Experts agree that when it comes to virtual events, there’s no turning back. Yet the attention span of participants, much like with in-person events, can dwindle if not adequately engaged. Coupled with screen fatigue, it is important to cater specifically to your audience’s needs.
Sun Tzu is credited for sharing that the best way of winning a hundred victories from a hundred battles, is knowledge, both of yourself and your opponent. Now, while the audience or participants are far from your enemy, knowing what you want to accomplish with your event and what you would like your attendees to take from it, will depend on customizing your live event to cater specifically to those needs. We would love to share with you 10 ways to exponentially improve your audience engagement by customizing your virtual events.
A branded virtual event platform
Choose the best virtual event platform. Virtual events have become a powerful tool for generating leads and increasing brand awareness. Consider how important catering to the diversity of events and attendees will significantly benefit you. As with in-person events, virtual events can be tailored to leverage your brand colors, logo, fonts, and imagery to create an immersive experience for your guests. A customized virtual arena can combat the veritable screen fatigue and allow for a fulfilling event every time.
If you want to be remembered for producing extraordinary events, then something you need to dedicate time to is brainstorming event theme ideas. Creating a unique event can feel overwhelming, but if you take advantage of the tools offered by your chosen virtual event platform, along with a little creativity, your event will attract registrations.
Some clever forthcoming themes are mixology classes, virtual trivia, movie night, and happy hour themes. Online mixology classes are a universal favorite among attendees, since participants can become skilled at making cocktails and socialize with other guests, all from the comfort of home. Having an event theme in mind not only draws guests but can jumpstart your planning process as well.
Event Landing Page
Your event landing page is the first thing attendees see once they click the registration link for your virtual event. This is a prime opportunity to create a notable first impression using a custom background. Add an eye-catching poster displaying the title of your event, your company logo, and a suitable image. A short description of your event is another good way to help your guests orient themselves before joining. You can mention the importance of your event and talk a little about what content you want to cover.
You can also display more detailed information, such as the agenda, who the speakers are and when they will be presenting. Let your attendees know when there will be breaks and networking sessions. You can also include links to additional resources, or a count-down timer to your event. Your guests will appreciate the organization and the consideration towards their time.
Floor plan design
Designing a good floor plan for your event will undoubtedly start with visualizing the setting. Customizing your floor plan design is the best way to mimic an in-person event. Just as a physical venue needs to be prepared before you welcome your guests, a virtual arena needs to be set up to reflect your brand and your sponsors.
The first thing you need to do is visualize your event in a real setting, and then transfer this idea to a virtual floor plan design. This includes furniture, lighting, decorations, banners and screens. Do you want an office with cubicles, a dance floor, or a multi-faceted lounge with a coffee corner? All of this can be created virtually to improve your audience engagement. With a platform that offers fully customizable virtual floor plans, the sky’s the limit.
Functional gathering spaces
One of the things that most participants crave at an event is the social part. Networking is now more important than ever to add that human touch to your events. To decrease screen fatigue, avoid scheduling keynote speakers back to back and grant your attendees breaks in between sessions.
In your agenda, be sure to include networking portions to your event. The best way to do this is to set up your event to include smaller tables or breakout sessions of two to eight seats. Having all the attendees pop up on one big screen is neither ideal nor accommodating for guests.
For example, imagine a speed dating service - something designed for an open classroom would be completely ineffective because your basic audience’s needs would be ignored. An ideal setting would be a host and private rooms that allow timed interactions between two individuals. This customization would guarantee the best simulated experience, while retaining the same chemistry as an in-person event.
Enabling live chat features at your event is a good way to encourage attendees to engage with speakers and with each other. Invite your attendees to ask questions during live sessions and let the presenters know to keep their eyes on the chat. If the chat is slow, have moderators jump in with prompts. A favorite question to get the ball rolling is, “Where’s everyone joining from tonight?” Chatting, messaging, and group chat features give your audience a chance to feel involved and to continue conversations privately if they desire.
Polling, Q&A’s and surveys are just a few key features that will contribute to your event being more interactive. They bring presentations to life and make remote attendees feel like they are part of the conversation, says Aventri, in their Complete Virtual Meetings and Events Guide.
A good practice for a successful Q&A is to promote your sessions early on, rather than springing it on your audience at the last minute. If attendees know what the sessions will be about and they know that they can ask questions, they will think of suitable questions to ask beforehand.
Polls and surveys are also a great way to engage your audience. Since attendees are already online, it’s easy for them to take short surveys during sessions. This real-time feedback will help presenters gauge how their session is going and it will let your audience know that you’re listening to them. Win - win!
Virtual entertainment ideas
There are countless virtual event ideas that can be tailored to keep your guests entertained. Live comedy, magic shows, or even a live artist can make your event unique and fun. Having an improvised comedy performance that incorporates themes from your event into the show makes it more personalized.
Magic shows are also an unexpected way to entertain your audience and to create a collective sense of wonder. Another option for entertainment is to have a live artist share some of his unique experiences while drawing someone from the audience. In a recent online art exhibit, there was a spotlight artist who drew two of the attendees as cartoons right at their table. Talk about impressive!
Adding gamification to your virtual event is a great way to differentiate, continue to make events engaging, and keep people connecting with each other, which we all need right now, says Nina Dermody from Socio. You can incorporate game mechanisms into your event by allowing attendees to complete challenges, receive points for challenges completed, and see where they are on a leaderboard.
These incentives, coupled with awards or prizes at the end of the event will improve networking opportunities, session attendance, and overall event experience. Gamification is an often-overlooked way to make any virtual event more memorable and engaging.
Build the right team
As trivial as it may sound, it is paramount that you have the right team overseeing your event. Excellent customer service is more important at a virtual event than at in-person sessions. Having a concierge greet people at the door helps guests feel welcomed. An event producer for your virtual event can help with all of this and more.
Inviting a lively host and keynote speakers will keep guests from becoming distracted. An experienced tech support staff is also essential to help troubleshoot any tech issues on the spot. Your team will speak volumes about your brand and about how much you value your guests.
Businesses thrive on catering to specific clients, and with a customized virtual event, there are limitless possibilities for expansion and engaging an audience if you can inspire the same effect as an in-person activity. Pictures, sounds, and rewards can all be a part of your personalized space.
A key factor that will allow for success is knowing what you want to get out of the event, and what you want your clients or staff to take away from it. Choosing a unique theme and visualizing an in-person event can transition to a customized floor plan design that will allow you and your fellow participants a more enriching experience.
One of the drawbacks of hosting virtual events, and even actual real in-person events, is that its success will likely depend on the attention span of attendants. This can be a challenge after the novelty of this online transition has worn off. Imagining your setting, colors, lounge chairs, coffee bar, work tables for group interactions, break out rooms, dining room settings, or classroom settings can cause an indelible impact on your audience and grant you success every time.
If you’re considering an online event, we would love to hear from you and talk with you about your vision and ideas. With ACE Virtual Events’ customizable experience using the Remo Interactive Virtual Event Platform, the floor plan pros, we can deliver that ‘Wow!” factor to your attendees.