Engagement at Virtual Events

For 52.3% of English-speaking respondents, engagement rate was the most valuable KPI. But beyond the event marketing buzzword of the decade, what does engagement really mean and how is it meaningfully facilitated?

Focus Point: Engagement

Understanding engagement requires a high degree of empathy with the attendee perspective – their objectives, cares, attention span, and doubts. As a thought experiment, imagine you are the guest. What would make you feel engaged? You would want to feel like you belong there; that you are not only receiving added value but that your own input is valued; and at risk of sounding like a stuck record, you would want to feel part of the community.

Eye-catching (virtual) stages and streamlined processes are a good start, but engagement should be stimulated before, during, and after an event. Deploy surveys, competitions, savvy social media usage, emotive video highlights, gamification, live polls, dedicated apps, and active participation. Throughout, attendees should be treated as people, not customers.

In 2022, going only with the obligatory “thanks for coming” email is clearly not enough. Event professionals must foster a shift in attendee outlook from “a fun day and a free lunch” to one of involvement and contribution. And for virtual events, where attendees likely suffer from “Zoom fatigue” and do not even get their free lunch, creatively encouraging engagement is more important, not less.

Interview with Valentin Bachmann

Valentin is the Director of Business Development at Wonder where he’s proved his expertise in engagement time and again. He is responsible for partnerships and integrations, Wonder’s strategic positioning, and monitoring of current market developments.

Let’s Talk About “Engagement”

Valentin Bachmann, Director of Business Development at Wonder

Why is engagement at virtual events important?

For us at Wonder, engagement isn’t just an important part of virtual events - it’s the most essential part of virtual events. We as event hosts need to ask ourselves what’s going to get people to attend, and stay at, a virtual event. There are so many options to consume all types of great content online - be it articles, videos, pre-recorded presentations, webinars or documentaries. So why would someone take the trouble and join an event that commits them to a specific time and place?

The simple answer is that the main reason people join virtual events is in order to engage! Engagement might look like asking questions or sharing hypotheses during presentations, approaching and interacting with speakers during and after a keynote, discussing presentations with like-minded people and attendees from the audience, and making new meaningful connections within their community. What people want in virtual events is to play an active role in shaping their experience and leaving the event energized, with new ideas, lasting connections and great conversations. This is why engagement is so important at virtual events - it’s what people come for.

Valentin on Engagement

A recording of Valentin speaking at The Happy Event Planner in March 2022.

What influence does smart engagement have on the event ROI?

When thinking about the ROI of an event you have to ask yourself: “What is the goal of hosting an event? What do I, as an event host, want to get out of the event?” Generally speaking, successful events are based on happy attendees. And happy attendees are people who experience that feeling of excitement and buzzing energy, where everyone leaves inspired to do it all over again.

This positive feeling is what you can achieve by making sure your event attendees play an active role in the event, by engaging them. And this will ultimately affect your sales numbers during the event, how your sponsors experience the event, how people view your brand and whether they’ll show up again next time.

In summary this means the more engaging an event is, the higher the attendee satisfaction and the likelier it is they’ll participate in similar events in the future. That’s why engagement plays such an important role in every event and has an immense influence on the event ROI.

How can engagement at virtual events work?

Engagement during an event can take many forms: chat conversations, Q&A’s, polls, or scheduled matchmaking sessions. At Wonder, we think you need to go one step further: In order to boost attendee engagement and gather in a way that’s truly meaningful, hosts need to give everyone the opportunity to shape their experiences and play an active role in the event. They should move away from continuous one-sided presentations or fixed one-on-ones, and give agency to their attendees.

We at Wonder believe in the principles of space and freedom - giving people the space to meet spontaneously, chat and interact with one another while having the freedom to break out of the box through movement and interaction, and choosing who to talk to and for how long. Additionally, adding many breaks in between content sessions to bring your speakers and attendees together in one “room” to interact will work wonders (pun intended). Finally, adding some conversation starters (e.g. via icebreaker questions) or setting up a space with different topic areas or speaker booths will guarantee you have all the ingredients for engaging conversations and great networking sessions.

With these easy steps, you’ll make sure your attendees actively interact with each other (instead of passively consuming content), experience moments of spontaneity and serendipity, and create human connection. This is what engagement truly means and these are the experiences people come to your events for. By making sure people leave your event energized, you’ll be guaranteed they’re happy and will come back to your next event.

  • 10 Tools for More Engagement at Virtual Events

    • Event Marketing

    Many event organizers have switched to virtual event formats in recent months. The challenge: transforming the benefits of a physical event into a digital one without losing user experience or brand value.

  • 11 Tips to Make Your Virtual Event a Guaranteed Success

    • Virtual Events

    Virtual event: This does not have to be a boring webinar or a pixelated conference livestream. With a few good ideas and the right tools, it can become an event with real added value that will inspire your participants.

Article by Oliver Edwards
A creative community builder with a knack for strategy, communication and humans.