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Audience engagement: 20 creative ideas to keep virtual attendees hooked

Audience engagement has become far more sophisticated in the last year. At this month’s VEI Summit, sponsored by Glisser, a stellar line-up of event industry experts shared creative strategies and philosophies.

Robert Dunsmore, Independent Creative Director of Live Events, kicked off the Virtual Event Institute’s summit with six creative engagement philosophies for digital event planners...

1: Lightness

Online is a lighter media. Events must be designed to be lighter to the touch, lighter to the feel, and must not put any burdens on the audience because they instantly make a snap decision to leave at any moment.

2: Quickness

Online is a faster on-demand media. The ‘quickness’ has to work perfectly, whether it be automation or innovation, and there must be no latency because as soon as something doesn't work people will leave and not return.

3: Exactitude

Online demands exacting binge-worthy content. Digital events must be planned more accurately with a greater quality of content than you have ever done before. And that exactitude means you have to script, design and build every moment of the experience.

4: Visibility

Digital events exist in the minds of your audience. We receive 75% of our sensory information through our eyes and 13% through our ears, and so your virtual story must be visible everywhere in that journey.

5: Multiplicity

Digital events are a boxset of knowledge that can be viewed in different places at different times with different audiences. Always plan your content with exactitude and awareness that there will be multiple delivery channels and that it will be watched in the workplace, or at home, or on the go, and it will be both live and on-demand.

6: Consistency

Production values make your event distinct from being merely just a meeting. That consistency and quality must run through your online and in-person events. In 2020, we got away with just delivering but, in 2021 onwards, we need production values and a better consumer experience.

Robert then went on to share 14 creative strategy tips for digital events within the framework of the philosophies above.

7: More stage and screen

Think of your event as a stage, rather than a screen – a stage is far more engaging. You want a strong brand ID, beautiful graphics, motion, key messages, and your partners to be visible on your stage so your audience gets to see all those things at any given time and they know exactly where they are.

8: Onboarding

If you're inviting people to a digital event, you need simple, clear instructions and options to onboard your audience. It must be simple for them to understand where to go, how to log in, where to find things, where to find each other, how to network with one another and how to find suppliers and buyers. Open your platform sooner rather than later, increase the timeline of your event and allow your onboarded delegates to share with other delegates, and show them how to do things.

9: Signature transitions

As soon as a piece of content ends, you have the ability to lose your audience. To combat this, design signature transitions, so they know exactly where they are, what's just happened, and what's happening next. Keep people invested and interested and engaged.

10: Snackable bites

If you can take the philosophies of lightness and quickness, you can break your event into snackable bites, which are easier to digest and less of a burden for your audience, and they will love you for it.

11: Love at first sight

Make sure the first thing your audience sees has extreme likeability because you want to provide binge-able content. And the first session they see is going to make an impression. Put extra effort into the first thing everyone sees every day – give them love.

12: Talk show host

A conversation is more engaging with a talk show host. Use a host that works in your company and make them a star. People like personality and, if you can't guarantee that, employ a professional.

13: New bundles and new incentives

Un-bundle your event for virtual. Break it down into new bundles and new incentives for new audiences that can bring new power and energy to your gathering.

14: Pin rooms

This is user-generated content. People go to events in tribes/groups/micro-groups so let people know where these groups are. If you have a platform with chat rooms or chat streams, allow people who have come from the same area to talk to one another and discover one another and increase their engagement.

15: Presenatation roulette

This was used at an internal event for a company where the leadership wasn’t sure if people were absorbing the information being delivered. The last session of the day was called presentation roulette. This is where the audience was asked, what presentation would you like to see again? But the gag was, they actually had to present it and as they presented it, the leadership got to know what they had learned.

16: Fishbowls

Let tribes be built around content streams and give them fishbowls where audience members can talk about the topic in question and bring their own user-generated content and energy to your event. We live in a peer-to-peer economy. The more you invest in getting your audience to do things and create content for your event, the more engaged they'll be with it.

17: Event bookstore

Make events more inclusive. Why not ask your audience, what book they would put in your event bookstore? Then you can create a leaderboard of recommended books. It’s a knowledge share because crowds have knowledge.

18: Language

If your community has their own language, apply this to every session, every room, every hallway, every interaction. So when attendees turn up, they already have a sense of belonging because the event was speaking their language, and belonging drives behavior.

19: Purpose

Purpose is everything. It is the reason your event exists and why people come to your event. Make sure you have the extreme reason for existing.

20: Tweet or chat-a-long detail

This is a way of taking the case study and making it more exciting. A case study is normally presented by one person but, what if, you allow the team to tweet or chat along? This allows granular details to come through and this detail allows your audience to learn more – your audience wants detail.

These ideas were shared at this month’s VEI Summit, titled Philosophy, Purpose, Platform: Creative Strategies, Concepts and Activations for Audience Engagement.

The virtual thought-leadership event featured a panel of experts including Sofia Altuna, Global Product Partnerships at Google, Lauren Tietjen, SVP Events of Octagon, Robert Dunsmore, Independent Creative Director of Live Events, Sanjib Kalita, CEO of Guppy and Editor-in-Chief of Money 20/20, Vanessa Lovatt, Chief Evangelist of Glisser and Bob Mitchell, Principal of Mitchell Partnership Alliances. The session was sponsored by Glisser and moderated by meeting designer Samme Allen.

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