Attending an event in person often means days of total immersion. From morning through evening each day, attendees are consuming and interacting with content, networking, talking about industry topics with people they run into, and perhaps even collecting branded swag to take home. For virtual attendees, obvious advantages include greater schedule flexibility and lower attendance costs — an increasingly important factor in the current economic environment.
But remaining fully engaged can be more difficult. As organizations welcome larger numbers of in-person attendees, they must pay special attention to ensuring those who attend from home or their office feel included, derive plenty of value, and actively participate in the event’s program. Here are five tips:
- Offer a synchronized viewing experience with livestreaming of select sessions. Virtual attendees won’t feel like they’re playing catch-up with their in-person counterparts if they can watch highly anticipated keynotes and other marquee content at the same time. However, for most events, broadcasting the entire in-person daily schedule is impractical. Consider the attention span of someone sitting and watching a screen for several hours vs. moving about at a bustling convention center. Of course, sessions can also be made available on demand after the event to both virtual and in-person attendees.
- Promote networking features. A central, easy-to-use place for conducting conversations serves as an important hub. Providing a safe, robust communication platform, like RainFocus’ Attendee-to-Attendee Chat feature, can help attendees forge connections from thousands of miles away. To help keep virtual rooms and conversations as vibrant as those in person, encourage sign-ups in all pre-event communications.
- Include variations on your gamification. Gamification is a proven engagement booster for all types of attendees. For clarity and fairness, you may want to offer different “paths” — whether games, point scoring systems, or prizes — for in-person attendees and virtual attendees. Otherwise, virtual attendees may find it frustrating if, for example, they must visit a certain number of physical booths or stop by a local landmark, and disengage from the competition.
- Make joining and staying on easy. Your virtual attendees won’t be engaged if they give up on logging in or find their viewing experience frustrating. Clearly communicate account registration requirements, recommended app downloads, technical system checks (e.g., is everything mobile-friendly?), and any other essential information well ahead of the event for a smooth experience once the event starts. Using a stable, secure platform that can easily handle an influx of viewers or same-day registrants is also critical.
- Include virtual attendees in the conversation. Small welcoming acknowledgements throughout the livestreamed portions of the event can bridge any distance. These can include highlighting virtual attendees’ questions and comments during keynotes, providing virtual-specific schedule guidance or previews, or just having any event emcees or other speakers give a quick shoutout during the event. Doing so helps virtual attendees feel valued and integrated with the event.
By implementing these strategies, event organizers can ensure that their virtual attendees are engaged and have a memorable experience!