By Ronnie Wendt
In today’s COVID-19 meetings and events scene, the term “Zoomed out” describes the fatigue and zoning out attendees experience after endless virtual meetings, chats and quizzes.
Keeping people engaged during a virtual meeting or event requires planners to stretch their creativity and innovate, states Michael Dickinson, director of operations for Conference Technologies Inc., an audio/visual company that helps planners host virtual meetings.
Dickinson offers five approaches that keep attendees online and focused during a virtual event.
1. Add in Gamification.
Everyone likes to play games, right? Dickinson says gamification that puts attendees in a quest for prizes keeps engagement high. He suggests using jackbox TV to play. Here, attendees connect to the jackbox.tv web address, enter a code and join the game. The game might involve trivia, virtually visiting event sponsors or taking surveys to earn points.
2. Hire an Emcee.
Dickinson says having an emcee livens up a virtual event. An emcee also can call out attendees to get them talking. For instance, the emcee might wear earbuds to hear a moderator’s comments. A moderator might share that Susan isn’t taking part in the conversation and note she’s watching with her dog. The emcee might then ask Susan about her dog to start a conversation. A good virtual emcee adds in audience interaction throughout the event, too. He or she might guide and read off poll results or direct Q&A sessions.
3. Add in Live Polling and Q&As.
Speakers can conduct live polls throughout their sessions. Live polls and surveys personalize a virtual event and enhance the overall experience. Polls keep attendees on their toes while providing data on attendee participation and engagement. Asking questions of experts and letting them answer also provides opportunities to learn and keeps attendees engaged.
4. Set up a Lobby.
If the event begins at 10:30 a.m., Dickinson recommends opening a virtual lobby at 10 a.m. Include chatrooms for networking, gamification and polls to promote participation. Have an emcee in place and include a performance to infuse flavor and interest. “I had one company hire a magician to perform in the lobby of their virtual event,” Dickinson says. “Attendees loved it.”
5. Don’t Overlook Production Quality.
Virtual events call for a professional look and feel to keep interest high. You wouldn’t host a live event without considering meeting room layout, show floor design, signage, florals and table linens. Dickinson says virtual meetings require the same attention to detail. Make branded backdrops, great visuals and high-quality video a mainstay for every virtual event.
Virtually hosting a networking event, an online annual strategy meeting for executives, or a fundraising gala need not be a stripped-down version of an in-person event. Stretch your creativity and think outside the box to keep attendees focused and inspired.