As event planners continue to make the shift to virtual and hybrid events, maintaining a high level of attendee engagement has become an even more pressing topic. We asked eight event professionals from all over the map what are some of the most effective and creative initiatives they’ve seen or implemented themselves to ramp up attendee engagement.
Speakers have a unique opportunity online to have an intimate experience with guests since they are right up close and personal in an attendees office, living room, etc.Alicia Jenelle, Alicia Jenelle Events, Toronto, ON
There are a few key ways I find to be most effective to ramp up attendee engagement during an event. The most important for me has been having a dynamic speaker that can evoke emotion through the audience, either with compassion or humor – humor being my favorite of course. Speakers have a unique opportunity online to have an intimate experience with guests since they are right up close and personal in an attendees office, living room, etc. Having a speaker that can bring out an attendees emotion I find makes or breaks an event, and is the fundamental of maintaining attendee engagement. Having someone like Kevin Hart or Barack Obama speak to you at home is a special experience that attendees typically wouldn’t get.
The second effective solution my team has leveraged is having high and dynamic production value. We have encouraged our clients to consider including the attendees in some of the footage that will serve as b-roll during different portions of the event. Attendees love to see themselves on screen. It’s just like that feeling you get when you’re attending a sports game and your face comes up on the jumbotron. Having dynamic footage that involves the attendees, rather than just having a “talking head’ helps keep attendees connected to the content. For the presenters, we also encourage our clients to have production kits sent to the speakers to ensure the viewer has the best experience. A production kit typically includes a branded backdrop, ring lighting, extended wifi, external webcam, microphone, etc. to ensure their space is perfectly set up in a broadcast format. This gives the viewer the best chance to focus and not be distracted by office backgrounds, unclear footage, etc.
Lastly, leveraging an offline component for a virtual event has been a fun and effective way of engaging with attendees. Sending a box to attendees’ homes with a meal-kit, custom swag, and a special gift helps the attendee to engage with your brand in a personal way and allows them to take a break from being online and experiencing Zoom fatigue.
Alicia Jenelle, Alicia Jenelle Events, Toronto, ON
Ramping up attendee engagement starts the moment the invitations are sent out and the event date is announced.Dorie Beacham, Echelon Events Group, Las Vegas, NV
Ramping up attendee engagement starts the moment the invitations are sent out and the event date is announced. At Echelon Events Group, we customize everything to the event objectives and believe that starts with the pre-event questionnaire. The key to a successful event is tailoring the content to your audience, however, bombarding them with questions can be boring and counterproductive. Gamify it! Turn the pre-event questionnaires into a game where attendees can win prizes. This will not only incentivize them, but it will keep the momentum going because who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail.
Another great way to get people ramped up is by having some sort of entertainment or celebrity element. One of our recent favorites is when Will Ferrell crashed a Seattle Seahawks Zoom call pretending to be the team’s newly signed tight end. It was a unique and unexpected twist to what would have been a pretty typical meeting and it’s also a great way to get some social media buzz going. A lot of celebrities have some downtime right now and we can help you book them for a really great price.
Last, but certainly not least, is to have a social media strategy in place and ready to go. People are spending more time on social media than ever, up to 20% more according to some statistics. Providing attendees with consistent, relevant, and interactive content leading up to the event will be the #1 way to get people engaged and excited.
Dorie Beacham, Echelon Events Group, Las Vegas, NV
The idea of creating a virtual Happy Hour or networking time has been popular since March, and I’m seeing amazingly creative and innovative ideas continually introduced that spark engagement, fun, and connection.Heather Herrig, Every Last Detail, Atlanta, GA
The idea of creating a virtual Happy Hour or networking time has been popular since March, and I’m seeing amazingly creative and innovative ideas continually introduced that spark engagement, fun, and connection – everything you would want for a virtual experience! For example, I’ve explored game nights, guided team challenges, virtual concerts, DJs, magicians, wine tastings, mixology events, and more.
A particular favorite of mine is SongDivision’s Virtual Happy Hour – complete with activities, games, and entertainment all focused around music and hosted by extraordinary musical talent. By the end of the Happy Hour, you have an original song that has been crafted for you/your group personally during the event. It’s amazing!
Heather Herrig, Every Last Detail, Atlanta, GA
We are offering customized and curated conference packages delivered to each person (via contactless delivery) before the event.Shane Terenzi, High Beam Events, Austin, TX
With the sudden shift of all social and professional events and interactions switching to virtual, event professionals have to engage their attendees and make it stand out from the many online calls and meetings at the onset. One way is to still have something personal and tangible for whoever is attending. We are offering customized and curated conference packages delivered to each person (via contactless delivery) before the event. This can include company swag, a social activity that will be done during the event, such as a wine tasting or pizza making, and even a home spa kit for people to treat themselves after the conference during these uncertain times. These personal touches will make sure that your guests will remember the event for weeks to come.
Shane Terenzi, High Beam Events, Austin, TX
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We have recently partnered up with Sparkup, a new digital platform that allows our attendees to interact more with the in-person elements (or speakers) of the event and with each other.Valerie Bihet, VIBE, Miami, FL
We have recently partnered up with Sparkup, a new digital platform that allows our attendees to interact more with the in-person elements (or speakers) of the event and with each other. Online attendees can participate in the conversation, vote on polls, pose and answer questions from speakers, and do it all in real-time. This is so important for both attendees as well as your speakers who, if the event is fully virtual, don’t have an audience’s facial expressions they can use to gauge the effectiveness of what they are saying. Speakers need to be able to interact with the audience to add more energy, and fun, into the presentation or discussion. Sparkup has allowed us to do that and this partnership has given us a chance to help spread the word about it to more of our peers too. (Yes, we have a special discount code we can share with other event pros.)
Valerie Bihet, VIBE, Miami, FL
At Sherpa Group Events, we have been engaging our virtual and hybrid event guests, not only encouraging the use of the Chat Box but also with Polls and Q & A.Heather Sharpe, Sherpa Group Events Inc., Vancouver, B.C.
At Sherpa Group Events, we have been engaging our virtual and hybrid event guests, not only encouraging the use of the Chat Box but also with Polls and Q & A. We love to send out Participation Packages in advance that may include a branded door sign to ensure they aren’t “disturbed”, emoji signs to hold up during the call or other props and giveaways – even wine!
We feel it is important to blur the screen divide and encourage attendees to set their environment to match the event as well. This may involve changing their lighting or standing up to dance – we even play music in between (and sometimes during) to keep the energy high. Of course, keeping the sessions short and adding entertainment (imagine how great a close-up magic act could be when it’s really as close as your screen!) is always good to keep attendees on watching and anticipating what could be coming up next!
Heather Sharpe, Sherpa Group Events Inc., Vancouver, B.C.
We have added a palpable box that they receive by mail with items that will be used during the meeting.Nicole Braghin, Plan Design Events, Miami, FL
We have added a palpable box that they receive by mail with items that will be used during the meeting. When attendees receive a “present” they feel like they have to participate and they want to participate. It can be a make your own cocktail kit that all attendees will toast with during the meeting, snacks they can eat during the presentation, notepads and pens to use to take notes in the event, or even an outfit or accessory. Anything they can touch and interact with that will be showcased and mentioned in the meeting is a great touch and is sure to amp up the number of attendees!
Nicole Braghin, Plan Design Events, Miami, FL
While not a full replacement for being live and in person, people are adapting in very fabulously creative ways, and it is really fun to see.Rene Kraus, Fete Perfection, Minneapolis, MN
I am seeing very creative and interactive uses of technology, specifically Zoom or other conference call providers, allowing groups of would-be wedding attendees and participants to engage with the bride and groom and each other, when they are unable to be together in person.
Think about the fun possibilities of bridesmaids’ parties; bachelor and bachelorette cocktail gatherings; brides and grooms being able to call and see grandparents and other family members who are unable to travel and be in person for the big day.
It is also a great way to provide updates, show off fashion or decor items, thank others for wedding gifts, and otherwise keep others (such as the wedding planner) apprised of the ongoing developments in the wedding day plans and dreams.
These types of uses of conference calling add a novel aspect to the wedding planning and execution process. While not a full replacement for being live and in person, people are adapting in very fabulously creative ways, and it is really fun to see.
Rene Kraus, Fete Perfection, Minneapolis, MN
This post was created in partnership with EventPlanner.com; some interviews have been condensed.