A recent report on ‘The state of virtual events 2021’ by AnyRoad reveals an interesting fact. The given report focuses on key trends that shape the future of experiential marketing. Their survey shows that the majority of the respondents, 45.3% of companies, host online events to create engagement, and 19% stick with virtual events for brand awareness. By combining these benefits of virtual events with traditional in-person events, hybrid events are here to stay.
Hybrid event thrives on increasing opportunities. They bring together two sets of an audience with higher reach, richer engagement tools in reduced event and travel costs. Marketing also doubles with a larger audience, and so do sponsorship chances. These events eliminate the drawbacks and differences of an in-person event with virtual aspects, for example, hosting events for local and international viewers simultaneously.
More options bring in more responsibility. As the scalability of the event increases, it grows difficult to uphold the audience’s attention. Some of the ways that increase your attendee’s engagement are listed below:
1. Exclusive virtual event platforms and studios
For decades, virtual event platforms went parallel with grand gestures. The venue makes the first impression on the audience’s minds. Prefer studios with attractive and presentable stages. Both virtual and hybrid events take leverage from the benefits of an event studio. They offer facilities to engage the audience with a 3D immersive environment that sets an engaging and personalized zone to experience.
Studies conducted by Markletic show that 47% of event organizers find hybrid events as a solution to include an internationally dispersed audience. Renting a studio or a platform that accommodates a large-scale audience with accessibility features can engage diverse attendees at your own pace and expenses. Accessibility features include captioning, sign language interpreters, formatting and designing of content, etc.
Another important factor that attracts attendees to the virtual aspects of an event is- gamification. Look for a forum that makes your event fun with scavenger hunts, a leaderboard, points, and competitions. Virtual photo booths and other engagement boosting entertainment like an art gallery, expo shows, comedy shows also require a spacious venue to accommodate your demands.
Food and beverages have been a part of an event tradition for a very long time. And the current situations do not have to stop you from any years-old habits. Virtual bags are a great way to offer food, dining, and wine tasting vouchers, etc. You need lunch breaks to keep your audience tuned with your event, especially if it is a one-day event. While the virtual studios arrange a dining place for your in-person audience, your virtual audience can enjoy their meals with free coupons.
2. Live polls, chatting, and healthy discussions
Understanding your audience does not end with acquiring a targeted audience, or leads. Just as how the audience behavior and pattern help you mold your content, it can also assist you in how to lead with your content. Begin your session with live polls and learn what the audience expects out of the next few given hours. According to WildApricot, conducting live hangouts, surveys, and polls before and after the event is the most successful engagement technique in virtual events.
Keeping them connected is the goal in both virtual and hybrid events. Ignite discussion opportunities whenever possible and make sure your audience is talking at least once in a while. Being passive listeners can fag them out. So, engage them in some fun activities by splitting them into groups or teaming them up for a quiz, trivia, and as such. Construct the activities with a competitive spirit or an incentive. This keeps them engaged, chatting with each other and fostering meaningful connections.
Some platforms have automated artificial intelligence matchmaking technology that initiates 1:1 networking among participants with like minds and perspectives. This feature helps you in coming up with dynamic teams for breakout sessions. The breakout meetings increase collaboration by letting people confer privately as separate teams in terms of audio, chat, and video. Provides a comfortable platform for people to get to know each other and work together.
In hybrid events, hiring a moderator is very effective in monitoring the two sets of audience. A monitor can help you in several ways. To name a few:
- To help the audience with the onboarding process with clear instructions
- Attending to the queries and minor troubles with immediate solutions alongside
- To oversee the timeline of the programs
3. Hire experienced external speakers or guests
Virtual event was the star of 2020, but hybrid events are the future. According to Meeting spotlight’s report, 73% of event planners expect the normalization of hybrid events in the future. Hybrid events are certainly difficult in terms of holding the audience’s attention. The speaker must be capable of handling both virtual and in-person audiences parallelly. It is a challenge up to the host to keep them engaged. Few things that can help hybrid event speakers are:
Rehearsal day- While going live, there is no room to look for mistakes and rectify them. So enters the rehearsal day. This day gives the speakers, technicians, organizers a demonstration of how the event would turn out. Starting from the attire that fits the stage decoration, the speaker must absolutely sync with the production team. Sometimes while using a green matte, clothes with patterns might cause a flickering effect. Or worse, if the costume is green or any other affiliated shades, the speaker would disappear. Anyone according to the script who might be in the frame must be notified.
Another thing to be discussed with the video production team is the frames and angels. Especially the speakers in multi-camera events, for example, an award show host or TedTalk guest. The speaker must acknowledge the camera frame and try to walk, move, wave, and perform any activity within the camera coverage. A rehearsal day would help in fixating the angels for the cameraman by the host.
In the audio/video presentation, make sure of the microphone placement, audibility, and synchronize your presentation slides if it is presented by the moderator and anyone rather than the speaker oneself.
During the presentation- 72% of respondents believe that attending a hybrid event in-person is of more value rather than being among remote audiences. Contrary to common belief, it is possible to give equal attention to both sets of attendees. Encourage the remote viewers to drop a quick introduction, enable live chatting, and make small talks with both audiences. Maintain eye contact and build rapport with the participants and between the participants with engagement boosting features of an event.
Inviting guests- Inviting any influential speaker or a well-known personality in your field increases audience engagement and overall viewership. Define the goal of your event and pick a guest under your budget.
4. Active social media presence and promotion
According to Markletic, small events need 3-6 weeks of promotion. And for larger events or hybrid events, 65% of the organizers believe that they require more than six weeks to promote and generate leads. Create a pre-event buzz by constantly feeding updates on your event. For example, you can start by hinting at them with behind-the-scenes posts, then posters or a short introductory video or an article about the upcoming event. Along with building expectations, such promotion can reach more out-of-box audiences- like followers of your sponsors or partnership circle acknowledge your brand. And in turn, such referrals, social media tags, post shares increase awareness. Prepare polls and get insights on what the audience expects and construct your content around it.
Provide live updates and also post your past events that could stand exemplary to your work. Giving a fair idea of what you do attracts a targeted audience who especially look for your service or product. This leads to quality lead generation. Keep them notified regarding the contents of your upcoming events. Create an all-inclusive poster with- time, venue, topic, highlighted programs of the event with an approximate schedule. Give credits to all sponsors. This can act as a road map to your audience for your event.
Just as much as the pre-event buzz, the post-event follow-up is also equally significant. You can redirect the attendees to a quick survey on the event with agree to disagree, or the most popular yes, no, and optional explanation patterns. Check all the reviews on the internet about your organization, skim through the social media comment section to get the most honest opinion on your events. This leaves you the headroom for some demanded changes. Improvising the backlogs in your events can make them more engaging.
In the tale of marketing, electronic mail is highly receptive among millennials. 75% of marketers say email is the single most effective way for increasing registrations. It also lets you see who subscribes to your website, how long they stay hooked with your events, do they use the click-through links in your email, etc.
5. Make short and impactful sessions
A report from Intrado says, 31 minutes is the average view time of an on-demand 60- minute webcast. Thus, making all your sessions less than half an hour and consistently changing to new lectures and interludes back and forth can increase audience engagement and involvement. Short and informative sessions are more impactful. Instead of conventional speech lectures, create something more concise and attractive. To list out a few engagement boosting fillers:
- Stream an interview or monologue of a famous personality related to your field of work. For example, you can use it for sponsor endorsement, or hire a speaker with a motivational success story.
- Quick pop-up sessions- with a live poll, trivia related to your event
- Add interludes like interactive sessions, breaks, and entertainment in between to construct a relaxed schedule.
- Live stream pre-recorded videos. This is the best option to create eye-catching content with elaborated and impressive production work.
- Signature introduction video
- Hire entertainment like an art show, comedy show, virtual concert, etc.
Ensure that the event is informative and, at the same time, not exhausting. Juggle the programs of your event and mix them up in a way that takes your audience on a roller coaster ride. This keeps them engaged and at the edge of their seats until the end of the event. However, these fillers are decorative and engagement-building strategies for your event. But the main content is the center of attention to your program. Make a short video under one minute or a presentation with 6 to 7 crisp, on-point slides and surround them with hands-on activities. Try to involve your remote audience in almost all activities by – teaming them up or via the chat session.
According to a survey by Drift, attendees are more focused on Learning, less on networking at virtual events. What is the purpose of the event? Is your fun activities effectively serve its objective? For example, for an introduction to cinematography workshop, the participants walk in with the expectation of testing their talent by shooting a short clip or acting as DOP. In such events, it is important to provide a hands-on experience that creates a long time impact.
But in case, if you end up with a group of foreign viewers, how could you engage them? There is always a high stake of such possibility when it comes to virtual and hybrid events. They attract the audience globally. Be prepared for such occurrences by hiring standard, professional captioning services. CaptioningStar helps you provide time-synchronized live captions and multi-lingual subtitles as in Spanish, French, Mandarin, etc. So you can customize captions and send on-demand videos for your international audience.