Engagement is key with any event, though it is even more important in a virtual event. With attendees geographically distributed, it can be more challenging to put on a virtual event that helps attendees connect and stay engaged.
So what can you do?
The answer: get creative with available technologies available, both to help facilitate session types you are already familiar with from in-person meetings (keynotes, breakouts, etc.) and to offer other forms of engagement that might have been more challenging to do in-person. We’ll break down how to leverage technology during an event and recommend fun, creative ways to engage your attendees.
Live Streams or Pre-Recordings: Which Should You Use?
First, let's talk about a few common types of event sessions and the best ways to make them engaging for virtual meetings—specifically, the pros and cons of live streaming versus pre-recording a meeting to maximize attendee engagement and the quality of your meeting.
1. Keynote addresses
Keynote speeches usually kick off a meeting and can be a good way to set the tone and feel for the rest of your event. With a live stream approach, you get the benefit of real-time activity from your speaker, allowing them to improvise and respond in real-time to queries and questions. Then again, a pre-recorded keynote, with the keynote speaker present, still offers the opportunity for the speaker to respond to questions during the speech while also ensuring a smoother production value.
2. Award ceremonies
Generally, award ceremonies are likely to be more effective and engaging when conducted in real-time. There are many moving parts that benefit from a real-time component, so live-streaming may be the way to go. However, parts of the ceremony could be pre-recorded, such as speeches, to minimize glitches, so you could consider a combination of approaches.
3. Panel Discussions
Deciding whether to live stream or pre-record a panel of speakers for discussion later depends on how much control you want to have over the meeting. Pre-recording can help minimize the risk of technical mishaps (such as faulty internet connections by a single speaker), but live streams can preserve the give-and-take, spontaneous conversations that often occur during a panel discussion, which can be generative and engaging for attendees.
4. Product Demos
Depending on your event, you may have sponsors who are hoping to sell products and offer demos to prospective buyers. As with other formats, there are pros and cons to consider. A pre-recording allows your sponsor to adequately and effectively demonstrate a product, while live-streaming gives event attendees the confidence of connecting to a sponsor representative in real-time, rather than passively watching a demonstration.
Ways to Engage Participants Beyond the “Business” of Your Event
When it comes to virtual event engagement, you’ll also want to consider other ways to keep your attendees engaged beyond the business of formal event meetings. The following are a few ideas to help engage your attendees:
- Live, interactive activities. Think about things outside of regular event meetings. This could be something as simple as a breakout yoga session—it gives your attendees a mental break, keeps them interacting with one another and, above all, keeps them engaged with your event.
- Competitions and games. Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition! Finding ways to help your attendees earn prizes, for example, can keep them engaged, attending various events, engaging with your sponsors, and so much more.
- Think about production quality. While this can relate to many aspects of your event, remember to think about the quality of your event. The early days of the pandemic are over: while witnessing dogs and kids making noise and appearing on screen was commonplace, that is no longer the expectation. People want—expect—quality, and that directly translates into their perception of your event and their overall engagement.
While there are many ways to use technology to engage your audience, the goals you and your attendees have should drive the decisions you make about technology.