We’ve seen a lot of conferences and live events cancelled or postponed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however plenty of businesses and brands have remained agile and still plan to go ahead by taking their event online and hosting a virtual conference or hybrid event instead.

Whilst for most this was a step into a new world of event live streaming and it may not quite be the spectacular live event you envisioned at the start of 2020, physical events can be replicated virtually to an extremely high standard and can actually offer a number of advantages when comparing to a more traditional event. The most obvious advantage of all is making your event accessible to a much larger global audience, but how do you keep your audience engaged when attending an event online?  Obviously it can be far more challenging to keep an online audience focused and engaged compared to a traditional event, perhaps due to increased distractions in the home or office and the ability to leave or turn your focus from the event being much easier and often without anyone even noticing!

So with this in mind, let’s take a look at our top 5 ideas for a more engaged online audience at your next virtual conference or hybrid event.

Pre-Event & Live Polling, Q&A’s and Voting

Pre-event and live polling is a tactic used by many marketeers and event specialists around the world to improve audience engagement and overall experience. The idea behind pre-event polling is that your audience will feel more involved and hence more invested throughout your virtual conference or event live stream because the content has been specifically produced based upon the results and outcomes of these polls. Similarly with live polling, Q&A’s and voting, these specific interaction points and tailored content means your audience are more likely to attend your event and remain engaged throughout.

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Provide Entertainment for your Audience

If you’re hosting a large scale event that is likely to have waiting periods in between speakers, intermissions etc, think about hiring a professional entertainer or artist for your event who is guaranteed to keep your audience engaged.

This is also a great way to help promote and market your virtual conference or event prior to the date and also aids in increasing attendance and engagement rates too. If you’re hoping to increase overall brand awareness and engagement via your event, this approach usually yields highly shareable marketing materials for you to use towards future campaigns and events, whilst also encouraging your event attendees to post and share on social media during and after your event too. Who knows, you might even go viral!

Examples of great entertainment we’ve seen put on in the past include magicians that can still perform a great set of tricks through cameras, comedians (although do choose wisely depending on your audience!), artists, musicians, and so on.

Introduce Breakaway and Networking Rooms

If you’re like most of us, it’s been quite some time since you last attended an in-person conference or event and whilst many are still going ahead in an online format instead, it’s the networking side of these events that if often still lacking today. These random chances to meet and talk with other people in a business and social capacity are a key element to any live event and can often be overlooked when taking an event or conference online.

Savvy Conference organisers are well aware that it’s these seemingly random conversations and interactions that leave the biggest imprint on attendees as they continue to grow their circle of connections and partnerships through your events. That’s why including an interactional element to your event or having one-to-one breakaway sessions and networking rooms during your conference where participants can enjoy meeting new people and making new connections can be a roaring success.

Incorporate Icebreaker Games or Team Building Activities

Team-building activities and icebreaker games are always a great way to keep your audience engaged and should not be put on pause just because you are hosting a virtual event. Icebreakers are particularly great to include if you plan on implementing tip #3 ‘Breakaways and networking rooms’, as it encourages participants to integrate and have some fun with other attendees.

Alternatively make your event a memorable one by hosting a virtual team building game like a topic-related game show or you could even try your own virtual escape room. There are lots of companies out there who can help to create a totally custom experience tailored for your next event that attendees will love.

Gifts, Raffles and Giveaways

Our last tip to ensure your virtual conference or event receives great engagement is to consider sending your invitees event swag bags or include a raffle or giveaway at the end of your online event.

If you opt to send out gift packages, it’s a great idea to include something that can be used during the event. For example, if you’re hosting a virtual conference, consider sending branded items like pens, notepads etc. but also think about sending items that are also relevant to a particular topic of discussion.

Achieving high virtual event engagement requires a different approach and outside of the box planning strategies, but hopefully by implementing some of these simple tips we’ve discussed today  will help engage your attendees virtually and provide a positive experience.