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49% of events industry marketers say that audience engagement is the most significant contributing factor to having a successful event. (markletic). The data doesn’t lie; audience engagement plays a large part in your role as an event marketer.
Having an engaged, captive, and satisfied audience goes a long way for word of mouth and future event attendance. It’s essential to keep your audience’s experience top of mind when planning from the early stages and even after your attendees leave your event.
Be it a virtual or in-person audience, engagement is a crucial factor of an event’s success. It is how event organizers/ marketers, as well as attendees, score your event. Let’s take a look at some ways to engage attendees when running hybrid events in particular.
What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event (insert link to the hybrid article once posted) combines a virtual and an in-person event and allows attendees to attend either or both. With the world gradually opening up for business strides in controlling the coronavirus, many events industry teams are shifting their events from virtual to hybrid.
While in-person events are the most engaging, there is an increased need to accommodate other attendees who cannot experience your event live. A successful hybrid event depends on your ability to engage both the live and virtual audience. The following are attendee engagement ideas that you can use to boost the chances of success for your next event.
Engagement Ideas for Event Attendees
1. Understand your audience
If you do not know and understand the needs of your audience, it would be challenging to satisfy them. The needs of your audience should be the very foundation on which all your event planning is built. For this reason, consider letting your attendees shape your content. You can gather information about attendee preferences when interacting with them on social media, via email, and other channels. (forbes)
Take it up a notch and create a customized event pre-planning survey, ensuring you include your audience’s wish list in your planning.
2. Understand your audience’s attention span
It’s advisable to make presentations and sessions punchy and avoid excessive information, so you serve only actionable information. Getting in industry experts also helps arouse attendee interest and attentiveness during the event. (markletic)
Be mindful of session length. Studies have shown that adults have a learning attention span of 90 minutes at a time. Consider adding interactive activities and breaks in between if your sessions or discussions go beyond this time-frame.
3. Create an eye-catching stage and screen
You need to ensure your stage or venue setup is stellar and that it is well represented on the screens- when viewed by your virtual audience. This way, you use your stage/venue and screening approach to engage both the virtual and in-person audience.
When setting up your stage or creating your visuals, make sure that your branding is well represented. You will also want to consider your sponsor’s and partner’s branding as well, being sure to place them prominently in spaces and places where they will get the most chance for great impressions.
4. Make onboarding easy
This onboarding pertains to the online audience. It would be best if you showed a good first impression. Because online attendees can walk away from the event with just a click, you need to cater to their needs carefully.
Provide clear instructions on how to log into the events, so people do not get frustrated onboarding. Additionally, make sure the first sessions of events are highly likable. Consider an interactive electronic brochure to summarize the event in a visually appealing way. These added touches can help to create an excellent first impression.
5. Make transitions seamless
Whether you are transitioning between slides or sessions, it’s essential to keep the process seamless. Attendees shouldn’t feel any interruptions in the flow of their event.
You can keep attendees engaged and invested with exciting background music and visuals, advertisements or videos from partners, and more. 61% of marketers use videos as an interactive element to keep people engaged. (markletic)
6. Use on-demand speakers
According to (markletic), about 67% of virtual events use external speakers. People prefer having industry experts and personalities at events. However, if that is not possible, secure the services of a professional. Put on-demand speakers at the end of the event to enhance attendee anticipation and keep them involved throughout the event.
It’s also advisable to secure influencers for your events. According to influencermarketinghub, “92% of marketers consider influencer marketing an effective form of marketing, and 82% believe that the quality of customers from influencer marketing campaigns is better than from other forms of marketing.” They can help you expand your reach before and during events. They can help you spark important conversations, thus boosting attendee interest during events.
7. Secure entertainment
A nice added feature to any event is to include entertainment. Local, humorous, and dynamic entertainers are usually a big hit. Your lineup could consist of a magician, a yoga instructor for break time, a singer, or even a comedian. Whatever you choose, make it tasteful and in alignment with the vision for your event.
8. Personalize attendee experience
Remind attendees of upcoming sessions via emails and mobile apps. This personalization shows them that you care. Adopting marketing and event automation helps to create a more personalized experience. Use attendees’ names when referring to them, ensuring that you are mindful of pronouns as well.
9. Engage both virtual and in-person audience
We cannot deny that people sometimes get bored at events, mainly when the event contains long speeches. The situation can be worse for a virtual audience- as some easily fall asleep when watching events on their beds or in the comfort of their sofas.
According to Markletic, 71.1% of event organizers say connecting the in-person and virtual audience is their biggest challenge. Hence, you need a good facilitator who can engage both the virtual and live attendees. If possible, get a traditional event host and a host for the virtual audience (Virtual Emcee). The virtual Emcee is responsible for relaying the questions, comments, and other feedback from the online delegates to the primary host and the live audience. The virtual Emcee could allow a few attendees from the virtual audience to share their thoughts.
The Virtual Emcee and the traditional host are supposed to coordinate, so both audiences feel engaged. Ensure that the host takes some time to acknowledge the online audience; he should look into the camera. It would help if you also recognized those in the room. Finally, ensure that the number of online participants is mentioned. (eventmanagerblog)
10. Stick to time and the event schedule
Sticking to a schedule may mean scripting and designing every moment of experience to precision. Remember that, unlike a live event where attendees have many incentives to stay throughout the event, all it takes to walk out from virtual events is a click. Be respectful of your audience’s time and stick to the schedule that you promised, even if the event is going well. End on a high note.
11. Leverage social media
Social media and platforms like Twitter and WhatsApp are platforms where the live and virtual audience can connect and engage with each other- even while the event is still ongoing. It is a great idea to create a hashtag for the event or a WhatsApp group for all participants to allow for this interaction. (eventmanagerblog).
When you want to share posts, try notifying attendees of the timeframe you would be doing to allow for more attendee participation.
At the beginning of your event, you could announce that you would reward the most interactive social media participant. This reward would encourage attendees to actively follow the event and interact on your social media platforms.
Also, encourage sharing. Provide incentives to followers or attendees who share your live streams, content, or promotional posts
12. Put in great effort to give the virtual an experiential experience.
If you are hosting an event that requires hands-on experience, put in great effort to involve the virtual audience. 39% of people who attended hybrid events virtually state that they did not feel included in the event. (markletic)
There are many ways to improve the experience for hybrid attendees. A few of which require a bit of coordination but can add a personal touch for the attendee
Sending virtual gift bags to attendees is one-way event marketing professionals have created a more inclusive experience for hybrid attendees. (markletic)
If time permits, you can include the online audience in simulations or games on site. If there is an activity on site, you can create a particular version for the virtual attendees. Share their instructions with them in advance to get them prepared and excited to participate.
That is to say, if you plan to share items at the live event, arrange for the items to be delivered to virtual attendees beforehand-if possible- so both audiences have a similar experience.
13. Do live polling
Taking polls throughout your hybrid event is a great way to keep your audience engaged. It also helps you to get better insight into what concerns or challenges your attendees. The information you receive can help you to improve future events.
14. Have engaging facilitated discussions
Getting your attendees to work together is a great way to increase engagement at your hybrid event. Create small groups and designate people to take the lead in connecting with the group. These groups can be formed either in person or online (breakout rooms).
As an event marketing professional, hosting events has become a bit more involved with the demands of virtual audiences. If you want to have an engaging, highly successful event, it’s essential to know your audience, cater to their attention span, and create visually appealing content that appeals to them. As well, make the onboarding and participant process easy and seamless.
Incorporating entertainment, social media, and on-demand speakers are clever ways to make your next event stand out in the events industry and far beyond.