By Joe Taylor, director at evensix.
Without a doubt the impact of Covid-19 will fundamentally change the way the events industry works forever.
So much so, in fact, that we believe that the events industry is at a real tipping point in which it could actually innovate way beyond its current form and demonstrate digital excellence that is far superior to pre-pandemic levels.
Virtual events present a truly unique opportunity to those who are willing to be brave and those who are willing to think outside of the box could well take market share here. However, that being said, it doesn’t matter how brave you are, how well your platform works, or even how many event attendees you manage to get on the platform, the key is making sure that attendees are truly engaged.
With that in mind, here are our steps to increase engagement at your virtual event.
1 Content is always key:
Your content is going to be under even more scrutiny than ever before.
Ultimately, the event platform is merely the vessel for your content getting to the right delegates at the right time and thus it’s essential that your content is engaging, authentic and compelling. Don’t scrimp on costs or timescales here. Work with the right people, from designers to copywriters, to subject matter experts, and then plan all content in with plenty of lead time to make sure everything is produced with your end user (your audience) in mind. This will not only draw people in but also encourage them to stay on too.
2 Don’t forget social media:
Live tweeting, social Q&As, lives and social posts will be important to drum up engagement. You can start an online discussion by asking delegates to post their questions. Use a hashtag to help people find and follow the conversation and make this clear on all pages of your virtual event.
If delegates have to scramble around looking for relevant hashtags or who to @, you’re likely to lose their focus quickly, or worse still frustrate them. You can also make use of plenty of other online discussion tools, such as Discord, Reddit, Slack and even WhatsApp groups too.
As previously mentioned, the key here is to find the best platform and tool for your event. It should feel relevant to the brand and be the right fit for the types of people attending. Pick your channels carefully and base them on what your audience uses rather than what you in the marketing team like to use.
3 Give chat tools a go:
Ask viewers to submit questions, comments or thoughts through the use of a chat tool. This will increase engagement as those who ask questions will want to stay around to find out the answer and of course it will encourage others to get involved too (not to mention those who want to see their name in the limelight too on the chat feed). I would always advise people to assign a moderator to the task of fielding the questions to be on the safe side.
4 Consider a breakout room:
Peer to peer networking is one of the main reasons most people attend events – to network and build up a contact book. Breakout rooms are great for this and especially important right now given we can’t all meet in person over a coffee. Some of the best customised platforms also include the opportunity to see someone via video too. This means if a conversation via IM or chat is going well, delegates have the opportunity to immediately switch on their video and take it one step further and have an even more personal conversation.
Providing these choices to delegates and tailoring the right content to the right people can really set your event apart from others.
5 Track, learn and do it better next time:
The great thing about doing everything virtually is, unlike a physical event, there are so many more metrics that are possible to track online (especially when it comes to engagement). You can see how long people spend in each place, what they click on, where you lose them, who they talk to and so much more. And the benefit from all this data is that when you come to round two of the event, not only are you far more informed, but it gives you a great basis to build upon for the future so that next time you do it, it’s even better.
With so many brands bartering for our attention right now, all of whom encouraging us to join their events from our living room, it’s clear that to win attention and truly engage delegates, the key is to offer something different. Building a customised event platform from the ground up means that anything is possible.
It also means that it can be built both around your brand itself (your ethos and what you stand for) and of course what your attendees want to ensure they keep coming back for more.
Joe Taylor is a director at evensix, a full service creative agency.