Delivering strong virtual event experiences
Prioritizing engagement means raising the bar on your typical virtual event format.
By Sarah Maunder, Director of Marketing
How effective is your virtual event strategy? When was the last time you evaluated your virtual event strategy? Have you ever evaluated your virtual event strategy? Organizations need to periodically take the time to reflect on their virtual event strategy and determine the changes they need to implement for a stronger, more effective event.
To help you stay on top of these efforts, we conducted a survey to get a sense of attendee expectations for virtual events and how these expectations have shifted or remained the same from in-person events. Notably, the data shows that engagement is the biggest differentiator for virtual event success.
If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that a straightforward webinar will check all the boxes but won’t leave that lasting impression in your attendees’ minds that brands want. We know this can be an overwhelming task for those getting started, so we’ve outlined three different areas of virtual event strategy that we recommend you focus on and optimize for engagement.
Content has always been a core pillar of events, but in the virtual format, it needs to work harder. Many streaming platforms put content front and center, often instead of the speaker. Take into consideration what your content is, where it’s showing up, how it’s being presented, and the ease of accessing it during and after the event.
According to our survey, 71 percent of respondents chose training and skills development as their top reasons for attending an event or experience. Does your content strategy contain enough of this type of content to satisfy your audience? Also, keep in mind what each piece of content looks like across the entire event and what its purpose is. Inconsistency in design and lack of clarity in presentation materials will stand out like a sore thumb and damage the overall impact of the event.
Platform and technology
Allow the virtual event audience to engage on their terms. With so many competing distractions for attendees, it’s important to provide an experience that puts them in control and keeps them engaged. Someone is more likely to participate in your session if they can intuitively navigate the interface. This starts with a solid event platform and continues with the configuration options you supply, such as the ability to switch views, engage in Q&A, and connect with peers.
The quality bar for engagement will only get higher as virtual events evolve. New features are constantly being developed, and what’s possible to do during an event today may completely change a month later. Because of this, it will be important to constantly enhance and evaluate your current platform and technology capabilities.
The human connection
The most difficult thing to replicate in virtual events is the human connection. This was further confirmed by our survey, where 52 percent of respondents said that personal touch and networking are some of the key aspects missing from today’s experiences. This is no surprise, given that attendees are physically remote and isolated from each other. Delivering engagement and interactivity should be a key priority for organizations looking to gain a competitive edge.
But it’s not easy, and our customers agree that this is the biggest challenge. The important thing to remember is just to start somewhere. Add a video chat room to support networking, or let attendees sign up to have a 1:1 conversation with thought leaders and experts. You can then build your way up to more intricate (and fun) options, such as virtual whiskey tastings or group competitions. There are so many possibilities that not including something is a huge missed opportunity.
Our full survey report
To read our full guide on delivering strong virtual experiences, download our e-book, Crafting powerful virtual experiences, which highlights all the key findings and recommendations gained from our survey. These insights will help guide you through the components in each of these three areas that are most important to attendees as we head into 2021.
Virtual events aren’t going anywhere, so the stronger you are at distinguishing your events from the competition, the better off you will be. We believe focusing on your attendee engagement strategy is the biggest opportunity to achieve this, and the possibilities are endless. One thing is for sure, though—no one wants to sit through another boring, monotonous webinar. So start thinking bigger, more strategically, and give your audience something to look forward to.