January 06, 2021
By Anna Linthicum

It’s a scenario we are all too familiar with. You log on to your computer to start your day, excited by the prospect of an entire Monday with no meetings. It seems too good to be true! And then it hits you – it is. You suddenly remember that you registered for a few digital events. You have to be on camera all day, which means changing out of your faded sweatshirt and running a comb through your hair. And you have to talk to people. It takes you one minute to decide that you are not going to be joining the conference.

This is the situation that a lot of organizations have been facing since virtual events became an integral part of our everyday lives. It is very difficult to keep your digital event’s show rate at the same level it was in-person. The key to driving attendance to your online event is to make it truly unmissable. Your registrants should look forward to the day of your event, not dread its arrival.

The driving force behind in-person events is the opportunity for attendees to connect with one another and your partners. To host a successful digital event, you must devote time and energy to creating unique opportunities for connection. Your registrants should feel compelled to log on to the event to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out). In this post, you will learn how to use tools and implement strategies to design a truly FOMO-inducing digital event.

Video meetings – the value of “face-to-face” in digital events

The invention of the video call was truly genius. Being able to see reactions, expressions, and movements, even over a screen, is vital to engaging in a constructive conversation. Since we have not been able to meet in-person for over nine months, the video call has been a key aspect of many sales conversations, networking calls, brainstorming sessions, and more. Your digital event should offer many opportunities for your attendees and sponsors alike to engage in these “face-to-face” conversations.

Collaborative session digital events

collaborative digital events

Think of a collaborative session as a Zoom meeting. All attendees can mute and unmute as desired, and multiple people can take part and see one another on the screen. Too many digital events rely solely on webinars or one-way streaming. These types of sessions, while certainly educational and beneficial, lack the opportunity for connection and creativity that a collaborative session provides. Also, many attendees tire of simply watching a video on the screen for hours on end. Your digital event should build in collaborative sessions to keep your attendees engaged and involved.

Below are some ideas for collaborative sessions to include in your digital event:

  1. Internal team brainstorming sessions
  2. Random icebreaker activities
  3. Breakout rooms by industry/title/role
  4. Breakout rooms by specific interest

Here are even more ways to engage your attendees at your digital event

Happy hour digital events

Another perk of many in-person conferences is the free food and drink supplied before or after the event. Happy hours are an excellent way to further engage attendees and provide additional networking time for those who were unable to meet earlier in the day. When events are virtual, however, this can be more difficult to facilitate. Make it clear in the registration information that the happy hour will be a “face-to-face” occasion, with many opportunities to chat and communicate with fellow attendees over video.

Entice registrants to attend your event with a pre-event welcome gift. Send a beverage kit, a recipe, ingredients, or other accessories to get your registrants excited about the social session of your digital event.

Sponsored sessions

Your sponsors and partners are as important as ever when it comes to your digital events. You must deliver the same amount of value and exposure they expect from your in-person programming. In this virtual environment, sponsors are looking for creative opportunities to showcase their brand.

One of the most tempting reasons to sponsor an in-person event is for that face-to-face interaction with attendees. While this may be more difficult digitally, there are many ways to include your partners and sponsors in the collaborative portions of your event.

Sponsor a fun activity

At Cvent’s CONNECT Virtual conference, many of our sponsors held fun virtual activities for attendees. Some examples included sponsored happy hours, sponsored cooking classes, and a sponsored entertainment show. Allow your partners to showcase their creativity and individuality to your attendees by hosting a digital activity.

Sponsor a breakout room

If your sponsor is particularly passionate about a specific industry, topic, or issue, give them the option of hosting a sponsored breakout room. Attendees can join and speak with other attendees and sponsor staff about the topic. This sheds light on a sponsor's message or values and is a great way to differentiate themselves to your attendees.

Chat, AKA the “new texting” for digital events

There are times when the thought of being camera-ready and presentable is just too much to handle. Or maybe you’re only on your first cup of coffee and simply are not ready to engage in a conversation. We’ve all been there. These situations are when chat functionality really comes in handy at your digital event. Provide those attendees who may not want that “face-to-face” video experience with an alternative way to take part in your event.

Session feedback

Chat functionality is particularly useful during those webinar-formatted sessions. Since attendees are unable to communicate verbally, chat features allow them to comment in real-time during a session. This is a great way to keep attendees engaged in the content and to get prompt feedback and thoughts on the session.

Sponsor connections

While your sponsors certainly do enjoy face-to-face interactions with your attendees, not all attendees have the time to sit in on a virtual booth with sponsors. By providing a message option for sponsors, your busier attendees can simply leave a note and communicate their interest in learning more later. This provides double the sponsorship value for your partners, as they not only receive leads from those attendees joining their booth, but they also connect with attendees who otherwise would not have the time to stop by and say hello.

Scheduling appointments at digital events

It’s important to offer that one-on-one experience for your attendees and partners at your digital event. While collaborative sessions are excellent tools for brainstorming, roundtables, or social events, they are not as constructive for one-on-one conversations. Provide your attendees with the ability to schedule appointments with fellow attendees or with your sponsors. That way, they can have those detailed, more in-depth conversations that they would have been able to have at an in-person event.

Sponsorship value

If an attendee takes the time to schedule an appointment with a sponsor, it shows a very high level of interest. This is great news for the sponsor, as this appointment indicates a hot lead that could very well convert to a sale. By allowing attendees to schedule individual appointments with your sponsors, your attendees can get pressing questions answered. In a virtual booth, there may be multiple attendees interacting with the sponsor staff at a time, so it can be difficult to have a more in-depth conversation. Virtual appointments provide some of that exclusivity that attendees and sponsors would expect at your in-person event.

Attendee-to-attendee connection

Connections at digital events

Like sponsor appointments, your attendees may want to schedule individual appointments with one another to have those detailed conversations. A networking collaborative session is a great way to get to know multiple people at once, but your attendees will not establish a deep connection with any one person in that breakout room. By giving your attendees the choice to schedule one-on-one appointments with other attendees, they can truly network and grow their database of connections. Attendee-to-attendee appointments can be a big selling point for convincing your registrants to log on the day of your digital event.

Taking full advantage of your mobile event app at digital events

If you are hosting an eight-hour digital event, chances are that very few of your attendees will sit down at their computer for the entirety of the program. People are stir-crazy and will get up to take breaks, go on walks, or simply sign off the event. To keep your virtual attendees engaged, provide them with multiple outlets for connection. A mobile event app will provide your attendees with the flexibility to move around and get a break from the computer, without taking a break from your event. By taking full advantage of your mobile event app, your attendees will remain willingly connected to your digital event.

Attendee information

People attend events to meet and network with individuals who have similar interests, goals, or career journeys. By implementing a mobile event app, you can give your digital attendees more ways to connect with their peers. Make it clear in the registration information that attendees can use the mobile app for messaging and attendee interaction. You should use your mobile event app to facilitate an attendee’s connection with other attendees and with your event.

Promoting your partners

Keep your attendees connected to your sponsors through their mobile event app experience. You can offer your sponsors customized banner ads, push notifications, or a dedicated sponsor information page.

Your sponsors and partners can use their creativity to showcase their brand and message through your mobile app as well, increasing sponsorship value exponentially.

Here are some additional ideas for virtual event sponsorship benefits

Establishing connections at digital events

Many commercials and advertisements state that today, it’s easier to connect than ever. But in many ways, it’s much more difficult to connect with one another. On the one hand, there are so many distractions to keep us from truly connecting: the newest music, a new TV show, a new TikTok video. However, the monotony of digital connection is boring. It feels like lately, our days revolve around boring Zoom calls and the occasional obligatory virtual game night.

To strike a perfect balance, you must find original ways to curate digital connection. Come up with creative ideas and activities to keep your attendees totally focused on your digital events, and not looking at their phones. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try something new to keep attendees interested. Take the time to connect with your attendees’ interests and expectations, and they will be much more likely to take the time to connect over your digital event.

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Anna Linthicum

A recent graduate of Washington and Lee University, I am currently the Sales Development Representative for the Marketing Partnerships team here at Cvent.

My writing journey got its start with stories about my cousins and our incredible adventures together on family vacations. You can find me organizing my closet, doing Kayla Itsines workouts, or watching The Office for the umpteenth time.

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