By improving your virtual event audience engagement, you will take your virtual events to the next level. It’s important to have engaging events because it’s very easy for your audience to get distracted when attending your events online. How often do you watch a webinar and then end up doing something else?

So, how do you make a virtual event engaging anyway?

You can make a virtual event engaging by constantly providing your audience with things to do. For your audience to be engaged, you need to do something unique and surprising. Provide interactive elements so that your audience feels incredibly involved in your virtual event. 

In the last year, I’ve hosted over 20 virtual events; ranging from virtual round tables to large conferences. Each type of event requires a different approach to audience engagement.

Audience engagement is absolutely key to virtual events. In fact, it will make or break your events. We’ve recently done research on this subject and you’ll be surprised to know that:

49% of marketers say that audience engagement is the biggest contributing factor to having a successful virtual event.

(Markletic, 2020)

So, reason enough to take a look at 5 virtual event audience engagement ideas that can be applied to small or large events.

Table of Contents

1. Live and Pre-Event Polling

Especially in the B2B market, polling is a tool used by many marketers to improve audience engagement. It works very well and for good reasons.

Pre-event polling makes your audience feel that the content presented at the virtual event will be tailored to their needs. This has two key benefits:

  1. The content is more relevant to your audience. This means you will provide more value and this improves the likelihood of a positive event return on investment.
  2. Since the content will be more relevant for your audience, they are more likely to show up to your virtual event. This decreases your no-show rate.

Live polling is an easy way for event organizers to interact with the audience.

81.8% of virtual event organizers use event polling to improve interaction.

(Markletic, 2020)

The type of polling that’s suitable for your event will depend on the size of your audience. If you have a relatively small audience, let’s say between 8-20 people, then word clouds are great.

wordcloud
(Image by Moodle)

However, if your audience is a bit longer, then consider multiple-choice questions.

The key to successful live polling is to actually do something with the data. Always make sure that the audience feels that they are contributing and that their input is valued. You want to give them a pleasant experience.

Polling is a very effective way to improve virtual event audience engagement. Some great polling tools are Mentimeter or Poll Everywhere

2. Hiring Entertainment for Audience Engagement

Hiring entertainers is a great strategy for both small and large virtual events. Naturally, entertainers are great at engaging your audience.

So, let me give you some examples of how entertainment can contribute to engagement.

For small virtual events such as round table discussions, you can hire sketch artists. Basically, these artists will take meeting notes but in a super creative way. Of course, this provides a really unique element to your small virtual event, and your audience will definitely be engaged.

The benefit of working with a sketch artist for roundtable discussions is that it provides high social media engagement. Your attendees will be impressed and share a picture of the art on social media.

By the way, if you are looking for guidance on how to set up a virtual round table discussion, then take a look at this article that I wrote. In the article, I show you how to set up your virtual round tables step-by-step.

For larger virtual events, entertainment such as magicians is great. If you are hosting a large virtual event, then you might have some waiting period in-between sessions. Of course, you want to keep your audience entertained.

There are some really great professional magicians out there that can display a whole set of tricks through cameras.

Another virtual event engagement idea is to hire an expert related to whiskey or wine. Send all of your attendees some small samples and then you can host a virtual wine tasting event moderated by an expert. 

3. Virtual Event Bags

Do you get excited when a package arrives at your house? I always do!

A great way to ensure virtual event engagement is to send you audience event bags. It’s a great idea to fill the bag with something that can be used during the event.

I have a guide here on how to use virtual event bags successfully.

For example, when you are hosting a virtual round table discussion, consider sending items relevant to the discussion. We’ve sent our audience wallets and included fake credit cards with discussion statements printed on them. Each attendee had to read the statement out loud and it provided great engagement.

So make sure that you fill the event bag with quality stuff. Something that your audience will use or that they can give away to for example their children.

Sending event bags to your audience in preparation for the virtual event will actually reduce your no-show rate.

The average no-show percentage of virtual events is 35%.

(Markletic, 2020)

However, with creative ideas such as described in this article, you’ll definitely reduce your no-show percentage.

4. Gamification for Virtual Event Engagement

Gamification always works well to engage audiences. Whether it’s in-person or virtual events.

At large in-person trade shows, there is an exhibition hall where sponsoring companies have booths to promote their services.

Proper virtual conferencing platforms allow you to do the same. Below are the most popular virtual conferencing platforms according to our research.

What platform do you use for large virtual conferences
(Markletic, 2020)

So at some of these conferencing platforms such as Intrado, you can allow your sponsors to have a virtual booth.

A great way to increase virtual booth traffic is to gamify the experience of your audience. For example, for each virtual booth that attendees visit, they will receive some points. Above a certain threshold, they can win a prize.

To add to this, you can have a small contest at each virtual booth so that the attendees have to engage with the sponsors. This is a win for your sponsors and a win for your attendees. It’s a great method to break the ice.

Another idea to improve virtual event engagement is to have a system that assigns points to attendees based on their level of interaction. For example, at your large virtual conference, you might have polling questions at each session. If attendees interact with a poll, they will receive a point.

At a certain threshold, your audience will be able to win something. This way, your audience has to pay attention to the session, because a poll can come at any moment. Naturally, this is a wonderful way to increase engagement at your large virtual conferences.

For small virtual events, you can do fun things such as a virtual background contest. The person with the most ridiculous or creative virtual background might win something. The options are really limitless. 

For more information on gamification, check out Brilliant Virtual Event Gamification Ideas and Best Practices.

5. Social Media Contest

The benefit of having a super-engaged audience is that a common side effect is great social media exposure.

At any event, you must use an event hashtag. Your audience will use this hashtag when posting something related to your event. Naturally, you can track this hashtag and run analyses and contests.

So, at your virtual events, make sure that you provide your audience with possibilities to post creative things to social media. 

Most people are up for a good contest, especially if there is something to win that they really want. Run some social media contests for your large virtual conferences. 

For example, you can ask your audience to post a picture of how they are attending your event. Some people might have a very creative setup. Some people might work from the garden and even the beach. The person with the most creative or unique setup will win.

If you are running a large virtual conference, you might allow people to ask questions through social media. So if they want to ask a question, they have to ask it through Twitter. This will give your event hashtag a lot of exposure.

When it comes to social media contests, the sky's the limit. 

6. Tasting Sessions 

I’ve got to admit, this is probably one of my favorite virtual event audience engagement ideas. We’ve hosted many tasting sessions and the feedback from the audience has been nothing but phenomenal.

The concept is simple but the execution can be challenging. People love experiences and learning about culinary things. We’ve hosted the below tasting sessions:

  • Champagne
  • Wine
  • Chocolate
  • Fine dining

But really, the sky’s the limit. Naturally, you’ll hire an expert related to the tasting. This can be a chocolatier, for example.

Now comes the tricky part. As it’s a virtual event, you need to send these items to your audience. That means that you’ll need their address details but also you’ll need enough lead time for shipping.

Realistically, this means that you need to have a list of final approved registrations 10 days before the event date. It requires extra planning but it’s worth the effort, trust me!

7. Providing interaction capabilities

If you don’t provide capabilities for the audience to interact with one and another, it’s impossible to create interaction.

Therefore, always make sure that you give the audience the tools to interact with other people. This can be through chat, one-on-one meetings, or live conversations.

If you’re hosting a large virtual conference, this is definitely a factor you must consider when selecting your virtual event hosting platform.

When it comes to B2B events, the audience gets a lot of value out of networking. If you give them a chance to talk to other people, their engagement level will be significant! 

8. User-selected presentation paths

Did you ever watch a movie on Netflix, where the viewers are provided with a couple of options to select what’s going to happen next? Well, you can do the same with the presentations and sessions that you will host during your virtual events.

By giving your audience the option to select what will be presented, you will create a couple of benefits.

  1. The sessions and presentations will be more relevant to your audience;
  2. Your audience will pay more attention to the information presented;
  3. Audience engagement will increase.

This is fairly easy to achieve for breakout sessions, but it’s trickier with main stage keynote sessions, as they are mostly pre-recorded.

However, for workshops and smaller virtual sessions, this is a unique way to make things more relevant to your audience.

9. Providing an event theme

By theming your event you can essentially take your audience through an experience - pre-event, during the event, and post-event.

Let’s say you’re hosting a virtual event close to Christmas. It’d be great for everyone to wear a Santa hat or another item. These usually come paired with great stories that break the ice.

Even for corporate events, this works well. People need a bit of fun in their life and by providing an exciting event theme, you’ll put a smile on their faces if pulled off correctly.

Ask your audience to bring items to the virtual event that represent the event theme and then ask them questions about it. People will have a laugh and it will increase audience engagement.

10. Quizzes

Who doesn’t love a good quiz? The options here are endless. You can create a quiz based on your company history if you have a reputable brand. Alternatively, you can create quizzes based on the countries of your audience or just some random topics.

The point is that people are competitive and love winning prizes. One thing to note is that people have access to Google. So try not to include questions that are easily searchable on Google. 

Companies such as SurveyMonkey provide tools to host quizzes. 

These engagement ideas are great, but the first step is to actually set up your virtual event. So, I’ve written an article about how to host your virtual events. It’s a step-by-step guide to set your events up efficiently.

Now I’d like to hear from you.

What is your creative idea to improve virtual event engagement? Let me know down in the comments section.

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Written by:
Ricky is the founder of Markletic. He's an expert in B2B Marketing and Demand Generation strategies that drive rapid revenue growth for companies. Ricky has been leading marketing teams at global tech companies for 5+ years.