Virtual Events

How to Maximize Community Engagement When You Can’t Gather in Person

By Bob Birdsong

We take it for granted that people will engage when they are physically together. At most in-person events, people are eager to interact with colleagues from other companies or locations, and they are happy to meet new people and forge new connections.

But as organizations pivot to virtual events due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ensuring a deep level of audience engagement in an online environment can be more challenging. What can event managers do to encourage community engagement and connection at a virtual event?

Community Engagement Strategies for Virtual Events

Amp up the interactivity.

One advantage that virtual events have over physical events is the guarantee that all your attendees will be sitting at an Internet-connected computer. This means you can offer up interactive tools that can fall flat at in-person gatherings because only a few people participate. Consider the following interactive tools that can add a fascinating dimension and hold your audience’s attention:

  1. Live polling and surveys. Provide widgets that allow people to answer questions or vote from among a few options, the results of which might steer the presentation in a different direction. Allow the outcome of the poll to appear where all participants can see it.
  2. Q&A. At determined points in a presentation, allow participants to submit questions to the speaker or panel. A moderator can determine how many questions there are time for, and select a few to avoid duplication. Participants can elect to be anonymous or identified.
  3. Reverse Q&A: Have your speaker ask the audience a question, and use a tool that allows audience responses to pop up where all can see. This can help build consensus around certain ideas.

Go all-in on graphics.

When your entire event will be experienced for most people through a screen that is less than two feet wide, it’s never been more important to keep your graphics from being boring. Invest in a professional with the skills to create graphics that maintain a connection with your audience through speed, color and motion (but make sure they understand the bandwidth constraints of your streaming platform).

Fan the flames of fun.

Using games and competitions, add a heavy dose of fun to your event. Trivia, Name That Tune and other simple contests can break up content in a way that refreshes and keeps attendees engaged. Competitions based on content from the event can reinforce learning. Catch Phrase Bingo, during which attendees mark their virtual cards based on things the presenter says are another way to make sure your audience is listening.

Don’t forget the follow up.

After you’ve thrown the most engaging virtual event known to mankind, by all means follow up with your attendees -- a lot. Virtual interaction can lack the emotional connection that comes naturally with physical interaction, so you will want to remind your attendees about what they experienced. Screen shots, a curated selection of funny audience comments, the creation of a private social media group where attendees can continue to network -- there are a number of ways you can leverage the experience you provided to keep the warm fuzzies going. And think of all the amazing content you created! Use that for social posts, thought leadership blogs, webinars, newsletters and all your other marketing channels.

More Virtual Community Engagement Strategies

We’re offering lots of tips about virtual events and community engagement as we navigate the effects of COVID-19. If you're a marketing professional who’d like to receive more content like this straight to your inbox, click here to join our Virtual Event Lifeline email series.

Select the Community Event Marketing Software Built for Audience Engagement

Localist is the virtual event marketing software that is built to connect companies with their communities. By simplifying and automating event planning and promotion for virtual events, event managers can focus on audience engagement before, during and after events. Request a demo to see how Localist can help you maximize engagement with a virtual event strategy.

Localist is your complete virtual event solution

Request Demo

The 7 Must-Have Tools for Launching or Pivoting to a Virtual Event

Previous Blog Post

Should You Cancel Your Events? How Event Marketing Professionals Can Build Community In a Time of Crisis

Next Blog Post