With virtual events, you provide your audience rich value and receive a greater average lifetime value from them in exchange. But the path from one to the other requires a robust audience engagement strategy.
Event attendees enter with varying degrees of commitment, but they all expect to walk away with a meaningful experience. By incorporating interactivity into your event planning, execution, and post-event experiences, you can maximize the value of your engagement marketing funnels. For a little extra help, check out these tips for event planning.
In this article, we analyze the importance of virtual event engagement for your attendee experience and business goals. Then, we show you how to engage your audience at each step of their journey.
Why Is Virtual Event Engagement Important?
When virtual event engagement is high, you enjoy several benefits.
Increased Conversions (ROI)
Yes, we’re jumping the gun a bit and skipping right to the end. But that’s the point, after all.
Effective engagement practices yield a higher return on investment by encouraging more purchases, increasing brand awareness, and more. To realize these benefits, your strategy must focus on providing rich interactions before, during, and after events.
The more attendee engagement, the more likely they are to:
- Register for and attend other events
- Sign up for your email list
- Mention the experience to others
- Make a purchase
A focus on virtual event engagement ensures your attendees have a positive experience and impression of your brand. Their engagement is tied to their perceived value and how much of your event content they’ll remember. When the audience feels your events are worthwhile, they are more likely to return for future events or make a purchase.
Memorable virtual event experiences are more important than slideshows or presentations, as it will help attendees associate your brand with the positive memory. Engagement is key to crafting experiences that stick in their mind and keep your business top of mind.
The digital marketing industries constantly undergo rapid changes. Cookies and other, more invasive approaches to data collection are being phased out; meanwhile, search engines now reward genuine and ethical methods for gaining leads and collecting data. With virtual event engagement, you gather rich information straight from the source — without sinking to deceptive practices.
No matter what virtual event format you decide to use, the platforms normally provide many tools for collecting data. With each engagement opportunity, your audiences offer up information for case studies or participate in activities like live polling that also serve to educate you about your target segment. Built-in features return specific data points such as who participated in what survey or Q&A session. You can also analyze metrics like audience count throughout the event so you know when and why people exited early, for example.
Having a strong lead generation strategy for virtual events makes data collection easy — as long as your audiences are engaged enough to feel comfortable giving their information.
Event Engagement Stages
The mark of a successful event is one where engagement occurs before, during, and after. Think of this as the continuous component of your virtual events.
The goal of pre-event engagement is to build anticipation and convince attendees to show up to your event ready for further engagement.
It takes place in many areas:
- Across channels with paid advertising
- On social media
- With email event marketing
- During the registration process
- In all pre-event communications
- Through pre-event activities
- Over any relevant networking channels
Many pre-engagement best practices also apply to other digital marketing strategies. So, you can use quizzes, email updates, video sharing on social media, introductions to keynote speakers, and more for multiple purposes. Ideally, engagement practices like gamification should be applied early on before the event begins. Then follow up your pre-event interactions with an equally arresting event.
During the Event Engagement
During the event, engagement must be more dynamic and authentic. You can employ any mix of the same tactics used during the pre-event stage, but you should also focus on direct methods like two-way chat communication. The rule of thumb is to make in-event engagement fluid and social.
Early in the event, use engagement tactics as an icebreaker. Keep polls simple so they require little cognitive effort. Warm up the audience with these and other simple actions. You can then get them more engaged as the event carries on.
Take advantage of live polls based on the event content at the end of a session, and time elements like downloadable handouts appropriately.
Your engagement tactics should bolster attendee retention and participation. For example, you can conduct pop quizzes on the most important subjects covered in the presentation. Or, you can employ interactive elements to make a specific segment more entertaining (and thus more memorable).
Even after an event ends, you can continue to hold your audience’s attention. Strike while the iron’s hot and ensure your attendees stay engaged so they smoothly transition to the next step of the customer journey.
For the most part, post-event engagement is conducted on the same channels you already use. Employ email and social media follow-up along with on-platform features and integrations to produce interesting interactions. Consider running event-specific giveaways as well to generate additional excitement. Prizes could include access to relevant on-demand content or a “continuing education” package delivered via personalized email.
Pre-event Engagement Ideas
Let’s go over some engagement ideas that will warm your audience up.
Surveys sent before the event foster engagement early on while arming you with important information about your audience. Use pre-event surveys to ready your audience by:
- Building anticipation for your event
- Gathering information that you can use to personalize the experience for attendees
A well-crafted survey question ticks both boxes at once by suggesting to the audience member they’ll receive real and exciting value while also acquiring answers that aid your marketing and sales teams.
You can extract many useful types of data with pre-event surveys, such as:
- Customer preferences
- Adjacent interests
- Areas for improvement
- Pain points
Build clearly worded, strategic questions based on intent to uncover these and other important information.
Pre-event (and post-) email marketing can be largely automated, which makes it an attractive strategy. However, you should abide by certain practices to reach maximum engagement prior to the event.
Automated reminders are a healthy start (as long as you don’t inundate people with them). Also, personalize your communications to greet the recipient by name, and provide valuable information and include clear calls to action (CTAs) in each email. Separate your messages by registration status so those who are registered receive different emails from those who simply demonstrated interest but haven’t committed.
Share information about the event on social media. Videos work best, but you can leverage all kinds of content that build anticipation.
Introduce your speakers by posting interviews on your social media accounts. Provide small, interesting snippets of what to expect from the event. Expand upon the value you’ll provide to your largest audience segments.
Display previews everywhere. Introduce new ideas and build expectations as the event draws near. Most virtual event platforms have tools and integrations for automating the dissemination of preview content so you can spread the word with little effort.
Social media channels, online forums, and other similar mediums offer networking opportunities to promote your event.
The key is to allow audience members to connect wherever it’s expedient: Enable direct messaging ahead of the event; create forums or entire online communities; offer a matchmaking game or service; encourage social sharing. You have lots of ways to capitalize on these networking chances.
During the Event Engagement Strategy
Now for the hard part. Unlike purely on-demand events, live engagement strategies are harder to pull off and require a more dynamic approach. However, you also have more options to accomplish this.
First, grab the low-hanging fruit by enabling two-way communication and public chat boxes (moderating the latter), and have a moderator flag common or insightful questions in the chat. Address topics of interest to the audience as they reveal themselves. Make sure your teams are ready for a dynamic and proactive in-event experience.
For instance, Banzai’s virtual event platform, Demio, has a chat feature that fosters easy two-way communication. Event moderators can flag any inquiries in the chat so you can answer them live.
In virtual events, featured actions are desired next steps you highlight to encourage specific interactions. Use them to push certain behaviors for various purposes in addition to engaging the audience.
This category encompasses attendee profiles, registration actions, and more. We’ve touched on many featured actions already, but you can adopt any mix of them. Employ featured actions to drive people to your intended next step (e.g., book a demo or free trial).
Gamification turns simple actions into games with a few steps, making tasks more fun and engaging.
For example, a series of survey questions can produce useful information for you, assuming the person being surveyed is awake and engaged. Gamify your surveys by adding points or badges to create a sense of competition and achievement in the process. Incentivize ideal actions by making them fun!
Some platforms provide more opportunities than others when it comes to segregating your audience into relevant categories.
To make the most of this element, send a single-question survey at the end of the event presentation. The purpose of that survey would be to break your audience into small groups based on shared interests, levels of knowledge, or some other qualifier you could leverage to encourage them to take a specific action. Based on their answers, you could segregate attendees into breakout rooms to receive more specific and personalized attention.
Post-event Engagement Ideas
Post-event engagement is what drives your message home and produces the results you’re trying to secure.
The first step is a post-event thank you email. It’s a simple courtesy that also serves as a reminder and invitation for expanding the relationship.
Consider giving away free swag as well, such as a presentation transcription, an event app invite, a handout, etc.
Most virtual engagement platforms offer recording options and the ability to schedule the release of pre-recorded events. On-demand content is pre-recorded and available to the viewer whenever it’s most convenient for them to watch.
As such, it’s one of the most efficient ways to engage with audiences. If you had an amazing event where everything went perfectly, you can simply save it as a recording for periodic release.
Despite the lack of live, “real” interactions, on-demand content can be highly engaging and hit all the KPIs you aim for. Use platform tools and integrations to insert gamification into the experience and simulate the live event feel. This produces interactions that gently nudge the viewer to stay active and engaged.
Social Media Engagement
Share highlights of the value provided during the event on social media. Leverage notifications to spotlight your business and use posts to attract new attendees.
The more genuine and scalable your social media engagement, the better your return. Respond to user questions and feedback as a low-cost, low-effort way to expand your reach among people who’ve already demonstrated an interest in your brand.
For additional support, check out this guide on post-event surveys.
Virtual event attendees provide the richest, most honest feedback immediately after their experience, so post-event survey questions should center that. This is your chance to gather data on how successful your event was so you can accurately measure your ROI and learn how to improve your future events.
Continue to push engagement by sharing a mix of:
- Additional webinar courses
- New event invites
- And more
Any combination of the above can work, so experiment to find your preferred cadence. Also, take advantage of various channels to maximize your reach with these resources. For example, publishing blogs on Medium can help increase visibility. There are also plenty of eBook platforms that make it easy to publish and disseminate your content.
How to Measure Engagement Success
Although engagement is somewhat of an abstract concept, various methods can qualify and quantify the success of your engagement marketing.
First, look at the tools included in your virtual event platform. All platforms have built-in analytics and reporting tools (of differing robustness) that cover specific virtual event success metrics. These enable you to see how engaged your audience was and at what times during the event.
Direct feedback from audience members is another rich source to tap. Craft pointed post-event survey questions to extract genuine feedback about your event. You need to ask the audience for their overall opinion as well as what they specifically liked or disliked.
You can also leverage social media metrics such as event hashtags, shares, mentions, the number of leads versus the number of conversions, and others to determine how well your engagement marketing performed.
The Bottom Line
Virtual event engagement requires a comprehensive approach to maximize results. You need to push interactions before, during, and after every event to drive home the value of your offering and keep your brand at the forefront of attendees’ minds. Strategic efforts can net you the most (and highest-value) customers.
While it takes work to maximize virtual event success, the journey becomes smoother with the right help and tools. Book a demo with Banzai to find out how we can remove some of the burden from your shoulders and make the next virtual event more enjoyable both for your audience and you.