Virtual Event Attendees are a new niche of event consumers that didn’t exist at any volume until COVID-19 reared its spiky head in 2020. Many of them have proven to be bored, distracted, lost, confused, and suffering alone! And I count myself among them!
The honor of attending and drawing through 200+ virtual event hours since April 2020 has been mine. Alongside so many successful events, I’ve seen opportunities for increased virtual attendee engagement, communication, and better connections. And I’m ready to share what I learned with you below.
I believe that the following expansion of my infographic can make a difference for your next virtual or hybrid event.
Dealing with Virtual Event Attendees and Technology Needs
“Um, where do I login?”
- Send email reminders- You truly can’t over-communicate for virtual events. Make sure that every communication has clickable links to your event platform and start times – this applies to attendees and, to a more significant degree, speakers!
- Verbalize short instructions of next steps at transitions during the first half of your event to get users accustomed to your processes. Users switching between systems or video sessions need hand-holding and heads up about where to head next at the end of a session. “Pop-out of here and head to our next session labeled ‘Session2’ in 15 minutes!”
- Use screenshots for instructions- Verbal descriptions of online interactions are the worst! Whenever possible, use screenshots to convey navigational information- if you would have a sign hanging in a convention hall, consider the same need for your virtual event email!
Fixing Time Zone Confusion in Virtual Events
“But it said it started at 1pm, why is it already finished?”
Not every person is used to dealing with multiple time zones- to some; it may be an entirely new adventure. Communicate well and understand the needs of those 3 hours away from you in any direction.
- Use multiple timezones in event communications (sometimes this may look cumbersome, but it is essential).
- Consider using a timezone map to convey the start time for a session.
- Use an event platform with localized times- Nothing beats automating time zone information!!
Increasing Networking Opportunities for Virtual Event Attendees
“I’m tired of talking to the squirrels outside my window, who can I talk to?”
The lack of networking is one of the most significant complaints from virtual event attendees. Do what you can with these tips:
- Promote quick chat and polling- Respond quickly – whether in session or chat for chatbox communication. The faster you work, the more chatter will take place. Work fast through polls, too- give attendees 30 second time limits to answer a poll- it’s a single click, they should genuinely be able to handle it!
- Have your own online community, forum, or action center? Elevate your online community by posting all of the PDFs, links, and information suggested by speakers inside your system, whatever that is- this will keep the conversation going!
- Utilize Existing Social Networks- Don’t have your own system? Keep your attendees talking by using your favorite 1 or 2 social networks- tell your attendees where you will be the most active and suggest your hashtags.
- Put the “End of the Day Social Session” in the middle of the day- I’ve seen social sessions decline in attendance since the start of the pandemic- utilize them as mid-day breakpoints instead of waiting for attendees to close their laptops for the day.
- Utilize photo contests- Whether it is dressing a rubber duck for success or taking a photo through your office window- a photo contest is a great way to promote engagement and offer a peek into the personal world of your attendees.
Minimizing Distractions and Zoom Fatigue for Virtual Event Attendees
- Provide doodle pads- Doodling promotes concentration. Look it up!
- Shorten session lengths- You may be able to get live event attendees to sit through 6 hours of sessions on any particular day- but you will be hard-pressed to get virtual attendees to spend an entire hour. Shorten up those session times!
- Increase break times- Speed runs to bathrooms, kitchens, and answering four midday emails is tough- give folks the time they need to handle their daily requirements.
- Suggest your attendees close all other apps to maximize learning- I admit- I have casually looked at an email screen during a live session that I am drawing- and MISSED 30 seconds of content. This is a personal disgrace- but an extraordinarily likely and multiplied act for virtual attendees just tasked with listening. Suggest the Single window focus!
- Give Attendees Something Else to Watch- I’m a big fan of live illustration to keep event attendees focused on the content of an event.
- Suggest dual screen options- Some users may be advanced enough to use two screens and open a secondary window- while I am partial to live illustration streamed via a secondary YouTube Live feed, I can also suggest Word Clouds, Chat Windows, Shared MURAL boards, and PPT screen feeds.
Personalizing the Screen Time Experience
“I feel unimportant at a virtual event”
- Set Round Robin Zoom Meetings – Many virtual event attendees are too timid to start a conversation with someone they don’t know- make it easy by creating a system in which they can thrive in a conversation without the awkward startup.
- Personalize Swag Boxes – You send boxes out with snacks, notebooks and prizes- find a way to personalize the package- with either a note from you, a vendor, or even a speaker.
- Mention Chat Participants by name during sessions – I’ve seen chat windows erupt when speakers start calling out NAMES of individuals that use the event chat system. These chat name drops are a guaranteed way to grow connections and engagement!
Don’t Forget Your Vendors!
There’s nothing more lonely at a virtual conference than a virtual trade show floor. I’ve lived through the humbling experience and have seen better ways to involve vendors.
- Make personal introductions of vendors- Event ambassadors can make a vendor’s day by making direct introductions in a virtual event. Give it a try.
- Provide emcee opportunities- Providing a visible presence throughout a conference is worth more than any GOLD BOOTH you can offer. Your vendors may have an outstanding emcee ready to support your event- seek them out!
- Provide session introduction spots- Interspersing vendor introductions throughout your event content is a beautiful way for vendors to see an event as a success.
- Offer verbal mentions – Keep up the comments during award ceremonies, introductions, instructional times and during breaks!
- Reward participants for engagement- Selling vendor booths? Reward event attendees that visit them with BIG prizes!
- Offer pre-session commercial spots- Having your event speakers mention a vendor by name and outside the fixed commercial moment is valuable.
- Integrate 5-second visual and or audio ads throughout your session- consider video overlays during an event- a lower third commercial during content is hard to beat.