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The COVID-19 pandemic forced many in-person events to go digital. But even as the world returns to normal, virtual events remain. They allow event managers to connect with broader audiences from anywhere at a lower cost.
However, putting on a compelling virtual event takes strategy and creativity. You need to educate and inspire your audience through their computer screens. This requires rethinking how you structure sessions, engage attendees and provide networking opportunities.
This post explores best practices for planning and executing educational, inspiring virtual events. Follow these tips to create online experiences that attendees rave about long after the event ends.
Craft an Experiential Agenda
Don’t just replicate your in-person schedule. Rethink session formats to make the most of the virtual environment. Create an agenda focused on driving experiential learning through interactivity.
Include Breakout Discussions
Breakout rooms allow for more intimate discussions in smaller groups. Facilitate connections by assigning attendees to relevant breakouts for structured Q&As, collaborative exercises, or open networking.
Build Engagement Opportunities
Look for ways to get attendees involved. Poll them to gather insights. Have speakers pause for quick think-pair-share activities. Use chat and Q&A features to foster participation.
Vary Session Types
Go beyond standard presentations. Try demonstrations, debates, workshops, or mixers. And keep sessions short; aim for 15-20 minutes max. Variety and brevity will help maintain energy and focus.
Don’t overload attendees with back-to-back sessions. Build in stretch breaks every 60-90 minutes. Encourage people to stand up, move around, grab a snack, and recharge.
Curate Compelling Content
Great content is the cornerstone of any educational event. For virtual experiences, you need a substance that shines through without in-person interactions.
Recruit Diverse Experts
Look beyond big names to find fresh speakers with unique perspectives. Diversity of thought leads to more engaging discussions.
Set Clear Presentation Goals
Ensure speakers understand audience needs and desired takeaways. Guide them to hone their points to align with event objectives.
Encourage Audience Interaction
Urge presenters to actively engage attendees through polls, Q&As, activities, etc. This brings sessions to life.
Keep it Concise
Long lectures lose people’s attention online. Have speakers time their talks and leave room for interactive elements.
Share Presentations Ahead
Allow attendees to review decks in advance so they can come prepared with thoughts and questions.
Spotlight Attendee Achievements
Virtual events present opportunities to highlight attendee accomplishments. This inspires your community and fosters connections.
Facilitate Peer Learning
Let attendees teach each other by sharing case studies, best practices, or lessons learned in sessions.
Celebrate remarkable attendees through contests, awards, or features. This motivates people to stay engaged.
Create a “Wall of Fame”
Use a virtual wall to showcase attendee wins, projects, creativity, or milestones. Make them the stars.
Share Success Stories
Collect and disseminate post-event attendee success stories tied to event participation. Quantify the value.
Foster Positive Reputation
Encourage attendees to proudly display event badges on social media and LinkedIn to recognize their involvement.
Drive Meaningful Networking
Networking is vital for in-person events but changes in a virtual setting. Facilitate meaningful relationship-building with the right mix of tools and techniques.
Host Pre-Event Mixers
Get the networking started early with informal virtual gatherings before the event begins.
Start sessions and breakouts with quick icebreaker activities to spark connections.
Provide Chat Opportunities
Let people network through group chat channels tied to shared interests and goals.
Create Space for 1:1 Connections.
Offer video speed networking sessions or virtual “coffee chats” to power-focused relationship building.
Maintain Post-Event Communities
Keep the conversations going via social media groups, messaging apps, or email lists.
Deliver Relevant, Shareable Content
Great virtual events generate content assets attendees can refer back to and share with peers. Turn your presentations and sessions into valuable takeaways.
Record and Post Videos
Edit presentations into shareable videos. Post them shortly after the live event while interest is still high.
Allow registered attendees who missed sessions to stream recordings on-demand post-event.
Share Presentation Decks, Resources
Offer slides, handouts, templates, checklists, and other resources for attendees to use and distribute.
Create Bite-Sized Content
Break sessions into snackable clips perfect for sharing on social media to extend reach.
Produce Event Highlights Reel
Edit a highlights video with memorable moments, quotes, lessons, etc., to recap the event.
Gamification incentivizes participation while adding fun. Use these techniques to engage your virtual audience:
Challenge attendees to participate in contests tied to session topics. Offer prizes to winners.
Create Scavenger Hunts
Hide Easter eggs in presentations and challenge people to spot them. Offer rewards.
Develop Point Systems
Award points for actions like asking questions, visiting exhibits, etc. Create leaderboards.
Host live trivia sessions using quiz apps. Give the top scorers virtual rewards.
Random drawings and prize giveaways during sessions help drive virality and buzz.
Provide Interactive Exhibits
Exhibits give sponsors face time with attendees in physical events. Virtual exhibits require new approaches to drive booth traffic.
Avoid overwhelming attendees. Curate a focused group of sponsors relevant to the audience.
Schedule Exhibit Hours
Give attendees dedicated time to visit booths by locking down exhibits during sessions.
Create Gamified Experiences
Incorporate sponsor challenges, leaderboards, rewards, and games into booths.
Offer Live Demos
Have exhibitors give live demos of products/services and answer attendee questions.
Give exhibitors access to attendee profiles so they can connect one-on-one.
Mind the Details Throughout
Don’t just focus on sessions and speakers. Create an immersive experience with attention to all event details:
Send Engaging Preevent Emails
Build excitement with announcements, speaker spotlights, contests, and agenda teasers.
Design an Intuitive Platform
Ensure your virtual platform is easy to navigate with precise session schedules and links.
Offer Technical Support
To avoid issues, provide an online help desk, tutorials, FAQs, and tech checks.
Create Striking Visuals
Develop a cohesive look with banners, graphics, videos, and virtual backgrounds.
Appoint Engaging Emcees
Choose moderators who can energize audiences between sessions and presentations.
Manage the Pace
Keep the event moving seamlessly from segment to segment. Avoid gaps or delays.
Share Event Hashtags and Apps
Promote social media hashtags and networking apps to extend conversations.
Track Participation and Feedback
Analyzing event data helps improve future iterations. Be sure to:
- Monitor session attendance and drop-off rates
- Survey attendees for feedback on content, speakers, etc.
- Review chat logs and comments for engagement insights
- Track social media interactions, downloads, and shares
- Gather sponsor feedback on lead quantity/quality
Virtual events require a shift from focusing on passive attendance to actively engaging participants. But with the right mix of education, inspiration, interactivity, and memorability, you can increase impact.
Getting creative with session formats, finding unique speakers, facilitating connections, and turning presentations into shareable moments drive value in the digital world. Virtual events allow you to transcend geographic barriers and unite targeted niche communities around your chosen topic.
Next time you plan a virtual event, explore maximising engagement for your specific audience. With the strategies above, you can educate and inspire attendees to make meaningful connections and take impactful actions through online experiences.