Many associations have moved from live events to digital conferences, and there have been concerns about how it affects networking. The primary objective of events is to interact with other industry players and seek new development opportunities. However, with everyone participating from their home’s comfort, it is challenging to reproduce networking opportunities and keep the audience engaged.
Distractions are a click away, and your attendees can lose focus or interest in the online conference. Luckily, you can keep the attendees riveted with the following online event engagement strategies:
Pre-Event Engagement Strategies
Build the Hype
The excitement you build around the event will give potential attendees a good idea of what to expect. It is also an opportunity to boost interaction among the members. The Fear of Missing Out “FOMO” is an effective way of building the hype since many people do not want to miss a trending event. Use social media and create a hashtag for the conference, which will direct all the pre-event excitement to a single location. You can also build a buzz by incentivising your audience to spread the word. Doing so will double up as an event marketing and engagement strategy.
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Prepare Your Keynote Speakers
Even the best speakers will be a little rusty when it comes to digital conferences. You need to train and prepare them for the sessions. It will also help if you choose a passionate presenter who can fully engage your audience. Speakers can be part of the event strategy if they can interact with the audience and have a good command of the topic.
Provide Content Sneak-Peak
A sneak-peak of the content will help to strike a conversation and encourage networking. Event managers can provide short pre-recorded videos featuring keynote speakers talking about the theme and issues that the conference will address.
Online Event Engagement Strategies During the Event
Create Live Streaming Extras
In-person events allow attendees to meet with like-minded people during breaks to discuss the theme further. This, in turn, increases their ability to retain the session. How can you improve participation in a digital event? Live streaming extras like behind-the-scenes interviews of the keynote speakers can keep the audience from straying to other activities. Roving reporters can also find exciting things and involve virtual attendees.
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Have Entertainment in Between Sessions
If you want to maintain the attention of the audience, kick-off your online conference with a bang. Entertainment will keep the audience engaged and fire up your participants energy before the sessions. Virtual fatigue and distractions are also rampant in hybrid events. Therefore, it may be prudent to plan for an entertainment session mid-way through the conference. It could be a fitness break where you invite an instructor to lead a virtual yoga or stretch before proceeding.
Irrespective of the event’s theme, you must set aside time for icebreaker activities. Since you are dealing with a broad audience, you can break them into smaller groups for the icebreaker session. The activity should be a couple of minutes, but allow the event attendees to interact. It can be a Q&A session or a team trivia that encourages interactions.
Use Live Chats and Q&A
A virtual audience has a short attention span, and you will lose them if they are bored. If you are using keynote speakers, listening fatigue can pull them away from their screens. How do you ensure they do not lose focus after staring at the screen for long? Live chats should not only be a channel for asking a question or receiving support from the organisers. You can leverage live chat sessions to encourage interaction between the audiences.
A live chat will also boost the retention of information and create networking opportunities for the attendees. It would be best if you also let attendees engage with the keynote speakers by asking questions like they would in an in-person meeting.
In-person events make their mark with perfect design, meeting room layouts, and the trade show floor. Since the sessions are in real-time, virtual events rely on production quality to make an impact. For instance, if the video and audio quality is low, many attendees will abandon the page. Therefore, you need to deploy the best event technology and pay attention to lighting and graphics to keep the attendees glued to the screen.
Many people like playing games, and it can be a fantastic way to encourage interactions among the audience. If the event platform can supports games, you can keep attendees engaged with challenges and competitions. You can also use a mobile event app to organise the games and encourage networking.
RELATED: How To Bring Gamification Into Conference Design
Post-Event Engagement Strategies
Keep the Excitement Alive
It is possible to maintain the hybrid event’s energy long after the sessions and encourage more interactions. You can achieve this by providing recordings for the conference or rebroadcast the sessions. The content has the potential to generate engagements if you rebroadcast and recreate the glamour of the original event. Another alternative is to highlight worthy sessions that remind the attendees of the event’s experiences and reawaken conversation around the theme of discussion.
Sending thank you emails after the event will remind the attendees of the conference and spark good memories. Inform them of available materials for the event, including recorded videos or notes.
Digital events, as well as hybrid event solutions, are here to stay, and you can improve their outcomes and keep your attendees happy. The above online event engagement strategies can help you boost networking in your conferences.