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3 Ways To Make Your Virtual Events More Engaging

The COVID pandemic revealed two significant factors in the business dynamic. First, most people prefer to work remotely from home, and second, most people are as productive or more productive when working from home.

Remote work by the numbers.

According to a survey conducted by CoSo Cloud, 77% of employees report higher productivity when working remotely from home. Further, 30% of remote employees reportedly save up to $5,240/yr by eliminating the commute and other expenses related to in-office work.

Businesses have also reported significant savings by transitioning employees to a remote structure. According to a survey conducted by Owl Labs, companies save an average of $11,000/yr per half-time telecommuter.

These incentives for remote work are compelling, and will ultimately evolve work dynamics in the coming months and years.

Virtual events are here to stay.

The COVID Pandemic threw the business world into a crash course on virtual conferences, meetings and events. Events large and small were pressed to transition away from physical venues, to some online platform. Tech companies stepped up, and expanded capabilities to accommodate the surge in demand and requirements. Some companies established entirely new systems to best resemble the in-person experience.

Initial feedback was mixed as organizers and attendees encountered frustrating technical limitations. Many of which have now been addressed, and the overall experience will continue to improve as competition in virtual platforms ramps up. In the spirit of technological innovation, this evolution is expected to be rapid.

But, virtual events can be boooooring 😴

Virtual events offer a ton of economic and logistical benefits for all parties involved. As the user experience improves, the virtual format has potential to be the preferred manner for many business gatherings. 

The challenge for organizers will be to replicate and maintain all the expected enthusiasm of an in-person event… via virtual platform. This is no easy feat. 

“Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.” -Marshall McLuhan

Let’s face it, staring at a screen and listening to computer speakers is far from immersive. And is a far cry from the hustle and bustle we experience by attending an energetic event at a large venue with all the typical fanfare we’ve come to expect. (Minus the food. No one misses the food.)

As event organizers, it’s up to us to think outside the box. Our challenge is to devise strategies to fire up our attendees’ enthusiasm and maintain their engagement. Starting at the invitation, all throughout the entirety of our event.

Here are a few novel and proven ideas to make the most of your next virtual event:

1. Send custom welcome kits 🎁😊

One major drawback of a virtual event is that it lacks all the tangible characteristics of an in-person gathering. Virtual events do not engage the senses. Nothing to smell or touch. The entire visual and auditory experience is limited to the computer screen and speakers.

Custom Welcome Kits are a bazooka for engagement, and are unmatched for introducing a tangible character to your virtual event. For example, you can send a custom tech kit directly to your attendees as a companion for your upcoming virtual event.

Doing so will help people feel the participation and will serve as an object of memorabilia. This is among the most effective tactics we can undertake to maximize the impact of our virtual events and leave our attendees engaged, stimulated and enthused.

We’ve helped several customers create and deliver custom welcome kits for various virtual events. Positive sentiment was reported across the board and custom kits were described as a powerful tool to create buzz and boost enthusiasm. Several customers have committed to engagement kits for their upcoming events, and we’re thrilled to support them in their efforts.

-Michael Heimdal, VP of Sales @ CustomUSB

2. Break up your itinerary 🎈😁

Any virtual event that lasts more than 45 minutes should include a scheduled break and at least one activity to reset attention.

Here are 3 fun activities to reset the mood and regain your audience’s attention:

  1. Treasure Hunt – ask your attendees to find a random object, such as hat, something fluffy, or a 4-legged animal. Yes, I know, this sounds corny, but it can be a refreshing break from the subject matter.
  2. Light Polling – Some presentation software has built-in polling functionality. If your software does not, ask for people to vote by entering 1 or 2 into the chat. For example, “enter 1 into the chat if you’re wearing shoes, 2 if you’re wearing slippers”.
  3. Desktop Show & Tell – A quick show and tell can be a great way to start, end, or break up your virtual event. Simply ask your attendees to select their favorite desk object and briefly share what makes it special. This quick activity helps people learn about each other, reinforces the team dynamic, and boosts engagement and enthusiasm for the event.

Incorporating these ‘reset’ activities can help keep your audience engaged and will maximize the impact of your message.

3. Spruce up the visuals 💐👀

The only thing more boring than a plain white wall is a lengthy PowerPoint presentation. 

When setting up the stage for your virtual event, consider the visual esthetic, including theme, background and overall scene.

Top virtual conference software solutions offer interesting new functions for enhancing and replacing your background. Zoom allows you to replace your background with an image or video of your choice. Google Meet also allows for background blur and replacement. 

Aside from replacing your background, consider decorating your background wall with a nice painting, noteworthy quote, or other decorative piece that adds character to the visible frame.

And, of course… keep your PowerPoint presentations short and sweet. The old rule of “no more than three points per slide” has never been more important.

Bonus: Proper Lighting, Sound & Tech ⚙

Oh, the joys of watching a zombie-like shadowy lit presenter, with ja..nky au..dio, on a spotty internet con..

Yeah, let’s avoid that.

A well-lit, properly mic’d presentation by way of solid internet connection is a bare minimum for an effective virtual event. A few tips on each point:

Lighting

The optimal lighting for a video conference is from a light source positioned directly or approximately in front of your face, and slightly above eye level. This ensures that your face is well lit, and avoids unflattering zombie-like shadows on the eyes.

If you’d like to take lighting to the next level, research the Three Point Lighting technique, this video does a great job explaining the basics.

Sound

A crisp and clean audio signal can go a long way in keeping your attendee’s attention and avoiding listening fatigue. One rule of thumb is that your microphone should be within arm’s reach. Not too far, and not too close. To learn more, check out this video to understand the pros and cons of various microphone options.

Tech

To avoid delays, drop outs, and other technical difficulties, it is best to host your virtual event on an internet connection that has at least 3.0Mbps (up/down). (Source: Zoom). Doing so will help you run a smooth conference with high quality streams for the entire group.

The details matter.

That about wraps it up. As virtual events become a norm, we are challenged to think outside the box, and implement ideas to keep our audience engaged and enthusiastic. Try the suggestions above and let us know if you found them to be helpful and effective for your next virtual conference.

Got any other interesting ideas you’d like to share with the community? We invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Good luck at your next virtual event! 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.cosocloud.com/press-releases/coso-survey-shows-working-remotely-benefits-employers-and-employees

https://www.owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2020 

 

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