Whatever your events look like, whether live, virtual, or hybrid, engagement matters. We’ve all sat there and pondered new ways to increase event engagement as we looked out at an audience that was not engaged.
In fact, it’s one of the most significant metrics for most organizations, event planners, and others involved in putting on events.
At most live events, engagement is easy to measure, both formally and informally. You can compare session attendance numbers against registrants, and of course you can just read the room: is the audience responsive? Bored? Asleep?
Things get a little more complicated in hybrid and virtual event environments. You can’t actually see the people (most of the time, at least) because they aren’t gathering in a real space. And multitasking is far easier to do when “attending a conference” looks an awful lot like “sitting on the couch.”
If you’re unsure about your current levels of event engagement — or if you know they need to be better — these strategies will help you get there. Implement one, two, or even all these methods so you can maximize engagement, no matter what kind of event you’re executing.
1. Create an Atmospheric Environment for Virtual and Hybrid Attendees
One of the reasons that your virtual event might seem like just another Zoom call to an extremely Zoom-weary audience is that, well, your virtual event looks like just another Zoom call.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can create an immersive, atmospheric environment for your virtual and hybrid attendees. All it takes is the right virtual events platform.
Parallel.live, for example, gives you the ability to create multiple virtual stages, a virtual exhibit hall, networking spaces, and more. Even if (perish the thought) the session of the moment isn’t holding an attendee’s interest, there’s always something else for that person to experience within a Parallel virtual event.
Check out Parallel now — the virtual event platform built by events pros.
2. Give Your Attendees Ways to Network
Speaking of networking: one of the big albeit intangible draws of large trade shows and other large-format live events is the ability to network. For some, the connections and opportunities that occur informally are just as valuable as the session content.
So it’s no surprise that an anonymous, linear, one-way virtual “event” doesn’t drive engagement with everyone. The people who would otherwise be there for the networking may feel left out in the cold.
You can solve this by creating spaces and opportunities for networking. Parallel includes numerous options for this, from unstructured chat opportunities to more organized networking-style video chat events.
3. Overcommunicate What’s Available
Larger live events can quickly become overwhelming to novice attendees: there are so many options to choose from, and often an attendee doesn’t even find out about that one perfect breakout session until it’s over.
Now take that kind of overwhelming uncertainty, and throw unfamiliar tech into the mix for your virtual attendees. Some of them just won’t know where to start!
Whether in person or virtual, you can help alleviate some of this by over-communicating. Send more emails than you think you need to, explaining everything that’s available at your event. Send clear, helpful instructions on how to use any digital tools, apps, or platforms, as well.
4. Temper Your Expectations and Clarify Your Metrics
If you’re new to virtual or hybrid events, take a step back from worrying about increasing event engagement. First, you need to define it.
Virtual events just aren’t the same as live ones. People aren’t as responsive—there’s no way they can be. So don’t expect your virtual track to be a mirror image of your in-person one.
Instead, temper your expectations—and clarify your metrics. What would constitute success for your virtual track? What elements can you track that suggest higher or lower engagement? Answer these questions first, and make sure you have systems in place to track the right metrics.
5. Make Sure Your Virtual Audience Feels Valued and Seen
The days of virtual meaning “a webcam in the back of the room and that’s it” are mercifully winding down, but it’s still easy to fall into a trap of considering your virtual audience an add-on or an afterthought.
Less attention simply won’t work. You have to work even harder to engage this audience and make them feel like a part of the event than you do with your live audience. Make sure to address these attendees verbally, and use any and all tools you have available to remind them that they’re “real attendees.”
Audience polls are one option: with the right tech, your virtual and in-person attendees can both respond in real time. Pulling in live chat responses from virtual attendees is sometimes possible as well.
Whether you’re looking for a partner to help you pull off top-tier in-person events or someone to help you launch a quality virtual or hybrid event (or both!), Bluewater is ready to serve you. We have deep experience on both fronts, and we can help you develop an event that will perform well and drive engagement sky-high.