.
And one more point, getting a guest presenter won’t just engage attendees, it will reduce no-shows. An impressive name could make for some very effective marketing to lure in attendees.
Build brand awareness with gamification
Gamification has been and will continue to be, a hot trend for a while now. When we talk about virtual engagement, we almost always refer to gamification. It’s engaging, and it’s fun. Event planners and businesses love it because it makes their brand relatable and effectively disseminates their message. What’s more, it’s known to improve attendee engagement by 44%.
There are two main objectives with gamification: to sell a product or to teach. An example of selling a product would be Steph IQ. It engages sports fans during games with trivia questions, where they can win sporting goods.
An example of learning through gamification would be Duolingo. Learning a new language is a chore, for most of us anyway. However, by turning it into a game, you are incentivizing users with affirmation and prizes.
You can check out these 10 amazingly successful examples of gamification to see how simple and effective gamification can be.
Take advantage of live polling and Q&As
Live polling and Q&As are a great way to turn passive viewers into active attendees. As well as giving your attendees a voice, you can learn from them. You can discover what they like about your event and what they don’t for your future planning efforts.
Most virtual event platforms come with live polling capabilities, or you can adopt stand-alone software such as Slido. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how live polling should look. But keep these tips in mind:
- Write questions that are relevant, clear, concise, and brief.
- Answer options should be either multiple-choice, open text, or ranking orders.
- Don’t ask too many questions! Your questions shouldn’t feel like homework.
And as for live Q&As, this is dependent on quality content. If the content is good, you’ll enthuse attendees to participate in the Q&A. If they aren’t paying attention in the first place, what good is a Q&A? If you get the content right, your attendees will appreciate being given a voice.
Invest in an event management software
Is there an aspect of our lives that technology hasn’t changed? Well, if there is, it’s not the events industry. The love affair between event planners and technology has bloomed into something beautiful.
Technology is also great for virtual attendees. It makes an attendee’s experience more seamless thanks to easy registration, electronic wallets for them to collect virtual freebies, customizable personal profiles, and messaging features for intuitive networking.
By investing in technology such as event management software, you can level the playing fields for your virtual attendees and improve their engagement.
Don’t lose your audience during the break
You might think you can take your foot off the gas during the breaks. But be careful. You don’t want to lose your attendees’ hard-won attention after all this hard work. But it’s easier said than done, and don’t forget, we all need a break, don’t we? Here are some tricks to ensure your guests return on time and are hungry for more.
For starters, leave them some bait. As you break off, tease them with a juicy segment they’ll be coming back to. Maybe it’s your special guest entertainer they’ve been waiting for. Or, perhaps you can give them something to do like a task, game, feedback form, or some light homework. And lastly, be careful not to make the break too long.
Boost your virtual attendee engagement with these steps
So, there we go, some answers to one of the events industry’s biggest problems. Just getting your virtual attendees to log on—and thereafter maintain their engagement—is no mean feat.
But this industry is both versatile and innovative. It’s best to watch this space to see how event planners, and the evolving technological landscape, make hybrid events more appetizing to virtual attendees in the future.