Virtual events have kept people connected throughout the pandemic and are likely to stick around even as many states and countries continue to ease restrictions. Not all digital events are created equal, however. Rushed production schedules and makeshift digital infrastructure resulted in some virtual meetings over the past year that were poorly produced and full of technical errors. Additionally, the content was often unengaging and better suited for in-person presentation, causing many attendees to tune out.
Below are four tips for producing stellar virtual events that are so engaging people won't want to leave their screens.
After over a year of being stuck at home, most people are starving for experiences that pluck them out of their current reality and into another. This makes sense, considering that after spending a sustained amount of time in the exact same environment, being able to pop into another reality seems like an utter luxury.
Although virtual events don't include travel to a destination, planners can still incorporate elements into the design that create an immersive, hyper-realistic atmosphere that makes attendees feel like they are somewhere else, at least for the day. For example, Northstar Meetings Group's annual TEAMS Conference & Expo was held online last fall for the first time in its 22-year history. But instead of a standard digital event, an entirely immersive experience was created to transport the more than 700 attendees to Houston, where the gathering was originally scheduled to take place. City venues, including the George R. Brown Convention Center and Minute Maid Park, were used as backdrops for the welcome center, general sessions and virtual expo area.
The traditional, lecture-style presentation might cut it for in-person events, but just doesn't work in an online setting. Interactive elements are essential to capturing and maintaining attendee attention.
A great rule of thumb is to include one engagement activity for every 10 minutes of speaking. Quizzes, polls, Q&As and even games where the audience can apply the information they've learned to win prizes are all great ways to increase interaction and keep people tuned in. In addition to fostering engagement, these capabilities also present opportunities to collect data and better understand your audience.
When the pandemic started and virtual events began to build in popularity, they tended to be stilted and focused on just one thing at a time, which made it easy for attendees to disengage. A major factor in building an engaging digital meeting is ensuring that there is enough variation throughout. This includes having a robust speaker and session lineup, along with different design elements and changing up the "rooms" where the sessions are being held.
The goal is to create so many points of interest within the event that attendees always have something that can captivate them. A great way to offer variation and maintain engagement is to hold a range of sessions at the same time, so that people can click between them and return after the event ends to watch other sessions on demand.
There's nothing worse than have technical issues at a digital gathering. Because there is no geographical obligation to stay, the moment a platform begins to snag because of backend issues, an attendee is likely to log off. Creating a glitch-free, immersive event experience is imperative and should be a top priority from the early stages of the planning process.
Selecting the right technical infrastructure is key to delivering a digital event that has a high stability level and is unlikely to experience glitching or bugs. Before launching the event, set aside some time to walk through the attendee experience and make sure there aren't any glitches or errors. In addition, having a tech team on hand is crucial to ensuring everything runs smoothly and any issues that pop up on the day of the meeting are addressed as quickly as possible.
Muhammad Younas is the CEO of vFairs, a global virtual events platform. With over 13 years of experience in the software space, Younas has conceptualized and grown multiple highly profitable B2B SaaS businesses, reaching millions of users around the world.