Guest post from Sonia Urlando
Virtual events are now normal additions to organizations’ calendars, and that’s great! They offer your donors and members increased convenience, and they offer you increased flexibility and cost-effectiveness.
Virtual events allow more people worldwide to attend events. This includes people who wouldn’t be able to attend if it was in person. This alone already increases attendance and engagement.
Even though there are a lot of similarities between planning physical and virtual events, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind when hosting a virtual event. But the success of any virtual event hinges on a critical factor: attendee engagement. To learn how to get the most engagement from your virtual event, read on. We have you covered!
Why does virtual event engagement matter so much?
Simply put, generating engagement from attendees is the whole point of hosting an event in the first place.
As the steward of a charitable mission, every virtual event for your association will have a specific purpose or will bring benefits to your work. Every event has an objective and goals, and engaged attendees will help you reach them.
There are many reasons you might be considering hosting a virtual event. Some of these are:
- To raise money for a specific fundraising goal
- To educate people about a specific issue important to your organization
- Networking for your organization and members
- To increase awareness of your organization and your cause
- To attract new members to your organization
There are a few general things you can do while planning your event before we get into the specifics of engaging your attendees at the event itself:
- Use event management tools to make your job of planning and organizing much easier.
- Build a lot of opportunities for engagement into your event plan. This can be through workshops or networking sessions, question and answer sessions (Q&As), surveys, and polls.
- Send regular communications to attendees and members that haven’t registered yet. Doing this will increase excitement before the event even starts, and will have attendees arriving already ready to participate in activities.
Driving engagement at a virtual event can be challenging in today’s environment when we already spend so much time looking at screens. But by using creative and intentional strategies at your event, you can boost engagement to ensure the success of any of your events.
Our Favorite Virtual Event Engagement Ideas
In this section, we have a few of our favorite event engagement ideas. Here are five simple yet fundamental ways to boost virtual event engagement.
1. Boost real-time interaction using quizzes, polls, and more
Quizzes and polls are easy to set up on most virtual conference platforms. They offer a clear and simple way for attendees to have their voices heard. For example: in workshops, Q&As, or other talks, you can have polls to ask attendees what topic they’d like the speaker to go more into depth with.
As the event goes on, you can use polls to determine what attendees like the best. This is especially useful if you’re trying something new with this event. You should also consider sending a post-event survey out to your participants. This can also tell you when they felt the most engaged in the event.
Quizzes are also great for engagement. You can ask questions about things attendees have learned, and give prizes to whoever does the best on each quiz. Offering challenges and prizes throughout an event is a great way to keep attendees engaged throughout the event.
Polls and quizzes can be presented right in your virtual conference platform or in a separate chatting space if you have one. The more places you can promote polls, quizzes, and surveys, the more engagement with them you’ll see.
2. Use breakout rooms and attendee directories to foster more conversations
Breakout rooms and attendee directories are a great help for networking, which in turn boosts engagement.
Breakout rooms put your event on a smaller scale for attendees. They can also make engaging with a big event seem more manageable for participants, making them more likely to speak up. You can assign them randomly or have themed breakout rooms that participants can select themselves. The latter can help to get a conversation started between participants about a specific theme. You can also have a mix of both!
Having an attendee directory is another great way to get conversations going on a smaller scale. This lets attendees find other attendees with similar interests that they can then send direct messages to. Attendees can also keep in touch with the people they meet there, even after the event.
Making positive connections at your event will make an attendee’s experience even better. They will also be more excited to sign up for your next event!
3. Go multichannel with simultaneous social media activities
You can have attendees submit photos or posts about your event on social media using a dedicated event hashtag. This will increase engagement over an even wider spectrum.
Start doing this before the event even starts to build excitement around your event and push registration. This is also useful for multi-day events. It will keep people talking about your event after the day’s activities have ended and before the next day’s have started.
Having your attendees create additional buzz about your event online in their circles is a great way to increase your organization’s recognition and status.
A lot of our time today is spent on social media. So having content for your event on a platform that attendees are already very familiar with and will likely be visiting throughout the event is a great way to boost and hold engagement.
4. Take a peer-to-peer approach to promoting the event
Peer-to-peer approaches to fundraising and promotion use your supporters’ existing networks to raise money or promote an event on your behalf. Once your event is set up, volunteers set up their own pages promoting the event that can target the individuals in their own circle.
This personal connection to the person who invited them can make people more inclined to feel invested and engaged in the event’s goal.
You can use this approach in conjunction with social media. If your attendees are engaged in your event, they can share their positive experiences online and gain outside interest.
Volunteers and attendees promoting the event and getting excited about it on their own social media accounts will draw in even more people. Word of your event can reach additional people without your organization having to reach each of them directly.
5. Offer perk packages to be delivered before the event
These perk packages for signing up are physical items delivered directly to attendees. They can be swag items like branded keychains, water bottles, T-shirts, or anything else your attendees might appreciate.
The idea with this is to tangibly connect what’s happening on-screen with what’s happening at home while giving the feeling of a VIP experience. This grounds the event. It also helps build excitement before the event. You want to link these items to the positive experience they had at your event.
Physical items from an event will also remind attendees about your organization after the event has ended. This might even turn casual attendees into full members of your organization.
Virtual events are a great innovation from recent years. But for them to really work, you need engagement from your attendees. Engagement is important so that you can meet or exceed the goal of your event, whether that’s to raise money, increase membership, educate the public, or something else!
With these tips and ideas to get you started, your organization’s next virtual event is sure to engage participants in new and exciting ways!