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9 Creative Audience Engagement Strategies for Online Events

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9 Creative Audience Engagement Strategies For Online Events

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?

During Virtual Shake-Up 2.0, Nadia Vratna and Juraj Holub from Slido shared 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

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

Chit Chat with People as theyre 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

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 every 5-7 minutes

  • 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

Experiment with different 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
  • Breakout Rooms
    • 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 

Engagement Tip #6: Use a BIG Timer

Big timer

  • Visually appealing and fun way to keep track of time during breaks 

Engagement Tip #7: The Wheel of Names 

Wheel of names

  • When seeking volunteers during your digital event, a fun wheel of names can encourage attendees to engage and volunteer

Engagement Tip #8: Group Photos

Online Group Photo

  • 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

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

Slido 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.

Poll Results
Slido Poll Result 1

Slido Poll Result 2

Slido Poll Result 3

Slido Poll Result 4

Slido Poll Result 5

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More About Nadia Vratna & Juraj Holub
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Nadia Vratna

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.

Connect with Nadia on LinkedIn or contact us for an introduction.

Juraj Holub

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.

Connect with Juraj on LinkedIn, Twitter, or contact us for an introduction.

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