Virtual event engagement has become a top priority for event organizers worldwide as organizations turn to online platforms to connect with audiences. Whether an event marketer, nonprofit founder, or academic director, chances are you’ve hosted a virtual event recently or will.
Think back on the best in-person conferences or seminars you’ve attended. What made them stand out? Did the keynote speaker elevate the experience?
Or maybe you remember the interesting people that crossed your path, the interactive booths, or the exceptional food and swag. Likely, the moments you remember best are those you found engaging.
In-person events happen less frequently these days, but screens don’t have to replace fun, memorable virtual event activities. And with more innovative virtual events springing up in recent years, it’s proof that everything from wine tastings to scavenger hunts to symphonies can happen online.
Why is engagement important for events?
Attendees are more likely to remember events—and brands—that engage them. Why? Because participation requires paying attention, which boosts memory. So if you want your event to impact audiences long term, invest time and resources into interactive virtual events that capture attention.
Here are 5 virtual event engagement ideas to increase audience participation during your event:
1. Pay attention to production quality
Today’s tech-savvy audiences want virtual events that run without a hitch. So ensure your event hosting platform and software come with updated features audiences expect, like quick login, breakout rooms, and clear ways to comment or ask questions.
The technology should also run smoothly and include a user-friendly interface that audiences can navigate. Providing live speech-to-text transcription with multiple language options can improve event accessibility and grow larger, more diverse audiences.
Along with a top-notch hosting platform, an event’s structure and aesthetic are also critical to its overall production value.
Consider the following steps to create an engaging look and feel for your virtual event (and add production value):
- Train event speakers on the platform technology beforehand. Speakers will feel comfortable and confident when they present, and audiences won’t feel like you wasted their time when presenters are ready.
- Be strategic about time. Audiences should only be in sessions for as long as they need to be, and no longer. It’s a smart idea to hire event moderators to help hosts and presenters stay on schedule.
- Lean into themes. Audiences love a good theme they can relate to—and incorporate into an event-specific hashtag. A theme lends more solid structure to your event and can keep your event in audiences’ minds long afterward.
- Hire video production professionals. Expert video producers and editors will make your event content top quality. A support team can oversee audiovisual tools, design and implement graphics, and create prerecorded content to share during the event.
2. Facilitate rewarding networking experiences
In-person events like outbound conferences and workshops might seem to be the only way for attendees to engage in meaningful conversations. After all, if you put enough people into the same room, networking sparks will fly.
But there’s no reason this same level of interaction can’t happen online. Virtual conference engagement ideas that increase networking opportunities for attendees include:
- Breakout rooms for smaller groups to engage in dynamic discussions
- Live chats where attendees can share thoughts during content sessions
- One-on-one meetings with fellow attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors
- Virtual socials and mixers for attendees to chat and build relationships outside of sessions
- Event-specific social groups where attendees can stay connected online following the event
When you build networking opportunities into your event, you help create authentic connections between attendees and leave them with a positive impression of your brand.
3. Include live polls, chats, and Q&As
To increase virtual event engagement, provide ample opportunities for attendees to participate in and respond to event content. Audiences are more likely to invest in an event when their contributions are welcome.
Include a live-chat feature throughout your event so attendees can voice questions and comments and connect. Live chats prompt lively discussion, help attendees feel valued for their ideas, and encourage further participation in event activities.
Another effective strategy is to build Q&As into sessions to make them even more compelling. A moderator can vet audience questions to keep the discussion on topic.
Live polls and surveys also improve interaction among event attendees. These tools inform discussion topics, help attendees learn more about each other, provide valuable insight into your audience and their experience, and collect feedback.
4. Make time for fun and games
Most people like a healthy dose of competition. Games and activities—like industry-related trivia, bingo, and charades—inject excitement into virtual sessions and inspire audiences.
You can try virtual event activities like:
- Lightning rounds of games between sessions
- A performance by a stand-up comedian, magician, or singer-songwriter
- DJ-powered, after-hour dance parties
- Scavenger hunts on social media
- Strategy games
- Wine tastings or mixology minicourses
And while meditation and yoga aren’t games, wellness sessions offer attendees a chance to relax and reenergize after a long day of programming. Conversely, morning sessions are a great way to help your audience start their day with a focused and positive mindset.
5. Personalize the audience journey
It’s no secret personalization engages audiences. In fact, nearly 80% of business leaders find that consumers spend 34% more on average when offered personalized experiences—so don’t pass up the chance to personalize the audience experience and gain qualified leads.
Try one of these strategies to help create personalized attendee journeys before, during, and after your virtual event:
- Create sign-up questions that ask for personalized responses. When attendees register for your event, ask them a few questions that call for more specific insight into who they are other than just their name and email address. A question like, “Chocolate chip vs. oatmeal raisin: Who wins?” is a simple and fun way to start the personalization journey—and gives you information you can leverage later.
- Send goodies or swag in anticipation of the event. Even in these digital days, people appreciate gifts sent via snail mail—especially gifts that feel tailored to them. If you asked registrants at sign-up which type of cookie they prefer, chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin, you can send a packaged cookie with a countdown to your event. Gifts like a branded notepad and pencil or a coffee mug are useful options too.
- Use icebreakers to warm up the crowd. People like to share interesting tidbits and hear fun facts about strangers they meet. Start live sessions, Q&As, or breakout rooms with icebreakers to make attendees feel like more than an anonymous square on a screen.
- Ask for audience input before, during, and after the event. Through interactive tools like live polls and Q&As during sessions and social media shares and surveys once the event wraps, give attendees many opportunities to share their questions, ideas, and feedback about the event.
When your audience feels a personal connection to event experiences, they’re much more likely to stay connected to your brand. Use personalized communication tactics like targeted email campaigns to follow up with attendees post-event and continue to nurture relationships.
How to measure virtual event success
While real-time observations might give you an idea of how your event performed, event metrics based on data are the most accurate way to measure virtual event success.
Your hosting platform tools can help you capture relevant statistics, like registration and attendance numbers, live-stream views, drop-off rates, social media mentions, and website and event app visits. Post-event analysis into email open rates, lead engagement, and revenue gains can also tell you how your event contributed to your organization’s overall success.
Sending timely follow-up surveys can also help to gather meaningful feedback from your audience. This can help you know what went well and what to improve for your next event. You can even include a gift as an incentive to complete the survey or just as a thank you to attendees.
Achieve virtual event engagement success with Twilio SendGrid
How your audience grows over time is a crucial measure of virtual event success. Outbound email automation can help you connect with attendees after your event and maintain brand engagement.
Twilio SendGrid offers an efficient way to communicate with audiences and nurture meaningful customer relationships. With the SendGrid API, you can design and test emails, segment audiences, ensure deliverability, capture analytics, and demonstrate marketing effectiveness. Sign up today to get started for free.