Learn fun ways to engage your digital audience and establish an online community feel during your next virtual event.
2020 proved itself to be the year of online meetings. Due to COVID-19, we have all gone through an incredible transformation and while the pandemic won’t last forever, it is safe to say that online events and meetings are here to stay. In fact, 93% of event marketers say they plan to invest in virtual events moving forward.
But spending too much time behind the screen can be draining. So what steps can event pros take to make online participants feel more connected and boost audience engagement?
DuringVirtual Shake-Up 2.0,Nadia VratnaandJuraj HolubfromSlidoshared creative ways to engage virtual event attendees in order to establish a community feel throughout a digital event. Below are 9 of their audience engagement strategies that can help promote audience interaction during your next online event!
Engagement Tip #1: Set the Mood with Music
Start virtual sessions 5-10 minutes early and play music for the virtual audience
Doing so sets the tone for the event, avoids awkward silences, and brings your online audience together
When selecting music, make sure that you have the copyrights to play your desired track
Invite friends/colleagues to perform music live
Engagement Tip #2: Chit-Chat with Your Online Audience as They’re Waiting
This helps participants get to know one another and creates a sense of community from the beginning
Fun ideas to incorporate are: asking attendees where they are joining from, greeting attendees in their native language, and asking icebreaker questions
Engagement Tip #3: Have a Co-Host
Having a co-host can be comforting for moderators because they know there is someone else there if any technical difficulties arise
When there are two people hosting, it can break the dynamic up during the session
Engagement Tip #4: Re-Engage Your Digital Audience Throughout the Entire Event
Re-engage your online audience every 5-7 minutes
Because physical feedback from your audience is non-existent outside of the use of technology during online events, it is important to be intentional about incorporating audience engagement into the sessions
Polls are a way to re-engage and can be utilized in a variety of ways
Starting the event with a thought provoking question
Moderators can comment on the results and tie them into their session discussion
Asking for audience feedback/input
Helps incorporate different perspectives into the session
Fielding audience questions
Makes the presentation a two-way conversation and allows the presenter to check if the concepts they are sharing are being understood
Audience engagement is one of the main ways that both presenters and online attendees can learn from one another, which is the ultimate goal of online events
Engagement Tip #5: Experiment with Different Virtual Event Formats
"You Decide” Sessions
Speaker prepares two angles of a story and lets the audience vote on which one they want to hear
Speaker is able to tailor their virtual session to fit the virtual audience’s interests
A great way to give your online audience the steering wheel and let them control the virtual event
Virtual Pub Quizzes
Invite your audience to grab a beer, sit on the couch, and connect about the latest industry updates
Can function as a standalone online event or as a fun way to break up a longer virtual conference
A great way to encourage intimate conversations between digital attendees
Tips for successful breakout room sessions:
Assign a topic
Leave online attendees enough time to discuss (around 20 minutes is ideal)
Make the groups small enough that attendees feel comfortable speaking up
Give digital attendees the opportunity to jump between groups so that they can experience various insights and perspectives
Visually appealing and fun way to keep track of time during breaks
Engagement Tip #7: The Wheel of Names
When seeking volunteers during your digital event, a funwheel of namescan encourage attendees to engage and volunteer
Engagement Tip #8: Group Photos
It is standard to take lots of photos during live events so we should still be doing so during online events
Group photos represent that everyone involved with the online event experienced something together
Get creative with the photo as a fun way to boost the end of a digital event
Example: have virtual attendees write down their main takeaway from the event and hold it up to the camera during the group photo
Engagement Tip #9: Be Intentional About the Q&A Session
As a speaker, the time can fly by during your virtual session so if you do not proactively think about stopping with enough time for the Q&A session, you may never get to it
Give the audience 30 seconds after the presentation to think of questions
During Fireside Chats or Panel Discussions, take questions from the audience throughout the session
Consider organizing an “Ask Me Anything” session where the speaker has no slides and simply answers questions from the audience
Collect questions from the audience prior to an event so the presenter has the opportunity to prepare answers beforehand
Additional Highlights From Nadia and Juraj’s Presentation: Audience Q&A
Question: What if your company management is afraid of live engagement? What arguments would you give in favor of live engagement? Answer: We have undergone an incredible transformation, as an industry and as companies, so people really need to build up the confidence to use these new tools. Start with something simple and do not overdo it from the get-go. Use one straightforward poll to break the ice at the start and ask for feedback to wrap up the session. The next step would be to find an ambassador who works for your company, someone who is eager to experiment. There is always (trust us) one brave soul who will want to try something new. The moment people experience a great engaging presentation delivered by a brave soul, it is a snowball effect. People will say “I love that, I want to try that as well.”
Question: How useful do you think it is to engage with your audience before the event? Do you have any tips for doing this well? Answer: One thing you can do is start collecting questions from attendees before the event, but it really depends on the format of the session. If you are running an “ask me anything” or a webinar it is easier to collect questions before the event and give presenters more time to prepare answers, but if you are running a large event it might be more complex. When it comes to live polls, you can also use them beforehand to feel out crowd expectations. An example would be to send out a poll asking “what would you like to learn at the event?” and let people answer beforehand so you can use those answers to shape the agenda accordingly and make sure that what you’re talking about is actually what the audience wants to hear.
Question: How long should virtual sessions be to keep the audience engaged? Answer: Try to not go over 45 mins if possible, but if you need to make it longer make sure you incorporate those interaction points that we discussed.
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More About Nadia Vratna & Juraj Holub
Nadia leads global partnerships and events at Slido, an audience interaction platform. She has worked with some of the biggest conference organizers around the world, including Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and Web Summit.
Juraj Holub is the Chief Meeting Designer at Slido, which has made over 1,000,000 events interactive. He works with conferences like Web Summit or SXSW and Fortune 500 companies helping them transform their meetings and events. He also crossed Iceland by bicycle.