The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Event Engagement

Virtual event engagement doesn't have to be difficult. Get inspired for your next event by reading about the 4 types of engagement and why engagement matters.

Let's Talk About the "E" in the Room
Consider the example of a concert with two components: the performer and the audience. In an ideal situation, the performer is on the stage behind a microphone, doing their best to entertain with lights, sound, and a variety of effects. In the same ideal situation, the audience is on the floor, ready to experience the whole performance from sound to visuals. Both sides need to be engaged in order for it to be considered a success, right? If either one of them doesn’t want to be there, it does not live up to the hype.

Benefits of Virtual Engagement

More Attendees

Not being tied to a physical venue allows you to cast a wider net, in many cases opening your virtual event to a global audience.

More Interaction

Social postings are 5-10x greater in a virtual event platform compared with face-to-face. This also means greater user generated content you can use in future marketing.

More Data

This is one of the biggest advantages of virtual events. The more people interact, the more data you can collect, and the more granular you can get in analysis to improve future events.

More Feedback

In the moment feedback through features like sentiment analysis and polls enables you to adjust content that's not effective sooner, creating more value.

Virtual Engagement Type I

Between attendees and your event's content

Think of this like the engagement between your audience and the performer on stage — the reason everyone showed up — also known as your event’s content. The primary way to spark this type of engagement is through a Q&A component of your virtual event: Enabling attendees to ask questions and have moderators or speakers answering them live. Think about translating the face-to-face to virtual experience here. When you are able to take a live stream and have panelists address a question from the audience, that brings those two worlds together — it’s that “Eureka!” moment. When people realize they re being listened to, they’ll want to engage further.

  • WHO: Access management company Okta transitioned a formerly in-person event to a one-day virtual event for current and prospective customers on MeetingPlay’s virtual event platform.
  • WHAT: The goal was to showcase new products.
  • HOW: Though the event was originally designed for a San Francisco audience, going virtual enabled the company to take it global. Attendees spanned four time zones and languages, and the platform translated English content into French, German and Japanese. Each time zone and language had its own chat function, and the group was united around the content via a shared social wall. Speakers were streamed simu-live, which kept engagement high.
  • RESULTS: The No. 1 positive outcome of the virtual event was much greater reach than Okta’s previous in-person events. The virtual event enabled a 287% YOY attendance increase and enabled a truly global audience stretching four time zones and four different languages.

Virtual Engagement Type 2

Between attendees and exhibitors or sponsors

Here, we’re talking about your audience and the people trying to sell something to them. In the concert analogy, maybe it's merch sales (T-shirt of your favorite guitar player!) or concessions (wouldn’t be a show without snacks and drinks). But in a virtual event, this type of engagement is critical — exhibitors and sponsors are paying to get quality time with your event attendees, and often, there is some hesitation on their side in terms of how they’re going to get interaction and see ROI on a virtual platform. You want to be able to show them that they cannot only still “talk” with attendees, but that they're going to get a lot more information upfront about who’s interacting with their booth, and therefore have more touchpoints to reach back out on after the event.

  • WHO: A cloud computing company held a three-day event for a regional audience of 42,000 employees and customers across the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions.
  • WHAT: Its goals were to showcase its own products as well as sponsors’ products.
  • HOW: Instead of simply listing exhibitors, the company worked with a designer to create a Solutions Expo map. Each tier of sponsors was represented on a circular diagram resembling an actual exhibit hall layout. Attendees could visit the expo during scheduled times built into the agenda and interact with sponsors, checking out information in their booth, booking one-on-one meetings or chatting live with representatives. The top sponsorship tiers had a 3-D booth design complete with a cityscape behind them, giving the feel of a live exhibit booth set up in a windowed ballroom.
  • RESULTS: Event sponsors had more than 30,000 booth views from all attendees. The company also reported higher engagement with exhibitors compared to other non-3-D expos, citing the presentation as more inviting because it more closely resembles the in-person expo experience.

Virtual Engagement Type 3

Between attendees and your organization

OK, so consider this as the experience your audience has when buying their concert ticket beforehand, then getting checked into the venue the day of. Engagement here is extremely important because these are the first touch points your event attendee has with your organization, so you need them to have a positive experience. For the event organizer, this starts with creating an ultra-smooth experience, start to finish. A virtual event platform should enable easy registration and log-in, and clearly and concisely communicate to attendees about what features are available to them, where to go and what to do. The ultimate goal is to make them feel comfortable on the platform itself so they can enjoy the event. If they have a smooth experience, that will reflect well on your organization.

  • WHO: Marriott International held a 1-day hybrid event for about 250 guests (a mix of virtual and in person attendees) with an integrated experience, utilizing the MeetingPlay virtual event platform.
  • WHAT: Its goals were to showcase the brand’s pandemic protocols and hybrid meeting capabilities, demonstrate how live events can safely return, and show how Marriott can be part of helping its customers to bring back their own live events.
  • HOW: From the start, Marriott empowered attendees by giving them the content (i.e., this is what to expect) and tools they needed to feel comfortable — a key factor in attendee engagement. For on-site guests, Marriott employed a Sanctuary Seat selection tool designed by MeetingPlay, allowing them to choose exactly where they’d like to sit for the event. Similarly, virtual attendees were able to select their “view” from which to watch the event, as if they were attending in person. This setup equipped both types of attendees with as much information as possible upfront so they could feel prepared on how the day would go. During the event, speakers took live questions from both on site and virtual guests, too, further connecting the two sides of the experience.
  • RESULTS: Every one of the 30 in-person attendees used the seat selection tool, and MeetingPlay has received numerous requests asking for help on implementing a similar tool for other clients. Post-event, 90% of attendees said engagement in the virtual platform and mobile app increased their overall enjoyment of the event.

Virtual Engagement Type 4

Between attendees and other attendees

Last but not least, the final type of engagement to consider when planning virtual events is how your audience members will be interacting with each other. Think about it from the concert analogy: If you’re sitting next to people who are excited to be there, dancing and singing along to the music, having a great time — there s a good chance you’ll feel comfortable and free to have a good time, too. The same applies for virtual events. Whether your experience is intimate or on a massive scale — say, thousands of people — you must curate opportunities for attendees to engage with like-minded individuals or gather around a shared topic of interest. Beyond the content itself, these forged connections will leave the attendee walking away feeling like they gained more value from the experience.

  • WHO: A data and AI company held a five day event for tens of thousands of data and technology professionals from around the world on MeetingPlay’s virtual event platform.
  • WHAT: Its goals were initially based on attendance: The company sought registrant goals of 35,000 people with 50% attendance, with plans to inspire attendees by going big on new content, keynotes, training, virtual networking and solutions to their challenges (think 200 breakouts, 75 pre-conference training courses, 10 keynotes, 10 special events, and more).
  • HOW: With a global audience this massive, over a lengthy period of time for a virtual event (five days!), the company had to get very strategic about virtual networking opportunities. It did this by using MeetingPlay’s AI technology to recommend like-minded individuals to connect based on responses to questions they answered upon registration. Attendees gathered in small groups of five people to discuss specific data topics and gain advice from their peers. On the final day, the company hosted a virtual version of its typical after party that attendees raved about on Twitter, with choose-your-own-adventure options like participating in a gaming tournament, joining Reddit style chat rooms, or listening to a live DJ set.
  • RESULTS: The company nearly doubled its registration goal, with about 70,000 registrants and more than 52% attendance — marking a 10-20% higher attendance rate than comparable virtual conferences. Data demonstrated that attendee engagement rates remained as high on day five as they were on day one. The NPS for the event was also nearly double the industry benchmark for live-stream events.

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Become a Virtual Event Engagement Guru in Just 20 Minutes

Event professionals say virtual engagement is one of their greatest challenges, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn why engagement matters, break down the four types that are critical to implement in your virtual event s and be inspired by examples ideas you can implement for your own virtual events right now.

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