Virtual events are now more ubiquitous than ever, but the temptation is to simply take the format of an in-person event and present it online. This will likely lead to an unengaged audience that will switch off. Instead of trying to shoehorn conferences and seminars into the digital space, organizations must treat them as a new and exciting challenge.
This way, companies can set themselves apart from the competition and become leaders in the digital arena. Here are some elements that can help you create a virtual events strategy that makes a real impact.
1. Switch it up regularly
It’s very easy for your audience to get bored when watching a speaker on the screen, so it’s important to keep things changing regularly. Marketing and business growth strategist David Meerman Scott recommends switching content up every three or four minutes. This can mean changing speakers or playing a prerecorded video, but it’s a great way to keep your viewers engaged.
2. Hire multiple speakers
If your in-person event would usually involve 12 speakers over two days, then you can still include as many voices, just in a smaller time frame. Giving each thought leader a ten-minute slot will offer a huge amount of insight and variety to your audience over just a couple of hours. Having a new voice to focus on will keep the virtual event feeling punchy and dynamic.
3. Introduce an unannounced special guest
Obviously, you’ll be keen to market your event in advance, but introducing an unannounced special guest will make your virtual conference or webinar more memorable. It could also help to create a buzz around feature events, with participants speculating about special guest appearances or unexpected additions to the schedule.
4. Include interaction
Often, the height of audience interaction during a virtual event is a formal question and answer section, but there are many ways you can step away from this old-fashioned approach. Using mobile apps, widgets or even social media, you can create polls and surveys that immediately bring your audience into the digital space and show their opinions are valued. As gamification continues to grow, you can also add these elements into your online events to tap into a fun and competitive side of your audience.
5. Schedule breaks
You wouldn't expect your audience to sit for hours on end without toilet or refreshment breaks at an in-person conference, so schedule recesses in your virtual event too. Encourage participants to stand up and move around, get a drink or go to the lavatory. You can set brainteasers or short puzzles to re-energize the minds of your audience during these brief spells when you’re not delivering content.
6. Personalize your virtual event
Just because your event is online and not in person doesn’t mean your participants can't benefit from a personalized approach. Consider using in-built features within platforms to create multiple schedules featuring content relevant to different demographics. You could ask your audience to sign up for specific programs that interest them, or you could collect job titles and use this data to sub-divide attendees into different groups.
7. Send gift packages
The promotional pens, mugs and other items associated with in-person conferences help events to stay long in the mind of attendees. That effect can be amplified further when a gift package arrives from you and your sponsors on their doorstep. Going the extra mile and connecting such gifts with your virtual event will help your audience see the value in your offering and increase the chance of them signing up to participate in your events in the future.