July 3, 2020

Here are the attendee-pleasing tactics successful online event organizers are using to connect with their communities and keep them engaged.

Living through a pandemic has forever changed the events landscape. Over 90% of event marketers surveyed by MPI report online events are now part of long term events strategy and online attendee engagement is their most important metric of success.

This explosion of online event options means screen-fatigued audiences need more than a low-energy Powerpoint to stay engaged. Here are seven proven tactics you can use now to bridge the virtual divide for a great brand experience.

attract viewers

Timely and relevant content

The number one way to offset people’s growing webinar fatigue is to create and share great content. Presentation success is all about the quality of your idea and how well you tell it. If the basic idea is not compelling, no amount of other tactics will hold your audience.

According to Nancy Duarte, master content creator for world-renowned organizations, great content happens when you craft an authentic story around a topic that is timely and relevant to your audience. She suggests a three step formula when building your content.  Make the audience the hero of your story – not you.  Tell them how you help them overcome an obstacle they face.  Describe how their experience of overcoming this obstacle leads to a transformation.

Authentic and energetic speakers

Enthusiasm, passion, and optimism inspire and engage. Make mood contagion work in your favor by coaching speakers to express themselves authentically and energetically. This is most important in the opening minutes of any talk.  If you have VIPs with a sleep-inducing style, hire a speaking coach or enlist a self-coaching tool like Presentr

More than ever now online attendees crave human connection. Feature your speakers more than their slides and coach your AV crew to show faces AND upper body/torso which is critical for following body language. People are naturally more interested in faces than static images.  If possible, have speakers stand rather than sit to increase energy.

great speakers

Quality technical production

For organizers new to online events, production details often take a back seat to just getting content and speakers online. If your event includes multiple sessions and elements such as music, transition slides or animations, outline the details well in advance of event day. Confirm your in-house AV team has the resources to support your vision, or start onboarding the outside help you’ll need. 

For an inspiring example of how technical production can elevate a virtual event, watch Apple’s 2020 developer conference keynote. The production incorporates music, animation, 3D and other special effects, speakers, demos and slides to create a remarkable sense of presence and engagement. Attendees have said the experience was so outstanding that they regret it may have been a once in a lifetime moment as the event returns to in-person for 2021.

Short, succinct sessions

Over a decade of research says the goldilocks presentation length for peak engagement and learning is only 18-20 minutes. While there are subjects – notably in-depth trainings – that are appropriate for longer time slots, most topics hold greater audience appeal when edited to fit this format.

Look to TED for hundreds of examples demonstrating how any subject can be brilliantly covered in 20 minutes or less. (Check out David Christian’s History of the World in 18 minutes !!) Interspersing presentations with demonstrations, performances, “non-talk” videos, and other breaks is today’s gold standard for engagement.

community connections

Genuine community connections

The most engaging online events are giving attendees a stronger sense of shared identity with other attendees. They promote connection, value and trust among members that continues post-event.  Get started by choosing an event platform that can support community connection, then plan for the staffing to facilitate conversations and connections before during and after your event.  

There are myriad ways to make these authentic conversations happen online once the platform and staff are in place.  Start simply by having your community manager or chatbot greet attendees when they log in for a feel-good welcome and any help needed to find the content and people they care about. In sessions include facilitated attendee chat and build in time for live audience Q&A. Offering a post-session format such as a slack channel or Zoom breakout room allows informal community discussions to continue once your formal session ends.

Online experiential activation

Online events are featuring live musical performances, but that is just the beginning of creative online activations happening now. Experiences rooted in the arts stimulate attention, channel emotion and help attendees process information. 

Ready-to-implement offerings abound. One example from SongDivision  includes a  musical emcee that engages virtual event attendees in a collaborative musical creation. The interactive process builds anticipation as it unfolds culminating in a big reveal at the finale. With 65% of the population identifying as visual learners, digital scribing is another experiential enhancement to consider. The fun visuals not only boost attention and learning as they are being created, but also provide attendees with a useful digital takeaway when complete.

pop up experience

At-home pop-up experience

When it comes to engagement it is hard to beat a physical experience, and there are endless creative ways to extend an online event into the home. Delivering a physical tie-in experience that all attendees share on event day mitigates both drop-offs and no-shows. 

Skincare brand Algenist recently hosted influencers virtually for a new product launch that included a professionally-guided at-home facial. The brand sent attendees everything they would need from the new product line to participate on event day. The response was so positive Algenist now plans to replicate the event with their customer base. 

Need ideas? Look to gifting companies or your local F&B providers for prepackaged experiences such as at home catering, wine tastings, cocktail party in a box, or work with them to create your own unique experience. 

Ready to start planning your next event ? Contact Shiloh to get started today.

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