Over the past year, the pandemic has caused many online platforms, such as gaming and video streaming platforms, to experience a surge in users and revenue. What else did we have to do during lockdowns but escape this reality into another one?!
But while online engagement has been high for some digital content owners, event planners are still struggling with their virtual events. Though many tech companies claim to provide increased engagement by using their platform, more than 50% of event planners still cite engagement as the main thing they struggle with when planning and launching a virtual event.
While attendees were forgiving at the beginning of the pandemic, when virtual events may have left something to be desired, they’ve now come to expect more – much more. If you don’t give them an event that is engaging and memorable, their apt not to return next year, even if we’re back to full in-person events.
Unique Ideas to Keep Your Virtual Audience Engaged
- Real-Time Art
Known as digital live scribing, having artists on board to create real-time illustrations for your attendees is one way of offering truly unique and engaging content to your audience. As a panel discussion is taking place, a talented illustrator is creating a live artistic representation of what is being discussed. And as an added bonus, these illustrations can be used in future marketing materials.
- Live Games and Competitions
Salesforce recently hosted a world tour via virtual event and during the event, they had a live “battle of the apps” competition between exhibitors where the audience was allowed to vote. The competition was called AppExchange Demo Jam.
This was an incredibly creative way of featuring sponsors and exhibitors, while also encouraging audience engagement and participation. And another added bonus with this one: attendees were encouraged to check in and engage with the company’s social media pages to see who won.
- Build Unique Immersive Environments
Last spring, the SBC Digital Summit took the concept of virtual and kicked it up a notch by creating their virtual space to resemble an actual physical conference center. For instance, their Networking Lounge looked like an actual lounge replete with chat windows that attendees could interact with.
Granted, this environment was not quite VR, but it did allow audience members to feel familiar aspects of a conferencing event.
Consider providing your attendees with these types of environments to give your virtual event a unique look and feel. This will not only help you set your event apart but also help you to distinguish the various breakout spaces of your event as well.
- Virtual Entertainment
Just because your event is being held online doesn’t mean you have to forego entertainment. On the contrary, after a year of being cooped up, most people are missing going out to a musical venue or comedy club. So why not bring that entertainment to them?
Consider incorporating some sort of performance into your event. Entertainment companies were also forced to pivot this past year, so you will find many can help you add a unique virtual entertainment element to your event.
- A Virtual Cooking or Cocktail Class
Many of our clients have had huge successes with hosting virtual cooking or mixology classes because they not only provide cool information but also allow your audience members to socialize and network.
All you really need to pull this concept off is a professional chef or mixologist and have everyone join this segment from their kitchens. What we tend to do is send out kits in advance of the event so your participants will have everything they need to take part in the class. If sending out kits is not possible for you, then be sure to provide a list of ingredients well in advance.
- Host a Health or Wellbeing Activity
During the past year, a lot of us have been struggling with our physical and mental health. We’ve all been under a lot of stress and some of us have not been able to get the physical exercise we once did. You can help your audience members by hosting a section of your event or a breakout session that incorporates a health and well-being activity.
As an example, you could plan a short workout or meditation break in between sessions. Or, you may want to consider having a totally separate stream for these kinds of activities going on at the exact same time so your audience members can tune in anytime they want for a dose of healthy. In our experience, offering these types of activities has been a BIG hit with attendees.
- Audio-Only Chats
Let’s keep things very real: we are all so GD tired of Zoom meetings!!! The amount of effort that is needed to participate in a Zoom call is becoming exhausting. That’s why audio-only social networks and audio-first events are becoming increasingly popular.
Not only do audio-first apps take away this exhaustion and allow people to mingle without need of showering, dressing or doing their hair and makeup, but more importantly, they allow spontaneous networking. You can have a great conversation with people while you’re walking the dog or doing the dishes.
It’s real and your attendees will most likely appreciate this fresh way of interacting during these virtual times. So consider having these audio chat rooms open throughout the duration of your event so people can pop in at any time and have a chat. As an added bonus, this is a lower-cost way to keep your audience engaged.
Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay for at least the immediate future. And that’s okay. You now have some really great ideas to help you make your virtual event stand out from events this year. And trust me when I say this is only a small sampling of really cool virtual event ideas that we’ve got up our sleeve.
If your organization is still planning on hosting virtual or hybrid events for the duration of this year and you need some help in coming up with some creative ideas, just reach out to us by clicking here!
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J.Shay Team is the generic alias for our event staff that want to submit work anonymously.