Client retention is key to your business’ long-term success. In fact, research by Bain & Company shows that a 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by 25% to 95%!
Client-facing events provide opportunities…each other. It’s important to not cancel these crucial occasions in COVID-19 times; instead, organize online events. What’s more, a virtual event production company can help provide enough value to clients to drive ongoing business.
That said, there’s nothing worse than an hours-long online corporate event where participants are so disengaged that they switch off their video and start doing their dishes.
In this short guide, we’ll discuss ways to boost attendee engagement before, during, and after a virtual event so that you can retain your customers and grow your profit.
Make Strategic Decisions
Step 1: Set Goals For Engagement
Engagement is key to any event’s success. However, your ultimate goal is to engage attendees in ways that help you achieve long-term business success.
Can a game of virtual Bingo engage your customers, boosting loyalty and retention? Maybe.
Will it motivate them to invest in your new product? That’s a different question altogether.
Before you start planning your event, it’s important to set measurable goals so that you can design your engagement strategies accordingly. Goals for your next event could be:
- Boosting sales for the next quarter
- Introducing customers to a new product or service
- Increasing customer retention as compared to last year
- Making your customers feel valued, thus garnering loyalty
- Increasing your company’s profile and receiving press coverage for your event
While it would be great to achieve all of these goals, creating a focused, successful event requires that you plan around your highest-priority goals.
First, brainstorm a list of your top three desired outcomes from your virtual event.
Then, take steps to measure your success in achieving these goals so that you can adjust your strategy in the future. After spending significant time and resources on an event, you don’t want to be left guessing whether it was successful. Proper metrics will reassure you whether your event was a success or whether you need some tactical shifts next time.
Once you’ve set your goals, figure out how best to meet them by making some central decisions about your event.
Choose Live or On-Demand
Can you better achieve your goals through a live event, or an event with on-demand video streaming?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to audience engagement.
- A live event allows for more interaction between attendees and presenters. However, it will also be more prone to technical issues. People may even pop in and out as they attend to other duties while working from home.
- An on-demand event provides participants with more flexibility. It will be less prone to technical issues and you’ll be able to control video quality. However, a completely on-demand event provides little room for participants to interact and get to know each other.
It’s also possible to blend the two approaches:
- Create a schedule with a suggested agenda for on-demand video streaming
- Give participants some flexibility through open hours and optional live events
- Create live Q&A and networking events throughout the day to complement videos
With the basic format decided, you can begin designing the highest-quality virtual event possible.
Control Production Quality
In Forbes, Serenity Gibbons recommends that you think of your virtual event as a streaming newscast rather than a typical Zoom call. If your speaker is tardy, difficult to hear, or has a lagging audio feed, participants will inevitably tune out and become disengaged.
- Speakers should have practiced in advance and present from studios or other quiet, professional environments with high-speed internet
- All event speakers and moderators should use HD cameras for clear video and mics for clear audio
- Make sure your corporate network can support the size of your event
- Assemble a technical support team to troubleshoot participants’ issues
If you’re prepared in advance, technical issues will cause minimal delays and disruptions so that your corporate event can proceed as planned.
Choose an Impactful Keynote Speaker
How can you ensure your clients tune in for your event and actually keep their screens open? Invite a speaker who is sure to draw eyeballs.
One benefit of virtual events is that you won’t have to pay for your speakers’ travel and lodging costs. This means you may be able to secure talent who would be too expensive or over-booked to make an in-person event.
Step 2: Facilitate Engagement During Your Event
Once you’ve planned the skeleton of your event, think creatively about how you can get audience members talking to one another. The more they feel like they’re at a real-life event, the less likely they are to start browsing Amazon while attending.
It’s not enough to let them take the initiative to chat and message on Zoom—as the event planner, you should solicit feedback and create opportunities for meaningful participation and networking throughout your event.
Depending on the setup of your event, consider implementing the following features.
Event Platforms and Mobile Event Apps
DIY event-building apps and custom event platforms make it easier than ever to give a unique attendee experience. However, you can also call in event professionals to design features including:
- An event calendar – Make it easy for participants to keep track of the day’s itinerary
- Virtual conference rooms – Enable meetings and breakout sessions directly in the app, limiting participants’ need to download specialized software
- Notifications & alerts – Remind attendees of upcoming events and send push notifications to facilitate live interactions with speakers
- Live polling – Incorporate questions into presentations and panels, and view participants’ answers in real time
- Gamification – Allowing attendees to accumulate points, get badges, and compete can increase event engagement
As an added bonus, apps and platforms serve as a treasure trove of data. As participants answer polls and input their feedback, you’ll have a sense of how the event is progressing in real time. Afterwards, step in with advanced analytics to understand what helped facilitate attendee engagement and what you could do better next time.
A live Q&A ensures that your clients get their questions answered. However, keep in mind that virtual Q&As are infamous for feeling disorganized, buggy, and disengaging.
To ensure your Q&A breaks the mold, take the following steps:
- Decide how participants will ask questions – Make it clear whether they should type in a group chat, raise their hands, or use an app feature to enter their questions. Decide whether to solicit questions throughout the talk, or during a specific time frame (say, during a thirty minute break before the Q&A).
- Appoint a moderator – If there is a large influx of questions, make sure there is a point-person to manage their flow and mute/unmute participants as needed. Do not let your speaker take on this role, as it can be hard to juggle both virtually.
- Make a plan for tackling unanswered questions – If there’s a way participants can continue the conversation after-the-fact, record and preserve questions for a follow-up email or a future event.
Finally, make sure your participants have an opportunity to socialize and speak, either with each other or with representatives from your organization (depending on your goals for the event).
When hosting webinars and online events, it’s impossible to strike up a conversation at the bar or buffet. That’s why it’s important to create structured opportunities for conversation.
- Networking rooms – Create intimate groups of 10 people or less so that everyone’s face can appear on-screen at once. Categorizing these groups is an opportunity to connect people with complementary missions, strategies, and skills.
- Messaging – Assign people to small and whole-conference chat groups so they can stay in conversation and make connections throughout the day. Be sure to enable one-on-one messaging should people want to continue conversations in private.
- Hashtags – If appropriate, encourage your attendees to post on social media using hashtags specific to your event. Be sure to respond and signal boost throughout the day.
Varied Events and Activities
A real-life conference or event contains more than panels, Q&As, and keynote speakers — so why shouldn’t an online one?
For long and multi-day events, consider adding variety to the conference schedule by including any of the following:
- Fitness or mindfulness classes
This way, people can bond over common interests. It also gives them something to talk about in those group chats and breakout sessions.
Of course, don’t forget to provide participants with plenty of breaks!
Step 3: Evaluation and Follow-Up
Engagement doesn’t end when your attendees sign off. Instead, keep lines of communication open and foster further engagement using the following strategies:
- Post-event questionnaire – Follow up with attendees to see if they have remaining questions. This is also a key opportunity to measure your event’s success in terms of the metrics you laid out at the beginning. Want to make sure attendees complete it? You can even provide a “thank you” gift at the end of the form or enter participants in a raffle for a larger gift.
- Gift bag – Speaking of gifts, consider giving your attendees a virtual gift bag. This could include discount codes for future services, small gifts or discounts from partner organizations, or e-retail gift cards. In some cases, there could even be physical components, like t-shirts mailed to attendees’ addresses.
- Social media outreach – Monitor your event’s hashtag and continue the conversation with replies and reposts. Keep the conversation going!
As you gather data in the aftermath of the event, continue to reflect on what you’ll do differently next year. Share your insights in a wrap-up email to attendees, inviting them to reserve a space in advance for next year’s event.
Virtual Events with Vario
Creating a successful, engaging virtual event requires technological expertise. If you’re looking to bring in additional support to make sure your company’s next virtual event engages participants and boosts your brand, you need to go with the industry insiders.
At Vario, we’re technology and event experts with extensive experience putting on virtual, hybrid, and in-person events that spark new connections and conversations.
Contact us today to get started planning your next event.
- Bain & Company. “Prescription for Cutting Costs.” https://media.bain.com/Images/BB_Prescription_cutting_costs.pdf
- Forbes. “How To Plan Virtual Events That Engage Your Audience.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/serenitygibbons/2020/05/07/how-to-plan-virtual-events-that-engage-your-audience/#6873aba5573e
- Event Mag Blog. “How to Use Gamification at Your Next Association Conference.” https://www.eventmanagerblog.com/gamification-association-conference