April 20, 2020
By Madison Layman

Unlike in-person meetings and events, virtual events and virtual meetings provide attendees with more opportunities to “zone out” as attendees are already on the computer and distraction is only a click away. When attention comes at a premium, how do you keep attendees engaged during virtual meetings and virtual events? With the help of event management technology and a little creativity, you can create virtual events that are more than attendees watching a screen. We have 18 ideas for how to keep attendees engaged at virtual events.

1. Compelling Content

When you go virtual, there is more pressure on your content to pack a punch. Convincing attendees to attend your event requires offering content that draws their interest more than whatever movie was just released on Disney+. For more on pivoting your content to virtual, read Leveraging Content for Virtual Events.

2. Production Quality

The production quality of your virtual event is like your set design, meeting room layout, and trade show floor combined. But, with less square footage to make an impact, you have to look to video best practices to make your mark. Get better cameras, branded backdrops, great mics, and bump up the quality of your PowerPoints. Pay close attention to lighting and camera angles, first impressions just as important (maybe more) when you go virtual. Graphics and great video quality will keep attendees glued to the screen.

3. Live Polling

Even in virtual settings, your mobile event app has amazing power to engage. Using your event app, have speakers conduct live polls throughout the session. This will force attendees to stay involved. Live polls also give planners data on participation and session engagement.

4. Push Notifications

virtual attendee with coffee

Normally, a push notification will tell an attendee to make their way to the correct room or grab a surprise snack in the hallway. You can make push notifications that are fun and engaging for live virtual events, too. Use push notifications to tell attendees there are five minutes until the start of the keynote so grab a cup of coffee and settle in. Use push notifications to share interesting facts, and make attendees feel like they’re part of something bigger.

5. Spirit Days

Does your event run more than a day? Consider infusing the event with a little fun. Create a spirit calendar that includes hat days, jersey day, and more. Even if your event doesn’t involve putting attendees on video, you can have them post pictures of their ensemble for an added social media challenge.

6. Live Q&A

Let attendees ask questions and provide answers during the session. If you’re offering great content, attendees will have questions and want answers from the expert. Include Q&A time just like you would at an in-person meeting.

7. Surveys and Knowledge Tests

Make attendees accountable. Give surveys after each session, regardless of whether they’re live or on-demand, or give a knowledge test to see if they were paying attention. This is a great tool for educational content.

8. FAQs and Tips and Tricks for Virtual Events

Build a page on your event website for FAQs. With the new format, attendees will need to learn and by having information located centrally, they’ll know where to go. Create a guide for attendees with information on how to get the most out of the virtual event. Think beyond the normal written guide and make a video instead.

9. Networking

In-person events are all about networking. After all, everyone is in the same place. But virtual meetings can make the most of networking, too. Utilize your mobile event app’s attendee list and connect attendees based on common interests, random matchups, or shared event goals. Instituted video happy hours for attendees to meet and provide questions or activities to help them make valuable connections.

10. Live Keynotes

Keynotes should be engaging, inspirational, and educational. And, when you’re virtual, it’s best to make them live. If your event is made up of many sessions, try to have a live keynote session to build a sense of excitement and community. Get attendees posting their favorite quotes and thoughts to social throughout.

11. On-Demand Content

Sitting in a chair all day and watching videos can get old (and cause back pain). On-demand sessions allow attendees to mix and match content and watch sessions at their own pace. Offer sessions that can be attended at any time. If you want attendees to stick to an agenda, give them a little wiggle room and add time in for breaks.

12. Social Media

Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter – why limit yourself? Get attendees active on all of the various social media sites. Come up with a fun challenge that aligns with event content and give out prizes. You might not be together, but you can still mail swag and prizes after the event.

13. Messaging in the Event App

Make the most of your event technology features. Mobile event apps usually have messaging capabilities. Get attendees to talk to one another and interact. While they might network on social media or in organized video calls, keep them talking throughout the event the easiest way possible – with a tool built into the mobile event app.

14. Call Out Attendees by Name

While no one likes to be called out in the middle of class, it definitely keeps you on your toes! Just like the classes of old or streaming workout classes, have agile speakers drop attendee names into the session.

15. Be Wary of Meeting Length

You might think that because attendees are sitting at in-person events and virtual events, that session length shouldn’t change. But, there’s a difference between sitting in a two-hour presentation surrounded by excited attendees, watching a presentation that integrates music, performance, and inspiring speeches and sitting alone in a chair in your house. Sessions feel longer and attendees are more tempted to click away during a virtual event. Keep meetings and sessions shorter than you normally would to keep attendees focused on the content.

16. Gamification

Everyone likes to play games. Use gamification in your mobile event app to engage attendees in challenges for prizes. You could have them reach out to sponsors, network with other attendees, or take surveys to get them involved and earning points.

17. Mini Workout and Mindful Moments

home yoga workout

Wellness events are an exciting trend in the industry, and there’s no reason to ditch them when you go virtual. Think beyond the office chair and include moments of movement in your agenda that get attendees standing, stretching, and moving their bodies. Think about building a mini workout class that attendees can live stream throughout the day for a quick boost of energy or offer free morning yoga via live stream. 

18. Swag

If you have your attendee’s addresses, you can send them swag. If you have their email addresses, you can send them swag. Attendees love free things. Consider sending them an e-gift card for coffee or mail out t-shirts or hats before the event for attendees to wear throughout the event.

Think Outside the Box with Your Virtual Meeting and Event

A virtual event doesn’t have to be a stripped-down version of an in-person event. While it can’t match an in-person event in many ways, engagement should still be a top priority. Going virtual just means that you have to think more creatively about how to keep attendees focused and inspired.

For more on virtual events, check out The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Events.

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Madison Layman

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents.

When I'm not writing, you can find me binge-watching TV shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.

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