10 Tips to Improve Engagement at Virtual Events
The event industry was hit hard with the COVID-19 pandemic. Event Coordinators were forced to take pay cuts, furloughed, or laid off. Executives are working aggressively to contain costs, retain revenue, and negotiate contracts. Event teams are having to re-think their event strategy not only for the present, but for the future. All of these changes introduced a deeper focus on virtual events. Virtual events are the only alternative at the moment, and will likely persist as many events will offer certain tracks or, like my kids’ school, offer an in-person or virtual option.
There’s one challenge with virtual events though: they can be relatively boring.
Face to face events are a big success because everyone gets to engage. They engage before the event with welcome sessions, during the event with exhibition halls, and after the event with social outings. Whether you’re an event organizer, or an exhibitor, if you’re involved in a virtual event it’s essential you drive as much engagement as possible. Here are 10 tips to improve engagement at your virtual events:
Who doesn’t love to play games? As kids, that was all we wanted to do. As adults, we still do it but mainly at social events or by watching them on television. Why not use games in a business setting to liven up the environment? Games don’t have to be pure fun; they can help raise brand awareness and convey important messages for your business. For example, games like trivia or guess the word/phrase can incorporate questions about the event or a business.
Games can be used by virtual event organizers in the virtual lobbies, or by exhibitors in a virtual booth.
2: Consider Multiple Shorter Days Spread out Over Weeks
People accessing virtual events are likely doing it from their home office. When they’re working at home they’ve got other distractions they have to deal with. Kids at home, preparing meals, and personal activities can interfere with work, not to mention computer fatigue. Working from home means you’re in front of your computer all day. Different from the office environment where you can walk down the halfway into someone’s office or head to the boardroom for a meeting, virtual attendees are staring at their browser the majority of time. Since time is the most valuable resource for at-home workers, use their time wisely and spread the event out over multiple days.
3: Don’t use Standard Face-to-face Agendas.
Take all of the above factors into consideration when creating your virtual event agenda. Don’t use a traditional face-to-face trade show agenda for your virtual event. Group your event into smaller categories that are relevant to your audience. Think about a typical exhibition hall at your event. Exhibitors are normally grouped together based on what they offer. Use these same groupings to break down your virtual event. Consider holding the event over three to four weeks instead of three to four days.
4: Make Extensive use of Breakout Sessions
Breakout sessions give virtual attendees an opportunity to engage since they are smaller scale and more intimate. Consider having breakout sessions for various topics or for presenters throughout the virtual event. Keep agendas simple and allow attendees to ask questions. This encourages engagement from virtual attendees who couldn’t necessarily speak up in a webinar-like environment.
5: Give Exhibitors the Right Tools to be Successful
We’ve attended a few virtual events ourselves. So far we’ve been unimpressed with the tools we’ve been given to be successful. Depending on your virtual event, you could have a nice looking virtual booth chosen from a template, or get stuck with a boring form. Either way, exhibitors have a chance to boost the appears and effectiveness of their booth by using enterprise-grade lead capture and digital activations and/or games. Capture screens and games can be embedded into the virtual event using an iFrame or linking text or buttons.
6: Give Away Prizes
One thing to look forward to at face-to-face events are all the freebies and giveaways. You can’t get that at virtual events, right? Well, that’s a misnomer. You can! Some providers, such as Captello, include features to give away prizes with their games. Prizes can be digital, such as gift cards, or physical and mailed out later.
7: Pre Event Marketing
Just because you’re going virtual doesn’t mean you can’t promote the event beforehand and drive engagement ahead of time. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 96% of attendees look for information about an event online prior to attending, so it’s vital to create content for educational as well as marketing purposes. Use some of the ideas above, such as games, to help promote the event. Tap into your marketing team to leverage their marketing automation platform and send out drip communication to a targeted audience. Take a poll ahead of time, ask for topics to discuss in breakout sessions, or play games that promote the event.
8: Post Event Marketing
Similar to pre-event marketing, post-event marketing can use the same systems. Drive engagement by sending out feedback surveys or adding people into nurturing tracks until your next event. Use the right system to send offline and online communication for your follow up. Drive further engagement by drawing attendees back to the event website once it’s over.
9: Interview Panelists
Panelists can help drive engagement too. Interview them and share the interview with audience members. The panelist will engage, and the audience will have more opportunities to engage in chat if the interview is live streamed or recorded for streaming later on.
10: Transform your Booth from Boring to Brilliant
Most of the virtual booths we’ve seen are boring, no offense. Some virtual event software platforms allow for embedding YouTube videos, documents, and chat to foster engagement. Take engagement to the next level by embedding rich content such as lead capture forms, landing pages, or entertainment into your virtual booth. Don’t settle for the default layout of your virtual booth. You can get more out of it by incorporating other elements into the booth. Think about a physical 10’ x 10’ or 20’ x 20’ booth at a face-to-face event. Would your team add activations, banners, displays and other elements to the booth to increase engagement? They would, unless you want to be the dull 10’ x 10’ in the back corner of the event. Do the same thing for virtual events and crank up the excitement while boosting engagement.
Use these 10 tips above to improve engagement at virtual events. Contact Captello to inquire about how we can help make your virtual event more engaging. Whether you’re an exhibitor at the booth, or organizing the event, we can help!
Captello provides cloud-based marketing and sales automation solutions that help businesses worldwide attract, convert and close leads.
Lead capture enthusiasts, such as trade show coordinators, retail marketers, and event marketers directly benefit from improved lead retrieval workflow, in particular, being able to send marketing qualified leads to an endless array of CRM and marketing automation platforms. The solution empowers enthusiasts to do their job better by effectively measuring results, capturing crucial sales insights, and supercharging their organization with a seamless lead flow process from capture to close.