A Discerning Delegate’s View: How to Connect Virtual Attendees

While we welcome a return to physical event experiences, it is important not to lose sight of what the advancements in virtual event capabilities have allowed us to achieve.

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It is true to say that this year looks to bring back in-person events across the globe. While we welcome this return to physical event experiences, it is important not to lose sight of what the advancements in virtual event capabilities allow us to achieve. By including virtual attendance options, event organisers can broaden their scope in terms of attendee location, venue limits and sustainable practices.

If we are going to continue to make the best use of virtual components within events, we must ensure that the experiences given to those remote attendees remain worthwhile and engaging. Otherwise, interest and opportunity will be quickly lost.

Henry Hall, CrowdComms Business Development Manager and a serially enthusiastic delegate, explains his take on how to connect virtual attendees and shares his three top tips:

Connecting Virtual Attendees

When considering how to connect virtual audiences, we must first understand why the connection between those attending is a fundamental part of the success of an event.

No matter what the objective or format is of the event, whether it is an internal meeting, global conference or annual webinar hub, success can be measured by the relationships we have built, and the outcome that those relationships generate.

With this in mind, no matter if you’re attending as a content absorber, headline sponsor, eager salesperson or just attending for the free lunch (!), you are by nature, attending as a participant in the environment and your involvement helps create the event in itself.

Whether your motivation as a participant is to be educated, informed, share, learn, create leads or generate ROI, networking amongst the different audiences is a basic and vital requirement.

Now that lockdowns have been reduced here in the UK, some organisations are choosing not to return to virtual events because of technological networking limitations. Exhibitions and entertainment events, for example, often struggled to create an environment that fostered the interaction required to encourage and generate meaningful connections. Undoubtedly, some events that relied on sponsor participation and investment often failed to produce a similar return on investment in the virtual world as they did in the live capacity (although others have prospered). Sponsors and exhibitors are a good example of the crucial element that networking plays in events, where their ROI relies on spontaneous connection.

However, often it’s not that the virtual realm is unable to create an alternative form of connection, or virtual networking cannot be successful, instead, it’s understanding what tech is available and how best to target it to the different participants to stimulate and help construct relationships.

Considering all of the above, I have summarised three of the methods you can adopt when planning your next virtual event to help connect your audience in a purpose-driven way.

Understanding What’s Possible

Fun, spontaneous and meaningful new connections can happen at virtual events!

…and no, I don’t mean within the chat functionality or activity feed.

One thing I missed most from live events during the enforced virtual saga, was watching sessions and viewing content in an audience with other people – and, under my breath, giving a detailed (and probably unwanted) critique to the unassuming connection I found myself sitting next to.

Live events naturally create an environment for spontaneous relationships like these to occur. When considering virtual, we are not trying to replicate live, but to equally create a space where audiences can mix freely, have independence and autonomy, and importantly watch the content together.

It was this, in part, that spawned the development of Smart Sessions, CrowdComms’ new networking space, designed to bring participants together and generate more engagement with the content, and with each other. Smart Sessions empowers audiences to create their own event journey, by choosing who they watch the content with, whether they listen to their network bubble or the content itself. This blending of autonomy and individual experience is in its infancy in the virtual events world, with many great technological advancements on the horizon.

In the meantime, I would thoroughly encourage you to look at Smart Sessions and consider:

  • How can this space be used to connect individuals during plenary sessions?

  • Will your groups benefit from watching and discussing the main sessions together?

  • Do you allow breakout rooms to form themselves and give audiences an individual experience?

  • Would sponsors/exhibitors see a benefit in paying for a space that users could independently approach with an immediate 1:1 video connection?

Influencing Behaviour

As much as we want to allow participants to create their own journey at our event, as an organiser, we can of course design and influence behaviour to create more connection and enhance ‘success’.

Ad-hoc video meetings are essential when empowering attendees to connect with each other: Find an individual, click on them, choose a meeting time, send an invitation, etc. These are all the commonly included basics, however, it is also vital to make sure your attendees can select when they are available.

Allowing sponsors and exhibitors to have multiple representatives in their virtual booth, who share a booking schedule, works well when aligned with a push notification and an activity feed post, which pushes users to that space and enables them to book in the valuable 1:1 video meetings that the paying partners expect. Ensure that the tech you use allows participants to freely comment, share, like, question, meet and view different content and people within the event space or platform functionality.

Asynchronous interaction will feed itself if the user interface is clear and designed to create threads of conversation and topics. Activity feeds, chat functions, push notifications, live polls, surveys, 3D maps and lead capture are only fantastic if you plan time and direct users to participate. Scheduling a push notification during a break and auto-assigning gamification points are good ways to encourage participant behaviour. Check that your platform has full customisability control so that you can design the audience’s journey for each attendee group.

Designing Communities with Impact

We digest information and solve problems differently when we’re in a group environment as opposed to individually. Accomplishing something on your own and accomplishing something as a group are two very different emotive outcomes. We feel connected to those around us when we experience or change outcomes as a collective.

With this in mind, aim to design your virtual event to do just that!

Launch your virtual event space early and encourage participants to connect prior to the day/s of the main content. Keep your platform open for 6-months post-event to allow connections to thrive after the main proceedings have finished. CrowdComms’ video-on-demand streaming service is an example of a great feature designed to continue to deliver valued content, long after the event is finished.

Alongside your event design, also carefully consider the tech functionality: whether it involves live polls being pushed to the audiences, which changes the content, or even the schedule of the agenda, is a good want to connect your attendees. This can work for an individual event but often works better over an event series in the form of feedback surveys, where the event organisers can demonstrate, over the course of the events, that they have clearly listened to the participants’ feedback. By showing survey results at the next event you show how their past experiences were taken into account and helped to shape the content delivery, for example:

  • 90% of people said that the sessions were too long, so we shortened them for you.

  • 50% said that they preferred watching content in breakout rooms so that they could chat and share at the same time. We’ve enabled both of those options for this event.

  • 75% of attendees communicated that they didn’t want to return to live events due to carbon-saving, time-saving and the global audience benefits that virtual creates, so we have decided to go hybrid.

By creating an environment where your audience feels that they accomplish things with others, they will naturally feel more connected.

Henry Hall, CrowdComms Business Development Manager.

Henry has worked in the events industry since 2012 and has a strong record of delivering successful events; supporting clients to achieve their ultimate event objectives. With experience on stage as an actor and auctioneer at theatres such as the Royal Albert Hall, Olympic Stadium and Colston Hall, he has a natural onstage presence and is a keen speaker at industry events. Outside of work, Henry has a passion for mountaineering and also regularly hosts music and community events in the South West, UK.

Get in touch with Henry and book a demo today:

+44 (0) 1258 863812

https://calendly.com/hhall-crowdcomms

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