Combating attendee “zone out”: strategies to maximize engagement at your next virtual event

Event Anywhere Team
Updated on

Keeping people engaged at an in-person event was hard enough, but now, as we shift online, with virtual events taking the lead, this has become even more challenging, as we compete with the constant distractions of busy inboxes, social media feeds, and everything that the internet has to offer, being just a click away.

The main struggle is the format itself – which provides attendees with more opportunities to “zone out” – making it easier than ever before to get up and leave mid-session, without any of the usual “walk of shame” you’d have at an in-person event and the embarrassment that can come with that.

So, what can event organizers like yourself do to combat this? What tips and strategies can be included in your event planning and employed to make your events more engaging, making attendees less likely to drop out? That’s the point of this article – to give you several actionable, simple strategies to maximize audience engagement before running your next virtual event.

6 strategies to help keep attendees engaged at your next virtual event

Whatever your event, many of the same rules apply – making the following tips and strategies as useful for a yoga workshop, as for a business seminar to keep your virtual audience more engaged with your content and less likely to drop off from your virtual event.

1. Make content more interactive, with real-time surveys, polls, and Q&A

If you want to keep your audience engaged, provide them with the opportunities to do so using interactive features and elements.

Live polls, chat, and Q&A can help break down the barriers between audience and host. And if you’re also running a virtual expo, make virtual booths available, helping event attendees to connect to further drive conversation outside of the event’s schedule.

This is an area in which virtual event platforms like ours excel. They offer virtual expo halls and real-time interactions using voice notes – making these elements more engaging and life-like, closer to how participants would engage with live content at an in-person event.

2. Make content shorter, splitting it into bite-sized chunks

While you may not think it, engaging people at a virtual conference is a very different beast to doing so at one that’s in-person – capturing the attention of people sat at home, with all the distractions of the web at their fingertips, is hard.

When surveyed, attendees indicate that virtual events feel longer, and once they become bored, it’s all too easy to log off and go hunting for other content in no more than a few clicks. This makes it incredibly important to keep your session length shorter, cutting it into bite-sized chucks that are better optimized to being consumed remotely.

It’s also important to note that there’s also no walk of shame as you exit a session before it ends, as at in-person events. This makes it far easier for people to drop out without any of the usual embarrassment – so make sure your content is short, to the point, and engaging, or risk losing your audience’s interest just as quickly as you got it.

3.Offer a mix of live and on-demand content

Being sat around, waiting for scheduled sessions to take place can be exhausting – and an easy way to lose attendees, as they become disengaged or leave your digital event altogether. There could also be other challenges, like time zones, which make on-demand a good option, helping to maximize your event’s reach.

One method of combating this is to offer a mix of live and on-demand video content, giving those interested in only specific content something to consume while waiting for your live keynotes and other content to begin.

The other great benefit of on-demand content is that it gives something for participant to engage with both before and after the online event, giving them a reason to come back and participant in the run-up to, or long after your virtual meeting, conference, or event, has officially closed.

4. Whatever you do – no sales pitches!

People attend events for content and connection – not to sit through lengthy sales pitches. They’re a sure-fire way to leave virtual attendees feeling disengaged and with a virtual bad taste in their mouth.

Nobody’s interested in how or what you do – they’re interested in why you do it. Speak to problems – not just how you solve them. And remember that the primary motivator for most people who take the time to attend events is to learn – not be sold to.

While we appreciate that it’s not always possible to avoid selling entirely, do it when and where appropriate. If all you’re going to do is pass off a multi-hour session of peddling your wares as an “event”, you’re better off not bothering. People won’t thank you, in fact, their first interaction with your brand will likely be a negative one – potentially costing you prospects and hurting your reputation in the process.

5. Use messaging and live announcements, prompting real-time interaction

Virtual event platforms offer ways of communicating with attendees – including real-time announcements, providing you with a way to reach out and prompt participant action.

Live announcements could include everything from announcing the start of sessions, contest winners, exhibitor promotions, or the latest happenings on your event’s social media – all of which can help keep virtual attendees engaged through the event’s duration.

Another idea is to use social media, just like you would at an in-person event. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter – these can all help bring attendees back to your event who have logged off, or even bring in new virtual attendees while the event is ongoing, increasing reach and audience since with minimal effort.

6. Run networking sessions throughout, not just tacked on at the end

One of the biggest aspects of in-person events is networking – for many, it’s a significant reason why they attend them in the first place. But don’t limit yourself to running a networking session at the end of your event; instead, run multiple sessions throughout.

Networking can also act as a welcomed break from scheduled content, giving attendees the chance to unwind and connect, meeting with others, share their views and discuss the sessions or other content they’ve just consumed, helping to drive the conversation.

Virtual event platforms like Event Anywhere offer a feature-rich networking experience, providing the technology needed to bring people together, paired by interest. This can help kick-start worthwhile conversations that can create opportunities to connect for your attendees, creating real value, and helping to maximize attendee engagement.

Final thoughts

Taking your events virtual – or even just adding a virtual component to an in-person conference, using virtual event platforms to turn it into a hybrid event – can create huge opportunity for you and your organization to reach and engage with new audiences, giving you a way to access attendees without the traditional limiting factors of time zones and geographical location.

But just because a virtual event is online, that doesn’t mean it has to be a stripped-down in-person event – your event can be just as engaging as a real-world one. That said, the format does have its challenges, as it will require you and your team of organizers to get more creative to solve these.

Keep in mind that the single biggest of these challenges is that a online event and its content are in constant competition with the rest of the internet. This makes it far more critical to come up with strategies to counter these distractions, devising ways to improve the overall attendee experience, keeping them engaged with your event content.

Event Anywhere an the all-in-one virtual events platform that makes online events more personal.

It offers all the virtual event management tools, features, and functionality needed to make your future events a success, offering an end-to-end solution, complete with customizable elements and branding, that makes organizing and running virtual events a breeze.

Planning a virtual event right now?

Speak with our virtual event consultants who are on-hand to you can get started with Event Anywhere’s virtual event management software solution, and how it can help you maximize return on investment from your events.

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