At this point in time, we’re all familiar with the benefits of virtual events. You already know that they boast greater reach, reduced costs (potentially), and greater accessibility, among other benefits. But there’s one challenge that many event organizers have yet to solve adequately.
Let’s call it the “attendee engagement problem.”
The attendee engagement problem keeps event organizers up at night. Low engagement metrics mean fewer odds of seeing a positive ROI and a greater chance of disappointing sponsors. Challenges with driving engagement extend to hybrid events as well. With your event audience interacting in two drastically different ways, keeping them engaged requires significantly more effort and planning.
Enough about the problem, though. We’re more interested in the solution. Fortunately, virtual event planners have learned from their mistakes and are leveraging creative strategies for driving engagement. And leading virtual events platforms have stepped up their engagement and gamification features to support this effort.
As always, the key to providing users with the best experience lies in getting to know them and learning about what they really want from you.
Take Control of the Attendee Journey
It is crucial for event organizers to meet attendees at key touchpoints and ease them along their journey, towards positive outcomes and experiences. If you do not take control of the attendee journey, then your audiences’ experience is left to chance.
Understand Your Personas
Not understanding your personas prevents you from creating a tailored event experience. To give your event audience the best experience, you need to know exactly what they’ll respond to. This means understanding their pain points, ambitions, interests, and everything else that makes up their persona.
Your event may cater to different personas and it’s essential to cater to all of them. A young professional might be hunting for actionable advice and relevant industry knowledge. A seasoned professional may be looking for leadership insights and data-driven analysis to stay current in their industry.
Map Their Journey
After identifying your target audience, it’s important to outline their journey with you. Which destination do you need attendees to arrive at? And how can you ease their transition?
Mapping out the attendee journey helps you deliver a seamless experience by reducing friction and directing your audience towards content they’ll find most valuable.
It’s also important to outline your attendee’s journey from the first touchpoint, which is before the event – the point where your attendee first decides to register for your event. And your interactions with your attendees do not end after the event concludes – many organizations benefit from pursuing warm leads post-event through marketing efforts (such as email or social media).
Provide Customized Agendas
Virtual event platforms have evolved to a point where it’s easy to create custom agendas and various attendee journeys, so that you can cater to each persona independently. The need to personalize agendas can arise due to different reasons, including varying interests and specializations.
For example, a Physics conference may include talks specific to niche fields. An attendee interested in Plasma Physics may not have any inclination towards a talk on Quantum Computing.
Instead of customizing agendas on your end, you can let attendees choose which sessions they wish to attend as part of the registration process. This practice helps attendees secure the best experience for themselves.
Deliver Tons of Value
The purpose of conducting extensive research and understanding your event audience is to deliver the best experience. And so, it’s crucial to create an event that your audience can derive value from. That means providing them with great content, networking opportunities, and a memorable time.
A Human-First Approach to Driving Engagement
When it comes to monitoring and optimizing engagement, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by data. One of the many advantages of virtual events is the increased access to high-quality, measurable metrics.
However, it’s more important to remember that events exist to serve humans and provide memorable experiences. So if you’re looking to improve engagement metrics, here are some very ‘human’ points to keep in mind.
Engaging Content Works
Why do people spend hours binging TV shows on Netflix, or refuse to move during a three-hour Marvel movie? Because the content interests them and provides them with value. Entertainment itself is one of the most powerful kinds of value.
And yes, this comparison isn’t necessarily fair, but the principle remains the same: drive engagement by creating content that your attendees want to interact with. As an organizer, you can’t directly influence the content, but what you can do is:
- Look for speakers that excel at producing engaging, valuable content.
- Provide your speakers with the tools they need to deliver a great session.
Your content delivery matters just as much as the quality of the content itself. So, it’s also important to find a virtual events platform that guarantees zero downtime and high broadcasting quality. Otherwise, you risk losing your audience’s interest, regardless of how good the content is.
Prioritize User Experience for Your Event Audience
Delivering a positive user experience is essential to encourage engagement and have attendees join your future events. And with the right events platform, delivering a positive user experience becomes straightforward.
You need to ask yourself questions like:
- Is it easy for attendees to signup and join my event?
- Is navigating my event intuitive?
- Is it easy for attendees to join the talks they’re interested in?
- Is it easy for attendees to engage – to initiate chats and vote on polls.
Moreover, you can improve your attendees’ experiences beyond the platform and registration process. A positive user experience can also involve sending users reminders about the event, sending them highlights, and collecting their feedback and suggestions.
Let Attendees Connect
According to Marklectic, networking opportunities are the second biggest reason attendees join a virtual event, after educational purposes. Providing networking opportunities starts with attracting the right event audience and putting together a good panel, but you also need a virtual events platform that facilitates easy networking.
This means you’ll need a platform that facilitates breakout rooms and networking booths to help attendees engage with like-minded professionals.
The Role of Gamification is Driving Engagement
Gamification can be the most powerful driver of engagement, provided you’ve got the fundamentals covered. If you successfully deliver valuable content and a great user experience, gamification is the final step in optimizing user engagement.
And there is plenty of room for organizers to get creative.
In virtual events, gamification usually comes in the form of live Q&As, polls, and leaderboards to track scores. You can leverage these tools to create an interactive attendee experience and drive engagement.
For example, at the end of a keynote session, your speakers can host a Q&A session with rewards for the most popular questions. The rewards could be event merchandise, a free ticket for your next event, special privileges, a coupon, and more.
With hybrid events, you can drive engagement even more effectively by providing immediate rewards. For example, you can reward attendees with gift bags for asking a certain number of questions, or attending a given number of sessions, etc.
Gamification introduces a world of opportunity to enhance your attendees’ experiences, so it’s important to choose a virtual events platform with robust features. At BuzzCast, we’re in the process of introducing NFTs and blockchain ticketing to take event gamification to new heights.
With NFTs, event organizers can explore new ways to reward attendee engagement. You can provide NFT art as rewards, or create special NFT tickets with exclusive perks – such as access to token gated content or discounts.
It’s true that an event’s success is determined by measurable metrics, including ROI estimates, attendee engagement statistics, headcount, and more. But, an event’s success is realized through understanding what your event audience really wants from you, and then giving it to them.
Whether you’re hosting a virtual, hybrid, or traditional event, delivering value and creating a memorable experience for your event audience is crucial.