Ideas boosting virtual event engagement

Blueprint to Turn Your Virtual Event Engagement All the Way to 100

Virgil Wadhwa
• February 14, 2023

(2500 min read)

Keeping attendees engaged is one of the hardest parts of running a virtual event. We’ve got you covered with virtual event engagement ideas and strategies that will make your event feel as life-like and connected as possible.

Table of Content

If your virtual events aren’t engaging, you won’t achieve your goals for winning over new customers, building relationships with employees, or whatever else motivates you to host virtual events.

As a virtual event organizer, you hope to never hear crickets. You want attendees to interact with each other and the speakers. You want them to ask questions and even help guide the content of the event.

You hope to create a lasting impression—instead of temporary boredom.

To achieve these goals, you need the right ideas, strategies, and tools on your side.

Let’s dive in. 

The secret to making your events more engaging? Emotion

To make your virtual event more engaging—and avoid passive consumption—you need to understand what attendees really want to get out of a virtual event experience. They’re not just in it for the information.

The HAAAM framework describes the 5 emotions that attendees want to feel:

  1. Hopeful
  2. Adventurous
  3. Active
  4. Accepted 
  5. Motivated

Your virtual event attendees are going to show up live because they’re expecting to feel one of those 5 emotions. (If they just wanted to learn something, they could read a book or follow a course.) 

It’s your job to know which emotions fit your target audience the best and deliver that desired experience. 

By evoking these emotions, you’ll naturally keep your audience engaged. You can then spread that excitement and emotional response with the “pass-through” strategy, which means giving attendees something they can’t resist talking about. That could be the opportunity to design their own custom Nikes, hear one of their favorite bands, or talk with a famous business leader they admire. 

Below, we’re diving into tons of ideas to help you evoke the emotions that will have your attendees not just listening but actively participating—and even talking about the event after it’s over. 

Benefits of keeping your audiences engaged

  • Your event leaves a long-lasting impact
  • Your event sponsors and you get a better ROI
  • Your attendees move further down the buyer’s journey

Virtual event engagement ideas worth trying

In a Forrester study commissioned by Airmeet, we learned that 76% of event leaders want to diversify their virtual event offerings. 

If you want to make your virtual events more engaging, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Try these audience engagement ideas and activities for virtual events—from simple and affordable to more high-end.

1. Provide high-quality entertainment

Another smart way to keep attendees engaged during virtual events is to invite a performer to the stage who is an expert at captivating audiences. 

Here are some ideas for people you might feature:

  • Standup comedian
  • Mind reading
  • Magician or mentalist
  • Live artists and cartoonists
  • Musicians and DJs for virtual concerts
  • Spoken word poets
  • Oral storytellers

The length of these sessions should be 20 – 50% the length of your standard content so that you keep the event on track with the purpose that people signed up.

2. Facilitate networking with these ideas

Virtual events are convenient. (No driving or flying is required.) But for all those benefits, most virtual events lack the connectivity and networking opportunities that in-person events provide. 

Airmeet customer Mike Alton puts it this way:

I know from experience that what our target audience gets the most out of, isn’t the content in the sessions. It’s the conversations that happen outside of those sessions.

Here are some ways to facilitate networking:

  • Opening the chat and lounge before the event
  • Hosting happy hours and coffee chats
  • Virtual Icebreaker games
  • Breakout sessions
  • Encourage attendees to join small breakout groups

A virtual and hybrid event platform like Airmeet can offer multiple ways for attendees to connect with each other, from fluid spaces for impromptu conversations to fully featured event chats to speed networking and social lounges that encourage attendees to build meaningful connections. Start by exploring our features so you can get inspired to add networking to your next virtual event hassle-free.

3. Use interactive activities designed to keep virtual attendees engaged

Boost attendee engagement with fun, meaningful activities throughout the event. 

Hot tip: these activities are excellent for satisfying the emotional HAAAM framework mentioned above. 

  • Competitions and contests (either random drawings or based on engagement)
  • Live polling
  • Q&A throughout the event (not just at the end)
  • Call attendees on stage to ask questions or share their perspective
  • Social media challenges where every post receives one entry for a prize drawing
  • DIY workshops on design, creativity, or home improvement  
  • Virtual crafts classes like candle-making, painting, or sculpting 
  • A mixology class
  • An improv contest with attendees
  • A virtual photo booth
  • Live sessions or a masterclass

Keep in mind that 81.8% of virtual event organizers use polling to improve audience interaction. The more popular something becomes, the more boring and less effective it is. So if you opt for polls, make sure they have a purpose. For instance, you might use polls to steer the conversation—allowing the majority response to dictate part of the agenda. This will improve virtual event engagement by tailoring the content to live attendees’ wants and needs.

4. Use stories to make your content bingeable like Netflix

Virtual events managers have a lot to learn from Netflix. Why is their content so bingeable? How do they get the whole internet talking about their new shows? 

A big part of their success lies in the power of storytelling. Netflix’s most popular shows all feature a strong, compelling characters desperately trying to achieve their goals. It’s the character’s motivations that keep us watching. So make sure you’re reminding your audience often of why you’re presenting certain content, what it means for them, and what it will help them achieve.

With a few anecdotal success stories or case studies, you can build a storyline that inspires and motivates your audience. For example, if you’re 

Netflix is also so successful because they know how to pair the right audiences with the right niche content. Sometimes your content isn’t the issue—it’s getting the right match, so make sure your audience targeting and marketing are on point. 

5. Facilitate a better chat experience

It’s time to take your event chat to the next level. A mess of scrolling text just isn’t going to cut it. 

As an event planner, make sure you’ve designated one or more people to engage with the chat and ask questions to keep the conversation going. You can use Airmeet to feature certain questions and bring that text on stage. Airmeet is also great for adding emoji reactions to chat messages (which helps attendees feel seen and heard).

6. Get a high-energy host

In a Forrester study commissioned by Airmeet, we learned that 44% of senior managers believe that having a high-energy host is an important way to differentiate their events.

Virtual event engagement statistics

If you don’t have someone on your team with a ton of energy and experience, hire a pro. 

7. Deliver food and drinks before the event

Have you heard of the psychological phenomenon of reciprocity? When you do something for someone else, they want to do something for you. By delivering food and drinks for the event to your attendees you can foster some goodwill and lighten the mood. Thus, this event engagement idea is also a great fit for even in-person or hybrid events.

You might also want to deliver materials to enhance the experience. For instance, if you’ll be hosting a virtual photo booth, you could send paper mustaches and masks. 

8. Mitigate event fatigue before it happens

Events can be exhausting, in-person or virtual. With so much content and interactivity, your attendees might get drained. Try to avoid event fatigue before it happens. For events under two hours, balance brain breaks (like entertainment) with intense content (like keynote speakers).

For longer events, consider cutting the experience up over a couple of days, rather than stuffing everything into one day.

9. Schedule enough breaks

Make sure you give your virtual attendees breaks to use the restroom, load up on snacks, and stretch. You could have a DJ play music during breaks. Offer networking and engagement opportunities for your diehard attendees that don’t feel the need to take a break. In a virtual or a hybrid event, breaks can help attendees find some moments to recollect themselves and giddy up before the coming sessions 

10. Allow attendees to register for the sessions that interest them most

Make it easy for attendees to register for specific keynote speakers, panels, and multiple sessions. Add the different options to your event registration page, and make sure that the virtual calendar invites only block out those specific times on their calendar. This way, they’ll know exactly what session to attend and when. 

11. Create a real-time social media wall

You can use an app like Curator or Taggbox to create a real-time social media wall. Have one of your event organizers review and approve content using your event hashtag. Add positive event testimonials, selfies, virtual photo booth pics, quotes, lessons, learnings, and more to your social wall and integrate it with Airmeet to include them in your event stream.

Some global hybrid events like Dreamforce utilize this idea to get added reach with the help of attendee-generated content.

12. Send swag to attendees

Send swags to all attendees or only to your VIP guests. Coffee mugs, pens, beanies, water bottles, t-shirts, and sweatshirts are all great options. When they’re holding something physical, your event will feel more like an in-person experience. 

13. Use pre-recorded videos wisely

Pre-recorded videos can be a boon or a bust. It all comes down to how you use them. If you have long-winded videos, it will detract from the live nature of your event. But if you use pre-recorded videos sparingly (for intro reels to guest speakers or for important behind-the-scenes content), your event attendees will appreciate the different content format and how it adds to the overall production value. 

[Bonus] Pre-event engagement ideas

To drum up excitement before your event, try these smart ideas:

  1. Host social media contests – Come up with a contest to help promote your event and increase engagement. Give away great prizes to a few winners.
  2. Ask speakers and hosts to post about the event – Make the posts more interesting than standard promotions with polls, teasers about different experiences, and insights into pro content.
  3. Offer exclusive content before the event – Create content experiences that drop beforehand, like special panels, checklists to prepare for the event, and more.
  4. Elevate your confirmation and reminder emails – Highlight the most coveted sessions and speakers and can’t-miss moments. 

[Bonus] Post-event engagement ideas

What about after the event? Try these virtual engagement ideas to drive even more interactions with your content and build a deeper relationship with your audience. 

  1. Add value in your follow-ups before you make a request – Add value in your first follow-up email (voucher, additional content, event quotes, post-event swag, etc.) and collect attendee feedback.
  2. Make a highlight reel for target accounts – Piece together their selfies or posts about the event with some great content snippets for a 30- to 60-second highlight reel.
  3. Let people who didn’t make it know what they missed – Give them a variety of content formats, such as a blog recap, 10-minute snippets, and a link to the full replay and on-demand content. 
  4. Create a post-event page – Create a post-event page that directs them to additional resources, with highlights of the interactive chat and polls in addition to replay videos.
  5. Send an exclusive invite for your next event – Invite event attendees to your next live event, and personalize the offer based on the sessions they interacted with. 

Virtual event engagement statistics

Engagement is one of the biggest challenges when running virtual or hybrid events. Check out these virtual event engagement statistics to help you measure and improve your own engagement.

On average, virtual event attendees stay engaged for 68% of the session. Considering the allure of open browser tabs, that’s a promising stat.

The primary goal for virtual event organizers? You guessed it: creating an engagement with their target audience (with 45.3% of organizers choosing this as their number one goal). A desire to improve brand awareness comes in second place with 18.9%

To measure the overall success of virtual events, organizers favor these three metrics above the rest: the quality of registered contacts, the level of engagement with key contacts, and engagement in the days following the virtual event. 

67% of online event attendees agree that it’s essential for presenters to be engaging and passionate about the topic they’re presenting on.

78% of businesses that use an event application to improve engagement and manage registrations say that their platform contributes to a positive virtual event ROI.

Why Airmeet is the perfect platform for increasing virtual event engagement

You need to pick the right virtual event platforms to help you implement the virtual event ideas that best fit your content. 

With Airmeet AX360, you can drive meaningful engagement. Open up 360 degrees of connection by letting your attendees interact with each other and with your speakers. Invite attendees on stage to share their perspectives. Airmeet opens up a world of possibilities and makes it easier for everyone to break through the barriers of virtual screens.

Networking that lets people make meaningful connections:

  • Social lounges to interact
  • Fluid spaces for life-like spontaneous interactions
  • Speed networking
  • Breakout rooms 
  • Chats
  • Rich attendee profile 

Features that dial up the fun:

  • Kahoot quizzes
  • Q&A
  • Emoji reactions to sessions and chat messages
  • Polls
  • Leaderboards
  • Invite attendees to stage
  • Feature chat messages on screen
  • Iframe integrations for virtual photo booths, social walls, game leaderboards, and more

Ready to boost virtual event engagement? Host your next successful event with Airmeet!

Learn more about Airmeet’s virtual event engagement tools and book a demo.

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