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5 Tips for Keeping Your Virtual Audience Engaged

Veronica Brundle - May 20 2021, 3:59:00 PM

Audience engagement in the digital age is a tricky thing to master. Gone are the days of being able to shake hands with your attendees after a presentation. Instead, you have to engage with them on a virtual level. But just because we’ve shifted to online platforms doesn’t mean you can’t still fully engage your event audience. Here’s a rundown on virtual audience engagement: what it is and five tips for successfully engaging a digital audience.

What is audience engagement?

When we talk “audience engagement” we’re discussing the way your audience is participating in and actively interested in your event. Traditional audience engagement can be measured in:

  • Sessions attended
  • Meetings held
  • Connections made
  • Social media activity
  • Event app adoption
  • And more

Engagement at virtual events is a little different to track. You’d look at:

  • Clicks
  • Chat room activity
  • Length of watch
  • Poll participation
  • And more

A hybrid event would look at both in-person and virtual metrics to measure its overall audience engagement.

So why is engagement so important? At the end of the day, an engaged audience is a happy audience. And a happy audience is more likely to engage positively with your brand in the future. Whether your goal is to drive sales or encourage participation, a positive brand reputation is essential.

Now you know what audience engagement is and why it’s so important, let’s look at some tips for keeping your virtual audience engaged.

1. Lockdown your metrics

Working towards a goal is of very little use if you don’t know what that goal is. This is where locking down your metrics comes in.

Before starting to plan the meat of your online event, you should decide what metrics you’re wanting to measure in order to determine your audience engagement. Some good jumping-off points might be:

  • Audience retention - how many people you started and finished with
  • Chat and poll participation - were people actively asking questions or engaging with polls?
  • Downloads of assets - how many people downloaded digital meeting assets
  • Session ratings - how many people rated your event?
  • Social media mentions - how many people spoke about your event and what was said?

2. Craft your content

All the engagement tools in the world won’t save a virtual event with lackluster content. When designing your event, don’t skimp on crafting killer content. Ensure it’s interesting and engaging unto itself.

The key to creating good content is understanding your audience. Know who you want to target and what drives their engagement.

You should also understand the context in which you’re delivering your content. Virtual publication will differ substantially from in-person delivery. The length of your content, how it’s laid out, the way you present it will all change. Understand this virtual context and your audience will thank you.

3. Choose the right host

Not everyone is born to host a virtual event. Some may not have the technical know-how to host the subject. Others might not have the right energy to encourage an environment where guests feel comfortable enough to participate.

At the end of the day, a good virtual host will have a deep understanding of the event expectations. They’ll know what goals the event has and be able to apply a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. More importantly, they’ll understand your target audience and be able to encourage their engagement seamlessly.

4. Make use of engagement tools

Most virtual presentation software will come packaged with tried and tested tools for audience engagement. Use them!

Polls, games, and other easy engagement tools are a great way to get your audience out of “watch mode” and into engaging with your content. Just make sure not to go too overboard with your implementation. You don’t want your presentation to feel like work on the part of your audience.

5. Engage yourself

Communication is two-way, so don’t skimp on your own event engagement. When attendees ask questions, answer them in a timely manner. Don’t just plow through your content and ignore your chat window. Encourage audience engagement by engaging with them directly.

If it’s not possible to monitor your chat interface during your presentation yourself, it might be a good idea to hire a moderator to do the job for you. Just make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to expertise and knowledge of your goals.

As for after the event: stay on top of the ball. Monitor your social media mentions and track any forums you’ve developed for the event. Engage with your audience’s questions or concerns. In essence: be present and engaged yourself.

6. Provide entertainment and breaks

Entertainment and breaks can go a long way to helping keep people engaged. Entertainment provides well, mental stimulation. Booking-ending your meeting or event with two short entertainment segments like a game or a performer helps people warm up and keep people staying until the end. Additionally, breaks, especially during longer meetings can help keep everyone on task. People will likely want to check their phones, their email, go to the bathroom, or get a drink. By announcing that there will be space to do this and then providing it, you tend to lose less people in the middle of your segment.

Audience engagement is essential to the success of your event. Whether you’re running a professional presentation or a social gathering, keeping your audience engaged and happy is one of the best things you can do to meet your event goals.

Originally published at May 20 2021, 3:59:00 PM. Updated on Aug 25 2022.

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