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How to Engage Online Audiences [5 Virtual Event Tips]

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

Tips to increase online audience engagement for your next virtual event.



Introduction


The #1 reason companies are struggling to host a successful virtual event is because of audience engagement. This post will explain why engagement is vital for audience retention and provide five tips you can implement in your next event to increase engagement.



What is Audience Engagement and Why Does it Matter?


Audience Engagement is how often your event attendees participate with the content you are sharing and in which ways they engage with your event. Attendees can engage in several ways, including using chat features, participating in polls or quizzes, following your social media accounts, or sharing your content with their connections.


Having an engaging audience at virtual events increases attendee satisfaction, turning prospective clients into loyal customers. Suppose an event attendee feels disconnected from the content you are sharing. In that case, they are more likely to exit out of your event and not participate in future marketing initiatives.



How to Increase Virtual Event Engagement

An infographic with five tips to increase audience engagement.
Zoomcatchers's Guide to Increasing Audience Engagement


You may start to ask, “how can I increase audience engagement in my virtual event?” Luckily, we’ve created a list of tips you can implement to promote attendee participation for your next event:


1. Don’t attempt to recreate in-person event activities online.

The biggest mistake companies make when hosting virtual events is to try to recreate the in-person experience online. While it’s easy to reminisce about the good old days where event attendees were able to walk to their desired workshops, sit next to strangers, network over shared cocktails, and end the day in a hotel room with a bag full of sponsored merchandise, those days are over.


It is up to companies and event planners to establish what the new normal is for virtual events. While you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you do have to redesign the wheel. Event redesigning will be different for each industry, and it will take trial and error. Still, the results will significantly increase customer satisfaction.


2. Use video-conferencing platform features to your advantage.

Today, there’s a large selection of video-conferencing platforms. Selecting your leading platform can be a daunting task, especially since these platforms offer varying features. However, you should choose a platform that has a mixture of elements that encourage event attendee participation. Here at Zoomcatchers, we use the video-conferencing platform, Zoom, because it has the following features that promote engagement:

  • Live chat

  • Polls

  • Reactions

  • Breakout rooms

  • Screen/audio sharing


If you use some, or all, of these features, your event will dramatically increase in engagement. Audiences want to feel connected to people, not screens. By including features into your event that encourage human interactions, your customers will feel a stronger sense of community and find greater value in your sharing content.


3. Extend attendee engagement beyond your virtual event.

To increase participation from your attendees, you need to start thinking about your company holistically and beyond your virtual event.


The first way to think beyond your virtual event is to integrate your social media efforts with your event planning efforts. There were 3.2 billion social media users worldwide in 2018, and the number is only increasing. In 2020, companies must use social media to expand their reach and create a sense of community. The easiest way to do this is by creating a hashtag for your event. You can go the extra mile and create a new account for your event and post pictures that your attendees share about your event!



A screenshot of Instagram search results of #girlslead20.
The Girl Up organization does a great job of using hashtags to create a community with its event attendees.

Some companies are taking attendee engagement to a new level by mailing out swag bags to the audience’s homes filled with information about the event and some sponsored merchandise. Incorporating tactile objects like merchandise make the attendees feel appreciated and excited to participate in your event.


If you don’t have the budget to send swag bags to your attendees, create materials that your customers can print out at home. In addition to the event schedule, sponsorship advertisements, and information about your company, make sure to include fun activities that keep your attendees engaged. Depending on your industry, activities vary but can consist of bingo games, surveys, scavenger hunts, and raffles. If your event is more serious, you can create workbooks that attendees can fill out as the event progresses. Activities keep the audience engaged with the content you’re sharing while reinforcing the information you’re providing.


4. Limit the number of technical difficulties.

There is nothing more distracting in a virtual event than technical difficulties. Attendees focus more on technical issues than on the content you’re sharing. If you want your audience to stay engaged, you must work to minimize these problems. It would be to your advantage to host an event rehearsal before your actual event.


5. Have a team dedicated to managing your event.

Like an in-person event, virtual events have many logistics and kinks that need work. Companies reason that because virtual events are more straightforward since it’s on a computer, there is no need for a team of assistants, which is a terrible mistake.


Event hosts cannot present their content, manage technical mishaps, and engage with the event attendees simultaneously. Your company must have a group of people that can divide tasks evenly. Suppose there is a person assigned to manage the attendees. The audience would have an official point of contact to speak to if there is a technical problem on their end or have basic questions.



Start Implementing These Tips in Your Next Event

Redesigning the way we plan and manage events is no small task. Although it is challenging to engage your audience in a meaningful way, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by implementing these five tips to your next event. In doing so, you can increase both attendee engagement and customer satisfaction.


If planning a virtual event still seems like too big a task, don’t fret! Our team of trained Zoomcatchers is excited to work with you to make your virtual event a success. Schedule a consultation today to find out how we can support you!

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