Keeping your community engaged during your virtual event takes strategic planning. We all know what it’s like when you’re staring at the screen and your mind starts to wander… what’s for dinner? Did I put that load of laundry on? I should call mum back.
Not only is the home full of distractions, but it’s harder to maintain attention spans in a virtual setting compared to an in-person experience. The good news is, there are a number of things you can do to keep attendees engaged during your online event.
1. Generate excitement with pre-event freebies.
This is especially useful for events that will run for more than an hour. Think of things that can be enjoyed during the event, such as food and wine hampers or a food delivery voucher to ensure your guests are well-catered for – just as they would be at an in-person event.
2. Encourage a distraction-free space.
You can mimic the experience of watching a movie at the cinema (which most of us are missing during lockdown!) by showing a slide before your event starts advising attendees to close doors, turn off phones if not required, and close other tabs to minimise distractions.
3. Ensure top-notch production quality.
Even the smallest of time lags or distorted resolution can immediately lower engagement, as attendees require a greater mental effort to take in information and it disrupts their immersion in the content. Professional production quality is a must-have for any online event, and a skill we pride ourselves on.
4. Vary the format.
Listening to someone talk for half an hour or more can quickly become monotonous during an online event. Instead, focus on delivering a balanced media mix, such as pre-recordings, still images, motion graphics, live chat, workshop / whiteboard tools and discussion breakout rooms. Ultimately, the goal is to bring audiences into the subject and keep them immersed for longer.
5. Choose your speakers carefully.
Select confident speakers who are engaging, speak well and maintain a conversational tone. It’s easy for attendees to zone out if the talk begins to sound like a lecture.
6. Interact with your audience.
There are a number of tools you can use to maintain engagement throughout an event, such as live Q&As, polls and discussion breakout rooms that encourage attendees to take an active role.
7. Keep sessions short.
It’s easier for people to concentrate in short bursts, especially online. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, which is why you should keep sessions shorter than they would be at a live event. Ideally, a one-hour info session would only be half an hour online.
8. Stay on topic.
In the spirit of keeping things focused and succinct, stay on topic. Outline your objective before planning any virtual event, and make sure you understand the key points you want your audience to take away, so you can centre your content on these.
9. Don’t forget to take a break!
Schedule in regular breaks, particularly during longer events, to keep attendees fresh. While lunch and morning tea breaks are a given, include shorter respites to allow for bathroom or tea breaks, or consider an intermission where you host an activity such as stretching or mindfulness. If people know a scheduled break is coming, they’re also less likely to wander off in the middle of a presentation.
10. Follow up your event by asking for feedback.
Once the event finishes, ask for feedback or send out a survey so you can get an instant insight into how attendees felt after the event. It’s a good idea to advise attendees beforehand if you’re going to do this, to encourage attention and engagement.
While there’s a lot to think about when planning a virtual event, all it takes is a little creativity – or some professional help, which is where we come in – to host a memorable, engaging event.