Turn Your Average Remote Events into Engaging Virtual Experiences

Updated: Sep. 22, 2020  |  Categories: Meetings/Events, Low Engagement  

Turn Your Average Remote Events into Engaging Virtual Experiences

Whether you’re expecting 10 or 1,000, your audience needs to find your virtual event highly engaging. If they have a chance to think about all the other things they could or should be doing instead, you could lose them, to another task or worse, you could watch their interest in your chapter disappear as they start spending their time and ultimately their dollars, elsewhere.

We’ve spoken several times to Stan Phelps, customer experience and employee engagement expert, on ways for chapters to stand out and grow. This time, we asked him for those things he believes are critical to holding engaging virtual chapter events.

First…Define your goals and objectives.
Ask your planning team (get help with content, engagement, communications, etc.) questions like:• Who is the audience? What will they want?
• What’s the purpose of this event? Is this for members who want to learn about industry best practices? Network with other professionals?
• Why would they want to engage with your chapter for this?
• Will the expenses for this event be covered by a sponsor? What does the sponsor want to get out of this - awareness? More leads?
• What do you want to be sure attendees leave with? Is this to explain new regulations or just a fun time to connect?

Next…determine the event type that’s best to meet those goals and objectives.
A happy hour? A single speaker, or a monthly educational series (more below)? Should you be live or record the session and be live just for questions? Once you have details, determine the best platform: your chapter forum? Zoom? Skype? A combination? This is also the time to check in with your audience, to understand their comfort with the technology you plan to use; maybe a refresher will be in order before the event.

Finally…figure out the best ways to keep them engaged during the event.
You will be competing against checking email, picking up the phone, getting a cup of coffee, going to the mailbox, etc. Keeping a connection is never easy, considering the short attention span of humans, which means you need work hard to engage them from the start.

According to Dr. John Medina, after about 10 minutes on the same topic, our brains start to shut down. To avoid losing participants, Stan recommends switching things up every four to five minutes, to reset the audience and the clock. This doesn’t necessarily mean changing topics, but focusing them on something else, even if just briefly, by:
• Including polls and chats. Start early to check people are listening and gauge their levels of understanding. The chat is great for kicking things off. Ask where attendees are from, how long they’ve been members, and even random questions about pets, to get their attention early while getting them comfortable with the technology.
• Using a Q&A function. Some platforms allow attendees to submit questions during the presentation. Answer them as they come in or at the end of a session.
• Delving deeper into topics with smaller groups. Breakout rooms work well for this and some platforms provide multiple ways to automatically segment the audience, so you don’t have to do it yourself.

Stan provided a few additional ideas for engagement, including:
Creating a defined agenda. Keep it shorter than the one you’d have for a live event. What do you really need to deliver?
Delivering the right content. Your content, as always, needs to be relevant, but it also needs to be quick and easily digestible.
Having a strong open. Let the audience hear from someone they know, to set expectations and explain the meeting goals and the agenda.
Utilizing a strong moderator. This is helpful for longer events, events in a series, or events with multiple presenters. This person is the glue who keeps things moving, introduces presenters, fills time between sessions, and ad libs during technical issues and the one who can ask thoughtful questions that the presenter may not think of in the moment, like “can you give an example of what you just mentioned.”

Bonus Tips…Stan’s ideas for successfully engaging during a webinar series.

Keep the same moderator for the entire series. To provide continuity and a consistent presence.
Design the sessions to build on each other. Cover a new topic but format each session so attendees consider some of what they heard earlier.
Being mindful of time. Consider holding them on the same day of the week at the same time. Consistency makes it easier for people to remember when the sessions are.
Making the series available to purchase as a package. This brings in revenue early while putting the series on calendars and increasing the chances members will attend.
Having the recordings available quickly. We live with the expectations of an on-demand world. Many who couldn’t attend or those wanting a reminder of what they heard, will want access as close to the event as possible.

Virtual meetings, says Stan, are an opportunity to do something special. If you set them up properly, they’re a highly effective tool for building and maintaining relationships. Today, more and more chapters are finding they’re a must for their overall engagement plan.

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