1. The biggest mistake event professionals continue to make is in the length of content sessions.
Data shows virtual events should aim to deliver no more than four hours of content in one day, separated by breaks and networking. Session length should be no longer than 40 minutes (ideally somewhere between 20-30 minutes), with a ten-minute break between sessions. The biggest mistake? A single stream of content.
Pete Mancktelow, Client Support Manager, explains: “In-person events can often cope better with longer sessions due to the physical presence of the speakers or panel that can help to hold audience attention. In a virtual environment, that connection is slightly lost. We are seeing success from event professionals who keep sessions shorter and punchier.”
It all comes down to having the right content format to help keep audiences engaged.
Michael Pollard, Production Manager, agrees. “We are still seeing examples where content is not tailored appropriately to the virtual audience. Utilising zoom breakouts and roundtables keeps audiences engaged and breaks up the session format. Shorter days (not 9-5) of streaming keep audiences’ engagement throughout the entirety of the event and is less likely to see a drop-off. It also gives the audience the opportunities to catch up on their work within typical working hours, before and after the event.”
2. Adding value beyond the content is driving engagement.
Event professionals who utilise interactive platform features alongside content delivery benefit from increased engagement amongst their attendees, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
“We’ve seen clients experience a real uplift in engagement when they have added functionality to run alongside their content. Sometimes it’s as simple as encouraging attendees to post a picture from their lunchtime walk or having an ‘Ask an exec’ Q&A function running alongside a session to give audiences that additional value and keep them engaged,” says Pete.
“Virtual event attendees have been craving a new way to network, collaborate and connect. Event organisers who have been using our Smart Sessions module have found that attendees love having dedicated spaces within the event platform to discuss specific topics, speak to people and watch content together. Naturally, it doesn’t replace in-person networking, but it does create a shared experience, which our clients told us was a big missing piece of the puzzle when delivering virtual events.”
3. Participation keeps audiences engaged.
Audience participation, such as live polling or Q&As, is a must for keeping minds focused. Our attention spans are shorter; nobody wants to listen to the same speaker for longer than is necessary.
Michael advises incorporating a variety of speakers with differing opinions. “Break up the content; have some speakers run a panel discussion, include a range of polls and answer the audience’s questions. Mixing it up keeps everything fresh and allows the audience to stay focused on what is happening.”
4. Don’t assume audiences will automatically know how to use the tech.
With a vast array of virtual event platforms on offer, attendees can still spend lots of time navigating the platform and organisers can run the risk of disengagement by assuming attendees will ‘find their way’ with the technology.
Encouraging the host or speakers to spend a few minutes introducing the functionality before each session can really help to get attendees familiar with the platform and interacting.
Pete recommends running a fun test poll, wordcloud or text question – anything to get the audience using the event app or platform from the outset. “Getting the audience to practise interacting with the event can make a world of difference when launching a ‘real’ poll or inviting questions during the main sessions.”
5. Virtual events are evolving.
While the debate around whether event programmes should be live or virtual continues, here at CrowdComms, we’re still seeing enthusiasm from attendees for virtual experiences but consuming the experience in a different way.
Henry Hall, Business Development Manager, tells more. “Attendee appetite for virtual at the start of the year was waning, with saturation from the previous two years. However, the benefits of being able to attend without travelling is certainly still appetising for many, particularly as both organisers and attendees are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of in-person events.”
But what it means to be virtual has changed.
Pete clarifies: “We’ve noticed that when given the option to attend virtually or physically, attendees opt for in-person initially and often change last minute to virtual. Having the ability to experience the event virtually allows attendees to have greater flexibility. Even if the event doesn’t offer live content, but footage is added post-event, users who might have otherwise missed out have an opportunity to engage when it suits them.”
Henry agrees. “Often, attendees are looking to access virtual event content on-demand. As a result, more of our clients are utilising the platform as a community tool in place of a one-off event experience. We are all familiar with consuming content on-demand, either through social media or the various streaming services. Audiences are now transferring this expectation to the event environment to enjoy experiences on their own terms. We expect the community platform trend to continue throughout the rest of the year.”