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Engaging Attendees Through Virtual Events

 

Tips for Engaging Attendees Through Virtual Events
Best Immersive Activities for Memorable Attendee Experiences

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Over the past few months, face-to-face meetings and events have been put on pause, forcing event professionals to opt for a safer way of meeting - through virtual events. Hosting your event online eliminates many of the expenses required for holding in-person events such as travel, venue, and vendor costs. With virtual events, attendees around the globe can log on from anywhere, often attracting a larger audience. Virtual events also make it possible to track and collect valuable data that might not be easily accessible during live events. Although virtual events eliminate some of the drawbacks live events bring, hosting a fully digital event isn’t exactly a cakewalk and poses challenges even for the most experienced of meeting or event professionals. 

According to EventMB, the biggest challenge planners face with virtual events is maintaining the same level of attendee engagement that you would have at an in-person event. Not only are attendees able to participate, pay attention, and retain information better when fully engaged, they’re also more likely to attend your future events and recommend them to others. So how can you make a virtual event as engaging as a live event? Your first instinct may be to replicate a typical in-person event to deliver the same experience -- but virtual events are a completely different ballgame and should be treated as such. While virtual events bring new challenges, hosting a virtual event also opens up opportunities for delivering new and unique experiences that may not be possible with live events. To help you discover new ways to engage your audience virtually, we’re sharing some great tips for hosting engaging virtual events. 

Generate Buzz Before The Event 
Host Exciting Event Speakers
Have High Production Value 
Elevate Your Swag or Giveaways
Offer Immersive Activities For Memorable Attendee Experiences 

Generate Buzz Before The Event
Generating pre-event anticipation is an essential component for any event, meeting, or conference. Not only does it build excitement for attendees who have already RSVP’d, but it can also persuade those who are on the fence, as well as reach potential attendees who may not have known about your event. Content marketing plays a crucial role in this process. This strategy involves offering valuable content that piques the interest of your target audience. Content marketing and social media go hand-in-hand. In the weeks leading up to your event, utilize your social channels to post pre-event teasers. Create an event hashtag to house all of the pre-event hype under one place. This can also help create a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) for the undecided bunch. Another effective pre-event promotional tool is an impressive event website. Your event website should serve as a valuable information hub that contains a detailed event agenda, features speakers, and directs attendees to register. Finally, a short yet well-executed promo video is a successful way to build expectations and visually show attendees and prospects what they can expect from your event. Promo videos can include a sneak peek look at relevant event topics, your speaker line-up, pre-recorded clips, and gamification aspects. Keep in mind that the higher the production value, the more enticing and impressive the video will be. 

Host Exciting Event Speakers
When it comes to virtual events, guest speakers are often the main attraction and attendance driver. Speaker sessions help the audience stay connected and engaged - especially when the presenter is excited and passionate about the topic of discussion. Like we mentioned before, virtual events save you money since you’re not budgeting for a venue, on-site staff, food and beverage, signage, and other costs typically needed for in-person events. Use those extra budget dollars to splurge on exciting and well-known guests who might typically be outside your budget. Plus, your speakers don’t have to travel, which means virtual events offer more flexibility than live events when it comes to time and scheduling. This makes landing higher caliber guests a more accessible and affordable task. Speakers can also be a significant contributor to your marketing strategy. They can use their influence to encourage their followers to participate in the event, so ask your speaker to promote the event on their social channels and other media outlets. Before the event, brief your presenter to ensure that the content they deliver is relevant and aligns well with your event’s theme. 

Have High Production Value 
With any event, whether in-person or virtual, the goal remains the same - to deliver a high-quality experience to your attendees. When pivoting to a virtual event, the production value is increasingly important. Think of your virtual event’s production quality as the venue space, layout, and design of a live event. It is best to stray outside of the simple webcam or videoconference setup. Your virtual event should be a very well-produced, educational, and entertaining experience for your viewers. To deliver a digital event with a professional look and feel, here’s what you’ll need:

1. Video and Sound Quality
Whether you go the live stream route or pre-recorded route (or a hybrid of both), think beyond the standard webcam setup that we’re all so accustomed to by now. Part of feeling like you’re there is through sharp and vivid audio and visual experience. So try to amp it up a bit by investing in a high-quality camera and microphone. You’ll also want to focus on lighting and camera angles to provide a professional ‘studio’ look and feel.

2. Backdrops
Another way to make attendees feel like they're part of a well-put-together event is through backdrops. Incorporating backdrops adds a cohesive element to your virtual event as well as branding opportunities. Backdrops are especially important for virtual events where presenters will be joining remotely. In this case, each speaker should be provided with a backdrop to avoid having distracting or messy atmospheres when speakers are presenting. You can also use backdrops to incorporate your event’s theme and give attendees a change of scenery with different sessions. This will help to make the virtual attendee experience more exciting.

Not sure where to start when picking out a backdrop? Head over to How to Pick the Best Backdrop for Video Meetings or Virtual Events!

3. Technical Support Staff
Technical difficulties are the easiest and quickest way to lose your virtual audience entirely. No one wants to watch a movie or television program that is pixelated and lagging - the same thing goes for virtual events. To avoid connectivity issues, files not loading, or malfunctioning platform features, appoint a technical support staff to make sure all your bases are covered ahead of the big day.

4. Impressive Hosting Platform
Lastly, virtual attendee engagement heavily relies on the technology you use. You want your audience to feel like they’re involved in the event rather than watching an event like a television show. Your hosting platform should have interactive features such as live polls, discussion boards, chat functions, surveys and quizzes, Q&A sessions, and other engagement tools that allow attendees to participate in the event. Other essential platform capabilities include networking tools, integrations, and capacity allowance. If you find yourself in need of a hosting platform, check out our 10 Best Apps for Virtual Events and Trade Shows - Going Virtual with Madison Avenue, Inc.
 

Elevate Your Swag or Giveaways
An event is not complete without swag. People love free things, so offering swag items is a great way to incentivize individuals to attend your event. Most importantly, a logo can be added to just about any promotional item. When it comes to selecting event giveaways, think about what your attendees’ needs are. This can help you determine how to provide relevancy and value through giveaways. In today’s climate, personal protective equipment, or PPE, is something we all need. Similarly, with many of us currently working remotely, office supplies are equally beneficial to attendees. 

PPE 

General/Office 

Offer Immersive Activities For Memorable Attendee Experiences 
To take your virtual event to the next level, and have it really stand out, incorporate immersive activity sessions that attendees can participate in real-time from home. For larger audiences, consider offering attendees the option to choose between multiple activities upon registering for the event. This way, attendees can pick the experience that they’re most interested in. Plus, offering small breakout sessions for each activity is a great networking opportunity for attendees to “meet” and interact with individuals who share a similar interest in a more intimate setting. Sending attendees swag packages before the event with items related to their specific activity will make experiences even more engaging and memorable. Not only are these items useful during the activity, but they’re also keepsakes for attendees to remember your event by.  

Below are some of our favorite immersive and engaging activities you can incorporate into your virtual event. We love these ideas not only for the level of engagement they offer your attendees but also for their ability to match any budget.

1. General

Themed Spirit Days
If your virtual event is a multi-day event, consider changing it up a bit by giving a specific theme to each day. These themes can include a jersey day, hat day, decade day, and more. If your event doesn’t involve having attendees on video, they can still participate by posting photos of their outfits on social media.

Pre Loaded Notebook with QR Codes

Take event note-taking to the next level with custom notebooks and journals. These journals can be custom-printed with content throughout such as unique quotes, images, word games, QR codes, and other information. This allows attendees to follow along during sessions and interact with each custom page. Through pre-loaded notebooks, attendees will be more engaged and, therefore, ale to pay attention and retain what they’ve learned better. Consider painting this with a stylus pen as a great way for attendees to take notes during the event and an even better way for them to avoid touching surfaces when out and about after the event. 

With Journal BooksPerfect Bound and Build a Book series, you can fully customize as many pages as you’d like with preloaded content. For more information or to find the journal that fits within your budget, contact us. Our experts are happy to get a specific projected quote and navigate the selection process with you.

Pair Journal Books with stylus pens:
Keychain Stylus Pen - As Low As $1.49
Antibacterial Stylus Pen - As Low As $0.65

2. Caffeine Hour
Kick off the morning or early afternoon with a virtual caffeine hour. Offer coffee, tea, and matcha options to allow attendees to choose their caffeine beverage of choice. Consider incorporating some friendly competition into the mix by offering attendees prizes for posting photos of their drinks or a latte art challenge. Contact local coffee shops or cafes for sponsorship opportunities!

Coffee
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Tea

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Matcha

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3. Health and Wellbeing


Wellness Session
An increasingly popular way to keep attendees' energy levels lifted and minds focused during virtual events is through wellness sessions. Kick-off the day with a group meditation or yoga, or recharge with an afternoon workout. Hire an instructor to lead the sessions or reach out to fitness influencers for sponsorship opportunities. Coordinate with the instructor ahead of time to make sure you are providing a list of equipment they will need, or if your budget permits, send them the equipment ahead of time.

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Games
A sure-fire way to get attendees engaged is to tap into their competitive sides - through games. Trivia, bingo, puzzles, scavenger hunt, and memory games are all great options. For some extra excitement, introduce a time-limit.

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5. Virtual Training Sessions or Classes

Cooking Classes
Another way you can engage attendees is through a virtual cooking class hosted by a chef. Attendees can either participate live or off-screen and submit a photo of their dish to win a prize. Local restaurants or food bloggers are excellent options for possible event sponsors. Prior to the event, provide attendees with an ingredient kit or shopping list. Not only is a virtual cooking class a fun and engaging event experience, but it also gives attendees the opportunity to share a moment and a meal with their family, significant other, or friends.

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6. Arts and Crafts

Paint and Sip Night
Allow attendees to find their creative side and showcase their talents by offering a virtual paint class led by a local artist. Each participant will need acrylic paint, paintbrushes, and a canvas. These materials can be provided through the sponsor, instructor, or sent by you ahead of time. During the class, attendees will follow the artist’s step-by-step instructions to create an original art piece. At the end of the session, attendees get to keep their one-of-a-kind painting.

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7. Happy Hours and Tastings

Happy Hour
Another experience you can offer attendees is a virtual happy hour. Allow attendees to fix a drink of their choice or learn how to make the ‘event cocktail’ as a group on-screen with supplies or an ingredient shopping list provided beforehand. You can even make it a competition by having attendees post their drink photos on social media and offering fun prizes. Happy hour swag items can include branded pint glasses, copper mugs, tumblers, bar tools, or even a cocktail set.

Tastings
For larger events, consider offering different types of virtual tastings to cater to attendee preferences. Tastings you can offer include a whiskey or bourbon tasting, wine tasting, beer tasting, and gin, vodka, tequila, or sake tasting. Reach out to local distilleries, wineries, and breweries to have an expert, sommelier, and brewmaster lead the tastings. This also serves as an opportunity for additional sponsorship. If your sponsor provides or your budget allows, send attendees the materials needed for the tastings ahead of time. Otherwise, you can provide attendees with a detailed shopping list so they can gather the necessary materials before the event. Gift attendees with branded swag items in time to use during the tastings.

Whiskey or Bourbon Tasting
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Wine Tasting
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Beer Tasting
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Gin, Vodka, or Tequila Tasting
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In Conclusion
When an event is virtual, attendees are presented with many distractions - kids, pets, phones and tablets, and open computer tabs - to name a few. They also have the power to log off at any time. Knowing this, it’s all the more important for planners to find ways to keep attendees engaged and deliver a memorable experience. While going virtual may be unfamiliar and even intimidating, hosting virtual events offers opportunities to engage and connect with your audience in new and different ways than in-person events. So adjust your expectations and get creative, and you'll be well on your way to hosting immersive and engaging virtual events that will have your attendees talking about your event for years to come.

Contact us for more ideas on additional immersive experiences and programming for memorable attendee experiences.

Julie McDonald
Written by Julie McDonald

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