In-person events have an electrifying energy that comes from incredible venues, the buzz of a highly active and engaged audience, speakers who have perfected their presence on stage, and professional production quality sets. Virtual events on the other hand, can be rather unimpressive, low energy, and well… boring.
The reality is, if you’re simply trying to replicate in-person events with an online platform, you are doomed to failure. Why? Given virtual events are primarily viewed on mobile phones or laptops, have no visible or audible audience, mediocre performances from seated speakers in their living rooms, and amateur production using virtual tools, the overall experience is uninspiring.
But don’t worry! With a few solid strategies and tools in place, you can transform a mediocre virtual event into a highly effective and captivating experience.
Here are three ways you can change the game and make your next virtual event more engaging.
Personalize and Customize
Create and use digital tools that give every viewer the ability to personalize and customize their virtual experience. From the moment they register to your event, they should be prompted to create a Personal Profile. This information is crucial so that you can customize their agenda, group discussions, and connection suggestions based on their demographics, personal and professional background, and interests. Insist that Emcees and Speakers call attendees out when it shows they’ve joined a stream, made a comment, or participated in a poll. Use the plethora of tools and online event platform features to make sure each participant is recognized and appreciated individually.
Create Networking Opportunities
I’m genuinely surprised by event organizers who complain that they can’t integrate “real networking” like at in-person events. If you ask me, the rise of social media sites and other platforms show how much more effective networking can be in a virtual setting. Complete personal profiles, an endless newsfeed, user-generated content, and harnessing data to make relevant suggestions to attendees are all obvious necessities for virtual events. The next step is to integrate video-based group discussions, features like “attendee roulette” (essentially speed dating where attendees are matched randomly with a video call for a short period of time), and other initiatives that give attendees the ability to share ideas and connect both in real-time comments as well as post-event discussion forums.
Augment the Chat Sections
Make sure you are taking full advantage of the chat section! There are three strategies you can use to engage attendees here. The first thing you can do is to Create Hype! You can do this by asking obvious questions that attendees would feel comfortable answering. The questions should be easy to answer but should in no way be rhetorical.
The second strategy is to Create Discussion. It is best to deploy this strategy about 10 minutes into a session. At this point the listeners have had a chance to hear new ideas and now are given a chance to share their own opinion. You will get the most engagement by asking a tough question that will give you opposing answers.
Finally, I recommend you Reward Engagement. When someone shares something, respond to that comment. When someone has an opinion and people are attacking them, validate that person and say ‘thank you for sharing, and even though it may be unpopular please share more about why you feel this way.’ You can reward those who engage this way by validating them, giving them actual prizes, or enticing them. Giving free tickets to the next in-person event to someone actively engaged in the comment section can be a great incentive to increase thoughtful participation.
I hope some of the above might have sparked some ideas for your next event. Having hosted over 80 virtual events in the last 20 weeks alone, I have many more best practices and new innovative concepts that I am happy to share with you. If you need help to ideate and implement some game changing engagement for your next event, get in touch!
Dan Ram ignites the stage as an in-person event and virtual event EMCEE & Speaker at over 100 events a year. Hosting changemakers like President Barack Obama, billionaire founders like Sir Richard Branson and Reid Hoffman, record breaking athletes like F1 champion Nico Rosberg, Grammy-winning artists and celebrities. He works on 4 continents from college campuses to parliaments to in-house corporate innovation days for Fortune 500 companies to the biggest tech conferences in the world. A recognized 5x TEDx speaker and conference host, he created the “Speaking Success” online course – a comprehensive, action-oriented, 6 part video series for those keen to improve their stage presence, body language and practice techniques. His passion is to inspire people with his motto ‘Start Now Start Simple’ in building a future we all want to live in.