09.11.20 | Associations

The Big Picture on Virtual Event Engagement

Our experts share how they’re keeping attendees engaged through creative networking opportunities and inspiring educational sessions.

Attendee engagement continues to be a crucial component for events held online or in-person. In fact, 49% of marketers indicated that engagement is the biggest contributing factor to an event’s success. Recently, our client, the International Association of Insurance Professionals (IAIP), made the decision to take their in-person event to a virtual model. Their goal was to deliver an event that made it easy to participate with a variety of engagement experiences. Plus – the event needed to incur minimal costs to support a healthy bottom line for the association.

On our last webinar, IAIP Executive Director Beth Chitnis, CAE, Meeting Expectations Senior Vice President Christine Hilgert, CMP, and author and world-renowned keynote speaker Dan Thurmon stepped up to share how they’re keeping participants tuned in before, during, and after virtual events.

Consider how attendees will participate. To make it easy and consistent, IAIP issued one Zoom link per day and all sessions were streamed through that one room throughout the event.

Be mindful of time zones. It may sound obvious, but make sure you are aware of what time it will be when attendees join your event. Especially if you are planning a global event, expect that some will show up over morning coffee and breakfast.

Don’t anticipate people sitting in front of their computers for hours at a time. Combat “Zoom fatigue” and calculate the number of hours in your agenda to understand the time commitment and slim down as needed to ensure attendee engagement.

The brainstorming process is like the in-person event planning process. Have fun and consider the goals for your corporate brand, your sponsorships, and membership; think about how those facets transition to a virtual agenda.

Let the virtual component guide your creativity. As Dan Thurmon mentioned during the webinar, the first thing he changed was his mindset. Initially, the physicality of his performance felt better geared toward live presentations – but he then realized there was more he could accomplish virtually. Drawing inspiration from television heroes from his childhood, he learned about the technology, tweaked his message, and retooled his performance for a virtual setting.

Offer a variety of sessions. With a mix of prerecorded and live broadcasts, different sessions help mirror the in-person attendee experience. Additionally, prerecorded sessions meant that IAIP speakers could respond to discussions and questions in the chatbox in real-time.

A variety of sessions gives your attendees fresh content daily on their screens, ensuring they return for more.

Keep your attendees talking. Between sessions, IAIP attendees participated in fun games, including a scavenger hunt and trivia, and virtual happy hours. The 230+ attendee virtual event also used networking events as a method to get attendees comfortable with the technology platform, with social events scheduled for six weeks leading up to the three-day online conference.

As well, your technology platform chat box will see a flurry of activity as the event takes off. This was a major area for the IAIP community to engage with each other. “Ultimately, the chat box was integral for our attendees to engage with each other. They were chatting with each other throughout the entire three-day event or responding to prompts from the speakers.” IAIP also used the chat box on the production side, posting resources and links as soon as they were referenced during the session.

Schedule ample breaks to keep attendees’ minds sharp. Just like the in-person experience, attendees learn better with breaks scheduled throughout the day.

“We’ve incorporated fit sessions, including yoga, self-defense, and aerobics for a while now. IAIP has a member who’s a certified yoga instructor, and we transitioned to a 15-minute chair yoga session to open their day,” said Beth Chitnis. Attendees rated those moments highly – some even saying they’d revisit the yoga recording daily after the event.

Get even more helpful tips: watch the webinar on-demand and learn how to boost your attendee engagement.

The needs of today’s events continue to take shape. If you’re planning your own event – or just researching – we can help. Learn more about our virtual meetings and events today.

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