What is the best way to structure your virtual events to ensure audience engagement? Part IIPosted on July 23rd, 2020 in Blog, Customer-Centricity, Industry Insight
In her previous post, Peta Moore, Managing Director Nectar Creative Communications, explored the importance of knowing your audience when developing a user experience strategy for your next virtual event.
Once you have a clear understanding of your audience’s reason for attending, how much time they can invest in your event and how much they already know, you are ready to start considering the content creation and delivery formats that will work best.
The successful impact of your event will come down to three essential things working together in balance:
While there are some key fundamentals for successful virtual event delivery such as keeping content concise, personalised and actionable (I’ll elaborate on this a little more later) you can definitely have some fun with the formats to enhance the engagement and interactivity of your event.
Have fun with formats
Think of your virtual event a little like a talk show on TV – you need to mix up the content formats to keep your audience ‘tuned in’.
You could do a mix of pre-recorded sessions, live crosses to speakers, interactive sessions such as ‘Q&A with’ and panel discussions. You might even want to include some ‘entertainment’ pieces like a live performance to open or close the event.
Just like with a live event, having a versatile and switched-on MC to anchor all the content is vital, and I would recommend this part of the event is professionally broadcast from a studio or similar, budget permitting. I would also suggest any big name keynotes or drawcard speakers present from the same studio – it will elevate this content above the rest and position it in a similar way to having them on the ‘plenary stage’.
If you are wanting to encourage participation across a number of sessions or even days, you could perhaps have a digital ‘scavenger hunt’, where people have to collect information from different sessions and enter them into an app creating a leaderboard amongst virtual attendees. Using live polling style systems the MC could run some quizzes between sessions or perhaps you could run a couple of case study sessions and then poll the audience on which was most relevant. These are just a few ideas, get together with your colleagues and brainstorm how your audience might be enticed to participate.
One of the benefits of digital events is that they are a perfect platform for gamification which will increase audience motivation, encourage learning through positive feedback. Digital also allows you as the event planner to get instant feedback, and tweak content to ensure it stays on message and is meeting the needs of your audience, especially as what was a 2 day event might be being delivered over a 2 week period because that suits your audience better.
Virtual networking is a thing
I’ve seen some great virtual networking sessions included between sessions, which I have to say are far more effective for an introvert like myself! The other night, before I knew it I was chatting with Bill from South Africa and Jan from the UK about the previous session, and enjoying myself – not something I would have ever said about networking in the past.
Design content for digital delivery
Finally a quick word on the content for digital events. One key thing I’d recommend is to be in close contact with your speakers to ensure their content is designed specifically for a digital event. What they may have delivered in an hour at your face-to-face conference, should be shortened to at least half that for virtual delivery.
Remember that people connect with stories – so ensure your speakers leverage storytelling, and look for opportunities to personalise their content by asking the audience questions (they can answer via the chat function). Break down that fourth wall whenever you can, get them to refer to audience members by name – ‘Sue asks…’ or Craig comments….’ – this will draw the rest of the audience in. Coach all presenters to give the audience a call to action – usually three things that they can implement straight away to get a result.
I’ve only just scratched the surface of the opportunities virtual events offer for enhanced audience engagement, and of course a hybrid event will add another exciting layer to this mix.
I believe that all events will need a digital strategy moving forward – this isn’t a ‘stop-gap’ measure that will disappear. This new, highly measurable connection with our audience is a great opportunity for events to have even more impact than ever before.
Peta is owner and Managing Director of Nectar Creative Communications, a full service event management agency that specialises in strategic planning and program design services. Most recently Peta has been completing her Certification in Digital Event Strategy through PCMA, and is fully embracing the opportunities digital events present for audience engagement and diversification.
As the Program Director for multiple events, Peta believes that true audience engagement is a real connection – that ‘lean forward’ moment when the audience is completely immersed in the content. Creating memorable audience experiences which generate real outcomes involves a clear strategy and good storytelling, no matter if the event is live, hybrid or virtual. This is the philosophy Peta and her team apply to all of the events they work on, resulting in a track record of curating world-class conference programs that meet messaging objectives and most of all, get results.