Chances are you’ve attended quite a few online events in the past few years. From virtual weddings, baby showers, conferences, birthday parties, and even Broadway shows, more and more events were hosted online for the safety and convenience of attendees.
Even now, many events have remained online or online optional. But with many of us suffering from Zoom fatigue, you may be wondering how to ensure guests are actually engaged and having a good time. You may also be wondering how to juggle events with both online and in-person attendees. We’ve attended countless virtual events and are happy to share our top tips.
Here’s our best advice for driving engagement at your online events:
1. Test your tech
What’s the fastest way to turn your attendees off? Tech that just doesn’t work. Whether it be bad audio, low-quality visuals, or missing permissions, we’ve all seen plenty of poorly hosted events. Make sure you avoid these issues by doing a tech run-through about a week before your event. Brush up on the live streaming best practices, and invite all your speakers to test screen sharing, audio, videos, etc., so your guests get the best experience possible.
2. Create and send background images
A simple thing you can do to increase online engagement at your event is to create custom event backgrounds. These are easy enough to create in Canva and Photoshop and typically include brand colors, logos, quotes, or anything else related to your event theme.
Here’s an example of a Zoom background option that I was sent in advance of a virtual birthday party. These backgrounds will increase the odds that your guests have their camera on, which we know is 1,000x more engaging than those faceless black screens.
3. Encourage interaction through chat, polls, trivia
If you want online engagement at your event, you have to plan for it. This means that you have a person dedicated to coming up with questions to post in the chat, creating polls to get real-time attendee feedback, and potentially even activities like online games and trivia.
Here are some things we’ve seen work well:
- Begin your event with icebreaker questions. These could be as simple as “Share your name and where you are from!” or as playful as “Share your least favorite condiment.”
- Pause every 5-10 minutes for a poll or question in the chat. (You can create an online poll in seconds here.) And then read some responses or results out loud.
4. Consider breakout rooms
Depending on the nature of your event, it may be helpful to use virtual breakout rooms to encourage more dialogue. If your event is over 50 virtual attendees, this is a useful way to get guests talking and interacting without everyone talking over each other. Typically, rooms with about 10 attendees work well here.
We recommend letting your event attendees know about the breakout rooms in advance so they anticipate that they will be participating more actively than they might in a typical virtual event. Again, preparation is key here. Have clear expectations for what attendees are supposed to do in their breakout rooms—including relevant questions, links to activities, etc.—to avoid awkward small group sessions where attendees are just staring at each other. Also, be clear about how much time attendees will spend in breakout sessions so they can manage their time well.
5. Create shared experiences for virtual and live attendees
(Image via Not Boring Events)
As more and more events are expected to have both in-person and virtual attendees, it’s gotten harder than ever to plan a successful event. One strategy we’ve seen work particularly well is having a shared activity that both in-person and virtual attendees can share.
There are two options here:
- Encourage in-person attendees to break out of their phones. Bring your in-person and virtual attendees together online through an event hashtag. In-person and virtual attendees alike can share event highlights, photos, and questions through live tweeting. Additionally, if you’re using polls for virtual attendees, ensure the in-person crowds can share their thoughts too. QR codes on event programs or flyers work well here!
- Gift virtual attendees with a party kit. If your event includes an activity, demo, or even food and drink, give virtual attendees a taste of the experience. Maybe you send virtual attendees a chocolate tasting kit, some swag, or a Doordash gift card. This will show your virtual attendees that you really value their event experience and want them to feel included even if they can’t show up in the flesh.
Ready to boost your event engagement online?
It’s no secret that driving event engagement online is harder than in person. But with some new tips and tricks, you’re ready to make it happen!