When planning a virtual or hybrid event, it’s imperative to understand how virtual attendees differ from in-person attendees – or, more specifically, how their engagement differs.
During an in-person event, engagement is almost guaranteed; attendees are locked into their day-to-day schedule and are fully immersed in the event as a matter of course.
But when an event goes completely or partially virtual, new digital engagement strategies are necessary to maximize attendee engagement.
An effective digital engagement strategy must address a few difficult truths:
- Virtual attendees are prone to zoning out and multi-tasking. Distractions are easy to come by and hard to resist, which means your event must work harder to hold their attention.
- "Screen fatigue" is very real. If your attendees are asked to stare at their screens and interact virtually for hours on end, there’s a good chance they’ll check out early.
- Virtual conferences provide fewer opportunities for networking. In-person events naturally provide ample networking opportunities, from scheduled happy hours to simply bumping into someone in a session or on the exhibit floor.
Why Prioritize Digital Engagement?
If digital events require so much strategizing and rethinking, why not focus on in-person events? After all, event planners have long counted on the high level of engagement characteristic of an in-person gathering.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t always count on the best-case scenarios. In-person events might seem like the easiest or most effective event type, but that might not always be the case. Regardless of pandemics, sometimes it’s easier, cheaper, and more effective to host a virtual event.
Some major benefits of virtual or hybrid events include:
- Larger Audience Pool: A broader reach allows for a larger, more diverse audience. For anyone who can’t make it to an in-person event, a virtual or hybrid event may be the answer.
- Improved Lead Generation and Follow-Up: By tracking attendee data throughout the entire event process, from registration all the way to post-event surveys, sales and marketing teams can track and follow up with leads based on attendee engagement and interests.
- Easy ROI Event Measurement: More comprehensive attendee data also means improved event ROI measurement for your event sponsors, exhibitors, and stakeholders, as you can track every step of an attendee’s experience. Better understand and quantify attendee engagement using data collected, including registration; session attendance (including duration); feedback surveys for sessions and other content; interactions with sponsors, exhibitors, and other attendees; appointments scheduled; and more.
- Long-Distance Networking Opportunities: Although in-person networking offers a slew of benefits, virtual networking allows people to meet from hundreds or thousands of miles away, connecting people who might never meet otherwise via appointments and virtual booths.
- Enhance Brand Awareness: That broader audience reach we mentioned? That helps make your event a success, but it also increases the number of people seeing and interacting with your company’s brand.
- Flexibility for Attendees: Virtual events offers attendees increased flexibility, as on-demand or pre-recorded content can be accessed outside of event hours. If attendees are unable to adjust their schedules to perfectly match an event agenda, they still might have the opportunity to experience all the event has to offer on their own time if the event is designed with flexibility in mind. This can help grow your audience, as the more schedules you’re able to accommodate, the more people have a chance of showing up.
If all of this has convinced you virtual is the way to go, now what? How do you go about engaging a virtual audience?
Read more about the three steps here
Hope Swedeen is a Senior Content Marketing Associate with Cvent and has several years of experience producing content for corporations and small businesses, associations, nonprofits, and universities. As a content strategist and writer, she has dabbled in a wide range of industries, including government and defense, education, health, and more.