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How to Improve the Virtual Event Experience for Attendees

How to Improve the Virtual Event Experience for Attendees

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How do you hold an audience’s attention with a virtual platform?

The biggest push in events prior to 2020 was increasing attendee engagement. Everyone is on their phones or a device throughout the day, at work, at home, watching their favorite show and increasingly at events, even those they chose to attend. Rather than trying to keep people off their phones, which was just not realistic, event planners decided to bring them into the show more using the devices they were already on and were finding new ways to engage with them. Whether it was through social media activation, attendee surveys and polling, or different interactive apps, these were all different ways to further engage attendees while at their events.

In the virtual event space, attendee engagement is more important than ever. Since attendees are already joining the show on a screen, with potentially more distractions, it’s crucial to find ways to hold the audience’s attention. At Alford, we’d like to share some features and suggestions to consider using during your virtual events to both hold your audience’s attention and help keep them engaged no matter where they’re logging in from.

Polling

Polling was already becoming a mainstay in events through apps, like Slido, and is still a great way to both engage attendees and potentially gather useful feedback or data. Slido still remains a favorite polling app to incorporate into your event, even virtually, and is what we use for polling in our virtual event space platforms.

When to use polling virtually:

  • Throughout lengthy presentations to check in with your audience – find out who’s still listening, who’s active, and to bring back someone who may have gotten distracted.
  • Ask topic related questions, ice breakers, or even something fun to bring the audience in and keep them engaged. This gives the presenter an opportunity to have a back and forth with the audience even if they’re not present in the room with them.
  • To collect audience feedback or helpful information. Find out how the event’s going, should you change something, or get insights you’ve always wanted.

Q&A

Q&A is certainly not new in events, but how we implement in a virtual version is. There are a couple of options:

  • An on-platform Q&A feature that allows attendees to submit their questions to either be answered via the platform or given to a live presenter to answer on-air.
  • We can incorporate a video element for queuing in attendees on video, like a Zoom call. Much like the microphone in the center of a ballroom that attendees walk up to for Q&A, it can be as simple as a button to bring attendees through to ask questions onscreen and directly to the speaker allowing for a more personal approach.
  • With both options moderating and pre-screening is available.

Chat

Chat is a feature specific to virtual events, allowing attendees to connect with each other or event leaders, especially during live sessions. Chat makes attendees feel part of the community. This is a feature we highly recommend including in your virtual event. People want to connect with others more than ever and while an in-person live event means time to chat with their neighbor before or after the session, Chat is the best way for attendees to connect and engage virtually. We’ve also seen that this keeps attendees in the session longer and more actively engaged.

Chat Engagement - Virtual Event

Video engagement

The biggest request we consistently receive is how to incorporate a form of face-to-face within the virtual platform. Most want options for engaging attendees in mini breakouts or one-off video chats, especially for exhibitors, sponsors, and vendors.

  • Individual rooms led by exhibitors, sponsors, or vendors to engage with attendees one on one. For this option we can incorporate individual web conferencing links, set up the room for you to meet with attendees at scheduled times, or allow individuals to host rooms in platform.
  • Mini breakout sessions for attendees or VIP rooms all with video interaction. We have the option to incorporate small group video breakout sessions.
  • Attendee video engagement during the show by incorporating live video Q&A. Our Control room team can set up a queue to bring in attendees remotely via video conferencing allowing them to join and ask questions or engage on camera. This option keeps attendees more engaged and allows presenters to better connect with virtual the audience. We have a few options to display, like hosting attendees on a screen in studio for only the presenter to see, a PIP in the broadcast for remote viewers, or on an LED wall or projection for both the presenter and audience.

Social Media

Social media is still a great outlet to reach your audience, allow them to engage with and promote your event. Ways to incorporate into a virtual event, are very similar to live in-person events. Ask attendees to share their photos or thoughts using a hashtag related to your brand or event or to post to your social media channels or specific posts. You can share attendees’ and followers’ posts through:

  • Social media feeds on your event’s platform
  • Social media wall within your event production

Both options can highlight your attendees, make them a part of the event, and further drive engagement before, during, and after the show.

Social Media Wall - Virtual Event

Keeping your audience’s attention is vital to any event which is why Alford offers all these listed engagement features within our virtual event platform, Alford Virtual Event Space.

Scheduling for Virtual Events

Similar to live events, attendees at virtual events will need breaks in between sessions. However, they might need more breaks or to at least have content broken up when attending virtually.

  • You want to give your attendees the opportunity to step away from the screen for a bit, rather than try to hold their attention all day. It’s recommended to give your virtual attendees 15 to 30 minutes between sessions, specifically those lasting 1 hour to an hour and a half. This gives them a chance to get up, reset, take care of anything they might need to in between and come back attentive.
  • Additionally, people can only absorb so much information at a time, so 10 to 15 minute sections are ideal for people to really grasp what you’re sharing. Between topics, you can take the opportunity to ask questions of the audience (with a live host on screen or within a Q&A feature on your event platform), poll the audience, or generate discussion within the chat.

How does your virtual event come together?

Another aspect you’ll want to consider is studio recording vs. remote presentations, based on how best to share your messaging and presenter availability. Consider your presenters (remote or in-studio) and the content (videos, presentations, and/or interactive sessions), to determine what you need to make the event both successful while meeting your budget.

What’s the best way to bring in your presenters?  Will their message benefit from a studio backdrop or are they unable to travel, preferring to present from a remote location? Can you pre-record sessions with presenters that may be unavailable during the live event? What’s a good mix of content to share throughout your sessions?

We recommend a mix of live and pre-recorded content to both give a good flow and to seamlessly break up sections of the event. A studio can be used for both live and pre-recorded segments, adding a broadcast level of production and giving flexibility both to your scheduling for the days in show and availability of your presenters.

When it comes to cost, utilizing a studio and/or a control room, is much like a venue. If you’re trying to reduce costs you could consider the length of your event. Perhaps you want to make what would be a 5-day event in-person, a 3-day event online or what would have been hour long sessions, 30-minute sessions instead. In the end it’s all about maximizing your audience’s attention and ensuring you get the most of out your virtual event.

Whether you’re planning a virtual, hybrid, or in-person event these options and suggestions can all make for a more engaging experience for your attendees. If you have any questions or would like a consultation on an upcoming event please contact your Alford account manager, give us a call, or contact us in the form below.

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