It’s official, we’ve made it to 2021, friends! Even though we are in a new year with 2020 happily in the rearview mirror, virtual events are officially here to stay with nearly 95% of event professionals investing in virtual events moving forward. And while virtual events are here to stay, there are still a few factors that many have yet to perfect—a main one being virtual event engagement. 

 

Webinar vs. Virtual Event: What is the Difference?

 

When we’re talking virtual event engagement there is one thing we need to differentiate right off the bat. 

 

 

You see, many companies and planners have yet to figure out the perfect formula for how to engage their event participants virtually. A recent survey by Wild Apricot noted over 1/3 of planners struggled with participants being sick of online calls and participation. 

 

But do you know why they’re struggling with these things? 

 

Because they’re looking at them as “online calls”. 

 

They’re presenting their virtual events as if they were a webinar, not an event—and there are serious differences between calls, webinars, and events that many who are new to the virtual events world don’t consider. 

 

In a webinar, you’re usually talking at your attendees. Many people throw up a PowerPoint and speak to it—but that’s not going to engage, it’s not going to excite, and this is the exact reason why people are sick of all these “online calls”. How many times have you hit that big red “exit” button because you were simply bored out of your mind? You’re not alone (check out our post on why people are crazy bored of Zoom meetings). It’s time to take it up a notch and perfect your event practices to offer interactive experiences, not lectures. 

 

It’s a simple mindset shift that needs to take place before you even approach ways to engage your attendees virtually. If you’re providing glorified webinars rather than a virtual event, it’s going to affect your investment negatively.

 

Practices to Enhance Virtual Event Engagement

 

Okay, so now that our mindsets have shifted, it’s time to talk all the juicy ways you can create buzz with your virtual event. With these easily implemented tricks you’ll inspire virtual event attendees to engage with your company, your content, and other attendees!

 

Create Polls That Get People Thinking

 

It’s great to ask people where they’re from, but you need to take it beyond that. 

 

Ask them what their biggest challenges are, ask them to share feedback on their experiences with your product, inspire them to evaluate if they’re using your products or services in the right way. 

 

Then, not only will they engage, but it’ll lead to some super useful data for you at the end of the event!

 

Spark Conversations in the Chat Box

 

Again, let’s take it beyond where you’re from! 

 

Inspire attendees to engage with one another and the speaker in the chat box. Have a moderator ready to provide the speaker with little tidbits from the chat that will be useful in the presentation or workshop to ensure the engagement comes full circle. 

 

 

When attendees see their responses align, you’ll be facilitating valuable connections between attendees that will have them coming back for more. Here are some questions will get people talking:

 

  • One piece of advice you would give a newbie in the industry?
  • Give me thumbs up if you would like to see more of [x,y,z]… Use emojis because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love that? 🤩
  • What is your biggest business need right now?
  • What other products or services would you like to see us offer?

 

Refreshingly Unique Virtual Entertainment 

 

No one likes to sit down for hours on end staring at the speaker. Mix it up and make it fun! From getting up and moving to introducing furry coworkers helping behind the scenes, here are a few of our favorite ideas for virtual event entertainment:

 

  • Cartoonist: Have a cartoonist sketch out the attendees or an award winner live during the event and feature their magical creation at the end. 
  • Dance Breaks: Invigorate your session with five minutes of music and movement, turn your video on, and bust a move! You can even have a fun facilitator lead this or bring in a live DJ to really spice things up.
  • Bring your Pet to the Screen:  Because let’s be honest, they’re our favorite coworkers, right? They deserve a little bit of recognition.
  • Grab Your Phone & Share a Photo: Depending on the size of the group, ask everyone to share the most recent photo on their phone and the story behind it. This works well for breakouts too!
  • Zoom Background Challenge: Are they logging in from the tropics or outer space? Challenge people to come to the meeting with a fun Zoom background related to the theme and give a prize for the most creative!
  • Virtual Sign Language: Ask everyone a question and get everyone doing a “clapping”, “heart”, “cheer”! This makes for a fun screenshot photo opp too.

 

Facilitate Meaningful Breakout Sessions

 

One thing people miss most about virtual events is that interpersonal interaction. They miss the close connections made from side conversations during cocktail hour or in the halls of the conference floor. Breakout sessions are a great way to make this happen virtually and they’re not used enough! Break people out into rooms of 20 people or less for 20-minutes. Provide question and topic prompts to start discussions and forge connections. Some options are: 

 

  1. Where are you from, what do you do and why you are here? 
  2. What is the biggest piece of advice you have for the community? 
  3. Future Headlines: What is the next big headline in the industry?
  4. Figure out 5 things you have in common… talk it out!

 

Ready to Engage?

 

Regardless of your role or industry, if you implement even a couple of these at your next event, you will definitely see an increase in engagement. In fact, if you don’t try to engage your attendees at all, your event is 150% more likely to be unsuccessful. We don’t want that, right? A virtual event is a business investment and effective attendee engagement is where you’re going to generate ROI. If you’re in need of a little help curating your virtual engagement strategy, our team at Eventistry by Alecia can help. Schedule a strategy session with Alecia to get started and watch your virtual event engagement soar!