All events share a common objective, they bring people together. But as we’re discovering with online events, the way in which people are being brought together is very different from what it once was.
Everything from how attendees engage and interact to how they experience something has to be adapted to the online world. We know that this works for content, but for other areas, that require more of a human touch, there is still some catching up to do.
This is especially the case for creating a sense of community. How do you create a sense of belonging amongst attendees? How do you encourage them to meet and interact? And more importantly, how do you do all of this while they’re sat behind a screen?
To help answer these questions, we’ve drawn up some tips on how to create a sense of community at your online events, turning attendees into loyal brand advocates.
Step 1. Organise group conversations at your online event
No surprises here, but the best way to facilitate communication amongst your participants will always be through group conversations, which coincide with each session on the agenda.
Usually, this comes in the form of a live chat feature which is visible to attendees at the side of the video within the virtual stage (see picture below). This is a great way to add some much-needed engagement and interaction to all of your sessions by offering attendees a place to communicate throughout the event.
This can work on a number of fronts. For example, it allows attendees to share their thoughts and ask questions for keynotes and panel discussions. But also for smaller sessions, such as workshops or seminars, where it becomes much easier for attendees to really get to know each other where they can then dive into one-on-one video meetings.
Step 2. Run parallel workshops for smaller online groups
Be sure to give participants the option to register for these workshops before, that way they can attend the workshops that matter to them the most, and even better, they’ll be doing it with other participants who share these same interests.
By segmenting your online event into parallel workshops, participants will have the chance to meet in a more intimate setting, making it much easier to break down any virtual barriers to communication and interaction.
Moreover, participants can find real value in attending these sessions because they appeal to directly their needs. Naturally, this gives your program some much-needed variety away from the keynotes and panel discussions which can’t offer the same level of interaction and engagement amongst attendees.
Step 3. Design experiential activities that will involve your online attendees
Remember how live events used to come jampacked with experiential activities? Well, so too can online events. Because beyond all of the keynotes, panel discussions, and other content that’s expected from a live event, it’s also important to add some fun and entertainment into the agenda.
Whether it’s a yoga session, a cooking class, or even a live music performance, all of these activities offer a fantastic chance for your attendees to let their hair down and mingle in a different, less formal setting.
Providing that the activities allow your attendees to participate and get involved, then you can really go wild with this. For example, at our first online event, Get Together, Hollywood magician Daniel Fernandez will be mesmerising random participants with his best tricks.
Step 4. Run multiple live polls and quizzes. Make sure people have fun with it
Live polls and quizzes are a great way to break down barriers between participants. If you’re looking for your attendees to have a more active and vocal role in the event then this is a must-have.
Having this on offer provides a great platform for you to receive instant feedback throughout the event. Moreover, getting your responses in real-time will give your attendees a voice and a direct role to play in the event.
Adding fun elements across the event is a sure-fire way to boost engagement. Again, there are plenty of options out there. The most popular being gamification through techniques such as trivia, quizzes, and contents. To take this one step further, you can also include prizes as a way to encourage participation.
Step 5. Create a special green room and offer access to your speakers
Green rooms have always been a fantastic way for attendees to meet and interact with speakers. And you can do the same at your online events by offering a virtual room. This can be offered as a simultaneous session which runs throughout the event.
To get the most out of this, make sure to have your speakers stick around after their talk so that attendees can ask any unanswered questions or spend some valuable time chatting getting to know them.
Given how hard it can be for attendees to connect with speakers, especially at an online event, this is a sure-fire way to give them time with industry leaders and experts. In terms of value, it doesn’t get much better for your attendees, which is why having a virtual green room can be a real differentiator at your online events.
Step 6. Allow people to network online and send each other messages
Networking is a key part of any event, so be sure to give your attendees plenty of time to get to know each other with dedicated sessions.
The premise for networking at an online event is actually very simple. Attendees schedule one to one meetings via a video chat. And just like at any other event, either the attendees or the event organizers can choose who connects to who and for how long.
It’s also worth thinking about how you can enhance the networking experience. For example, attendees can fill out their profiles before the event with their interests and schedule meetings before the event has even begun.
So as you can see, there are plenty of ways to create a sense of community at an online event. It's just a case of knowing what's at your disposal and what can be done in an online environment when it comes to creating interaction, engagement, and communication.