Learning with TBOE

What is the best way to structure your virtual events to ensure audience engagement? Part I

Posted on July 23rd, 2020 in Blog, Customer-Centricity

Peta Moore, Managing Director, Nectar Creative Communications shares insight into how to structure your virtual events to ensure audience engagement.

As a live event producer with a keen focus on audience engagement, driving behaviour change and measuring outcomes, our new world of virtual and hybrid was initially challenging to get my head around.  

How were we going to engage our audiences when we couldn’t see the white’s of their eyes? 

But once the initial resistance to enforced change passed, it quickly became clear that the fundamentals of good event design are the same. After taking a deep dive into the world of virtual events, and as a two-part series, I’ll be sharing my top considerations for structuring digital events to guarantee audience engagement.  

Know your audience 

First and foremost, you must understand your audience. And in particular be very clear about the difference between your reasons for running a digital event and your audience’s reasons for attending.   

Dare I say we are in a phase where there are a number of digital events in the market because ‘we had to have an event this year’, or ‘we had all the content ready’. These are not compelling reasons for an audience to attend.  

Assuming you know who your audience is, think about what their goals for attending your event would be. 

You can safely assume the primary goal for attending a digital event is to LEARN. It may be the big picture inspiration from a keynote, deep diving into a breakout session topic or even hearing from sponsors, digital exhibitors or perhaps your own internal subject matter experts on new products or services, regardless the content has to be concise and actionable.  

Time commitment 

Next consider how much time they can invest – attendees will look at the agenda in advance and plan their day/s around the content, it is unlikely that they will attend a full day of virtual sessions.  Schedule your key content at a time that is convenient for your audience.  If you aren’t sure – ask them. 

I highly recommend you send a survey to your audience to determine what digital access they are looking for prior to planning your event. Don’t assume the same behaviour from them as you’ve had at your previous ‘face-to-face’ meetings. Studies have shown that learning is most effective when the brain is most active – generally between 10am and 2pm or then again from 4pm to 10pm. Take advantage of the flexibility virtual events give you and schedule your key content during these times!    

Filling the knowledge gap

Do you know how much knowledge your audience already has (if not I suggest you measure this in advance also)?  Remembering that they are attending to learn and looking for new information, consider creating content for different skill levels, or experience. 

Developing a user experience strategy that guides your attendees through an agenda that matches their skillset will maximise the benefit of attending and enhance their overall engagement.

Picking the right format & tech

At this point (and not before) is when we should start to look at what formats and technologies to employ that will best support your content. Digital events are best consumed in shorter capsules of knowledge and we need to think beyond the typical ‘presentation’ format and focus on actionable content and moments of revelation to keep our audience engaged. 

In my next post, I’ll share some ideas on how we can grab our virtual audience’s attention and hold it.  ‘Time in event’ is a measurable success factor with digital events and an important metric for sponsors, so as event producers let’s get creative and embrace this new opportunity to deliver memorable events!   

Blog by: Peta More, Managing Director, Nectar Creative Communications Peta Moore

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.

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