Online Attendee Engagement: New Challenges and New Solutions

How do you keep an attendee actively engaged when they’re sat behind a screen in the comforts of their own home? Now consider that engaged attendees are the key ingredient to any successful event, you start to see how important this question is.

Why? Because when an attendee is engaged they interact with your content and your message, and when you're able to leave a long-lasting impression on your attendees, it becomes much easier to achieve your event goals.

For event planners, keeping virtual attendees engaged is the number one challenge that they’re facing. How do I keep my attendees away from distractions? How do I replicate the environment of a live event at home? How do I find ways for attendees to interact with each other?

All of these questions need addressing, and in this article, we’re going to be doing exactly that.

The challenges

First things first, let’s dive into some of the challenges that you’ll find yourself facing with virtual attendee engagement. Chances are you’ll already be familiar with what these are, but it’s still important to explain these in some detail.

Challenge #1. Online distractions

The online world is full of distractions and to prove it, take a quick look at how many tabs you’ve got open on your internet browser. Whether it’s scrolling through social media, responding to emails, or watching videos on YouTube, all it takes is the click of a button for attendees to shift their attention elsewhere.

Challenge #2. Lack of immediate feedback

Feedback is essential in understanding how your event is going. Normally, that would require a quick chat and a glance around the venue. But with virtual events, this becomes much more of a challenge. Having your attendees behind a screen, often with their webcams switched off, makes it much harder to gauge how they’re finding the event.

Challenge #3. Lack of interactivity

To feel like they’re a part of the event, attendees need to be able to interact. But without any face-to-face interaction, this can be very tough to facilitate. Even with all of the options out there (live chat, polls, and quizzes) interacting virtually will never be the same as doing it in-person, meaning that attendees will need a lot of encouragement.

Challenge #4. Boredom & low attention span

Attention spans have been in a downwards spiral for a long time now, and the reality is that you’re going to find yourself in a constant battle with those of your attendees. Think of it like this, you’re in direct competition with all of the other distractions out there.

Challenge #5. No buzz of a venue

From feeling the hustle and bustle as you walk around to reading the facial queues of speakers, attendees want to be able to feel the energy around them. Trying to reciprocate this in a virtual environment is a very big ask and without any buzz, your event is going to feel a lot flatter for your attendees.

The solutions

Now you have a good understanding of the challenges out there, it’s time to get to the important part, the solutions. Follow these simple steps to ensure that your attendees remain engaged and ultimately, get the most out of the event.

Solution #1. Embrace online distractions

You know how the saying goes, the first part of admitting there’s a problem is accepting it. Well, the same thing applies to online distractions. You’re never going to be able to keep your attendees away from all of the distractions out there, so embrace them. Take phones for example, why not use them as props? Not only do they come in handy for polls and surveys, but they can also be used by attendees to share the event on social media.

Solution #2. Have moderators interact with people via chat

Live chat is a great way to encourage interaction amongst your attendees. To get the most out of this, make sure to have moderators that can guide the conversation, and ensure that attendees get the most out of the session that they’re participating in. Do a bit of homework beforehand by identifying plenty of prompts and questions so that the conversation flows and attendees can become a part of the event.

Solution #3. Live polls and quizzes

Live polls and quizzes are a great way to break down barriers between attendees and the host. If you’re looking for your attendees to have a more active and vocal role in the event then this is your answer. Polls and quizzes also provide a great platform for you to receive instant feedback throughout the event. With real-time responses, you’ll be able to identify what’s working, what’s not, and just how engaged your attendees are.

Solution #4. Mini-sessions and questions every single 5 minutes

To accommodate the attention spans of your attendees, create bitesize content. Simplicity is key here, so instead of going for an information overload make it digestible i.e. having one message per slide. To coincide with this, make sure to break the sessions up by asking a question, having a quiz, or even a break. This gives attendees a lot more time to process the content that you’re providing, without having to force it down their necks.

Solution #5. Put live sessions ahead of pre-recorded

Just to be clear here, we’re not saying just to have live sessions. Pre-recorded content is great because it can be viewed on-demand providing your attendees with flexibility. But for the big sessions where attendees need to be a part of the agenda make sure that they’re delivered live. These will be the most engaging, inspirational, and educational sessions of the event and normally take shape in the form of keynotes, Q&As, and product launches.

Final thoughts

There are plenty of options out there when it comes to keeping your attendees engaged. For any virtual event, the aim of the game should always be to keep things simple. Break up all of your content into easily digestible bitesize pieces and make sure to personalize the attendee experience.

Topics: Event Management

Thomas Davey

Written by Thomas Davey

Copywriter and marketing specialist who enjoys showing the world what can be done with the power of events and some good technology.

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