Most events have had to shift their delivery into an online forum because of the global pandemic currently ravaging the world. Transitioning a conference from in-person to a virtual setting takes meticulous planning. While safer for participants, the downside of a virtual event is that it can lead to a disconnect between the presenter and the audience.

For an event to truly be worth it, it needs to make the viewer feel like they’re part of the proceedings. How does a conference organizer increase the level of participation in their online event? Here, 15 professionals from Forbes Communications Council provide several useful tips that organizers can use to create a more engaging virtual presentation to capture the attention of attendees.

1. Be Thoughtful, Have A Clear Plan

Thoughtfulness and planning are key. Consider the purpose of the event, the target audience, and build an outline/script. In moderation, incorporate various elements like diverse speakers, powerful short videos, chat that expands to social media, breakout rooms that highlight key areas of the event theme, polls, music, digital goody bag and special visual graphics to add to the overall experience. – Callie Johnson, PhD, Girl Scouts of Western New York

2. Keep Your Meetings Short

It is more imperative now in our increasingly virtual world to keep your meetings and events shorter and more concise. Even with larger audiences, find innovative ways to engage the group whether through polls or live questions. Nothing is duller than logging in for another meeting or event to have people sit there and be talked to! – Kris PugsleyON Semiconductor

3. Add The Element Of Surprise

To augment your virtual event, add the element of surprise and create experiential aspects. For the surprise, consider a guest speaker or performer, and make sure they’re live, not prerecorded. For the experiential, create actual digital booth spaces attendees can “walk through,” and build out a virtual classroom so they’re not just looking at Zoom boxes. Virtual becomes reality when it feels real. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio

4. Integrate Offline Experiences

Create an offline experience to integrate into your virtual event. Event attendees love giveaways, so consider sending a fun, branded gift to all attendees before the event and find a way to incorporate it. Baked goods, beverage tastings, branded apparel, even physical backgrounds are all great options. Get creative and give attendees an experience to make them feel that they were actually there! – Allison MacLeod, Flywire

5. Focus On Useful Conversations

We’ve had a lot of success focusing on conversations, not presentations. Our virtual FLOW events kick off with a wine tasting or chocolate or cheese. Then we move into a fireside chat with an enterprise retail leader who shares meaningful career moments and actionable business advice. Attendees are participants — asking questions and providing insights. The big differentiator: No slide decks. – Indy Guha, Signifyd

6. Create The Agenda With Attendee Input

Develop the agenda with feedback from your potential attendees — find out what they want from you and do your best to deliver. In addition to presentations, host virtual round tables on different topics and virtual network events (happy hour), and incorporate polls, Q&A sessions and live chat to drive engagement. This week, we hosted our first virtual convention for 800-plus people across the globe — I’m thrilled to say it was a massive success. – Jessica Hollander-Torres, MRI Network

7. Actively Monitor The Chat Window

Actively monitor the chat window of virtual event sessions. Whether there’s a moderator posting resources referenced in the presentation or pitching posted questions to the speakers, chat monitoring keeps the conversation interactive and more useful than a one-way broadcast. Moderators can field feedback and promote other sessions that might be of interest based on attendees’ conversations. – Colleen O’Brien, M12 – Microsoft’s Venture Fund

8. Encourage Questions From Participants

Encouraging participants to submit questions before Zoom allows moderators to address them specifically. The recent Women and Worth virtual conference handled this challenge seamlessly, where viewers were engaged in discussions in a more immersive, topical manner. – Courtney Lukitsch, Gotham PR

9. Make It A Live, Interactive Conversation

Make it a live, interactive conversation instead of using presentations or prerecorded content. One-way presentations can get boring. If you are using Zoom, use the poll feature, ask questions in chat to encourage “chatting,” invite people to share their opinions or ask questions live. Even calling out folks you know by name is a great way to start a session. – Parna Sarkar-Basu, Brand and Buzz Marketing, LLC.

10. Include Virtual Networking And Interaction

People miss the networking and interactive aspects of in-person events. If you’re hosting a virtual event, incorporate time for virtual networking and interaction. Depending on your event size, you can achieve this through facilitated virtual networking sessions for all attendees, or have smaller virtual breakouts. – Roohi Saeed, Procore

11. Incorporate Surveys Throughout

Incorporate surveys throughout the event. Enabling people to participate and make their voices heard keeps them engaged. Then take those results and turn them around to attendees as part of the conference. Use the results to stimulate discussion in subsequent sessions. – Roger Boutin, SCORR Marketing

12. Leverage Gamification

Gamification is a great way to differentiate in a virtual event. It helps keep participants engaged and connected with each other. Participants can receive points for attending a session, posting content on social media, filling out a survey, participating in a scavenger hunt or visiting a virtual photo booth, and then see where they are on a leaderboard. It’s fun and creates a unique experience. – Carol Kimura, Omnicell

13. Invest In Entertainment

Entertainment — we can all use some right now! Investing in it for a virtual event can give you a serious advantage — music, culinary arts, comedy, you name it. Entertainment can draw people in, but what will engage them is a roster of names and brands who offer tangible insights into relevant topics. I’ve seen small breakout groups of 10 people work well with a facilitated roundtable discussion. – Jodi Navta, Varsity Time

14. Work With Community Ambassadors

Create excitement and anticipation for the virtual event by identifying a few community ambassadors who may have attended a similar event in the past. Leading into the event, ask them to share memories or photos of them networking with others at past in-person events. This helps set the tone and creates the human experience that often gets missed in virtual events. – Celeste Malia, Expert Marketing Advisors

15. Work Through A Professional Studio

Working through a professional studio to produce a conference or gathering is worth the expense and will pay off. Not only does it bend time and enable some content to be captured whenever it is convenient, but a studio can help ensure that there are smaller breakout groups and conversations, and also enable designed opportunities to ensure what most conference attendees want — networking. – Ken Nahigian, Nahigian Strategies

 

Article found on www.forbes.com