As we return to in-person, virtual events will remain a key piece of association event programs. While the pandemic forced us all to shift focus to the virtual world, ultimately, virtual events have become a tried-and-true method for connecting your members with meaningful education on the topics and issues most relevant to their professional arena.
Your members need your content to be successful in their careers, but screen fatigue means virtual attendees are more likely than ever to zone out. When attention comes at a premium, how do you inspire and engage attendees?
With the help of event management technology and a little creativity, you can create virtual events that go beyond passively watching a screen and keep your members coming back for more. Here are 12 ideas to help you maximize member engagement for all of your association’s virtual events.
Designing Your Event
1. Compelling Content
Associations often feel pressure to increase the number of topically relevant events for a diverse group of members - but more is not always better. Too much content can cause members to be overwhelmed or dilute the value of each individual session. Instead, take a less is more approach when leveraging strategic value-driven content for your virtual events. Focus on the most compelling, informative topics, developing an agenda your members want & need.
2. Be Wary of Length
The average adult attention span is 15-20 minutes, and longer session times can lead to increasing the temptation for attendees to click away. To keep virtual attendees engaged and focused on the content, associations have been successful when session times are shorter than they might be at an in-person event. If a topic needs a longer session, consciously vary your presentation format, provide breaks, and pause to ask questions that keep your audience actively engaged.
3. Production Quality
The production quality of your virtual event is one of the first aspects members notice. To maintain your professional branding, look to video content best practices. Get higher resolution video cameras, branded backdrops, multi-directional microphones, and level up the graphic quality of PowerPoint presentations.
Pay close attention to lighting and camera angles, and remember: first impressions are just as (or more) important when producing virtual content. Lackluster graphic aesthetics and poor video quality will make it harder for members to hone in on the information being presented.
Personable and Human Elements
4. Networking Before the Event
Use a web-based or cloud virtual event platform (like the ones offered by Attendee Hub), and try organizing virtual networking sessions in the days leading up to your main event. By getting your members virtually connected with each other before the main sessions, you’re setting the stage for better engagement and more meaningful discussion during your sessions.
5. Use a Virtual Master of Ceremonies
Bring an air of entertainment and continuity throughout the event by using a designated MC to kick off your meeting, introduce the agenda, and manage the flow between speakers. Just like you would have a moderator at a panel to facilitate the conversation and provide structure to the discussion, designate a dynamic and charismatic personality to add a human element back into your virtual event. Your virtual MC is also a great way to make sure attendees hear important housekeeping items.
6. Have Your Speakers Engage Using Names
For smaller groups or more informal content during live virtual events, have your speakers ask your members for their names and to give a brief introduction. Everyone likes to feel that their presence is valued. When speakers review registration lists beforehand and can amply prepare to engage, session attendees have been shown to have an increased commitment to content and are more present.
Foster Interaction & Activity
7. Avoid Passive Participation
Avoiding attendee passivity is crucial in maximizing virtual engagement. The features and tools built into your virtual event platform play a critical role. Your speakers should use live polling and incorporate Q&A throughout their content to engage members at intentional moments. Going virtual does not limit your ability to facilitate dynamic discussions and interactions. Advise your speakers to build in time at the end for Q&A, just like you would at an in-person gathering.
Gamification is a great way to introduce spontaneity and light-hearted competition into your sessions. Ask members to connect with your sponsors, network with other attendees, or take surveys to earn points toward a reward or prize. Conduct surveys after sessions or give a knowledge test to see if attendees were actually paying attention. This is also a great way to gauge the effectiveness and quality of your association’s content.
9. Mini Workouts and Mindful Moments
Wellness in events has transitioned from just a trend to a welcome staple. Think of how your members will be attending virtually; if listening off-camera, consider encouraging them to actively listen while taking a wellness walk. If attending on-camera, consider building in moments of movement in your agenda that get attendees standing, stretching, and moving their bodies. Physical stimuli help to focus the mind and combat screen fatigue.
Thinking Outside the Event
10. Social Media
Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter – why limit your members? Promote your association’s value and get members posting actively on social media sites. Consider a fun challenge that aligns with your association or event’s goals and assign prizes to levels of response. Consider infusing a little fun with a light-hearted spirit calendar that includes hat day, jersey day, and more. This can be especially engaging for membership groups of students or young professionals.
11. Tangible Swag
Before your event, get attendees excited to attend by sending them a thoughtful swag item. Who doesn’t love a free surprise? Items to consider are a gift card for coffee or branded t-shirts or hats to wear throughout the event. Even something as simple as a snack box can get members excited.
12. On-Demand Content
Sitting in a chair all day and watching videos can get old (and cause back pain). Provide your attendees with an on-demand content catalogue to consume content on their own time if they have to miss a live session or want to attend two sessions at the same time.
Think Outside the Box with Your Virtual Events
We’ve learned a lot about virtual events with the many evolutions of the events industry. It is important to note that a quality virtual event is not a stripped-down version of an in-person event, but a purposeful virtual experience that leverages the best of content production and virtual engagement technology.
While it’s not the same experience as being together in-person, virtual provides options and extended reach to connect with a wider set of your members. Engagement should still be a top priority for your members to feel they are getting value from your association’s events. Producing great virtual events just means that you need to think more creatively about how to keep your members focused, educated, and most importantly, inspired.
Interested in learning more about how Associations & Non-Profits are taking their event programs to the next level? Check out our Association & Non-Profit Solution Center.