The other week, my fiancée and I called up her grandma (on her landline) to catch up. It took about 30 minutes to get her setup on a Skype call using an old tablet she likely hadn’t ever used, so we could see each other for the first time in months. But those 30 minutes were worth it. We were able to not just create some level of normalcy given the situation, but a level of human connection as if we were face-to-face. This is the virtual world we live in today.
Now don’t get me wrong, running a full-scale virtual event is not the same as getting grandma on a Skype call, but it’s the difference between a phone call and a video call that what we should all take note of. A video call presents opportunity for a much deeper and more meaningful interaction despite the physical distance.
In this article, we’ll walk through tips and tricks on how to take your next virtual event from a landline phone call to an interactive and immersive experience.
#1 Give Your Attendees a Voice
Think back to your days in school: did you pay more attention when your teacher lectured at you for hours on end, or when they asked the class for input and questions? Whether you’re hosting a massive tech conference or a smaller-scale company or campus event, involving your attendees as part of the event is crucial to maintain their attention and earn their engagement. Try out a few of these ideas to get your audience involved:
- Have a host run your event livestream and use intermissions between speakers to respond to, and call out social posts sent in from attendees
- Run a social ticker throughout the stream that promotes your event hashtag and brings a live element to any pre-recorded content
- Have your host(s) provide specific calls to action to give attendees a reason to share (Ex: “Show us your at-home set up”, “Tell us what’s been the most valuable breakout session”, etc.)
- Coordinate with your speakers and run live polls before/during their presentation to gather immediate feedback or reactions
- Use the last 5–10 minutes of every presentation for live Q&A using real-time questions from Twitter or in the comments, and display those on the stream for all to see
- Send out event swag beforehand to attendees and encourage them to share photos of their new gear, and/or provide digital swag options like this Niagara College example
Microsoft was one of the first big-time tech companies to take their conferences completely virtual. They implemented a number of these concepts with great success over the course of their #MSInspire and #MSBuild events.
#2 Outfit Your Presenters with Professional Graphics
If you’ve ever stared at a Times New Roman, 12pt. font, white background Powerpoint presentation, raise your hand 🙋♂️. Let’s make sure your presentation doesn’t have that vibe.
A lot of people think you need a fancy control room and multi-million dollar equipment to pull this off. The good news is you don’t. You can produce professional graphics from your couch, using Tagboard’s cloud-based production software that lets you produce from anywhere in the world (no production experience required).
- Outfit your speakers with stylized name plate graphics and a clean background frame design
- Periodically incorporate call-to-action graphics directing attendees to share comments on social, visit a landing page to learn more, or highlight achievements of the speaker to build credibility
- Highlight the best quotes and learnings from each speaker in a scrolling ticker feed
This summer, Hashtag Sports shifted their in-person conference to a virtual event chock-full of livestream panels and speakers. With a few simple graphic integrations, they transformed three people on webcams in their living rooms, into a professional and informative program.
#3 Store a Collection of Content & Keep the Conversation Going
While generating conversation during the event is important to make things interactive, don’t forget to leverage the post-conference buzz. Once your event is over, maintain the momentum by letting great content live on digital, not only creating a deeper connection with your attendees, but also providing collateral to help promote the next event.
- On your event page, incorporate a social feed to collect and distribute content from your attendees and owned handles. Track post impressions and interactions within the embed using Tagboard Embed Analytics to see what content performs best.
- Put out a call to action after the event to garner responses from attendees on their favorite part of the experience, and collect those in an embed that could live on both your current and future event pages
- Encourage your attendees to participate in future digital campaigns like a fundraiser or virtual 5k
Virtual commencements and award ceremonies paved the way in this department the past few months, giving students and attendees their moment of fame on the website instead of the physical stage. The response on social media to activations like these Virginia Tech and High School Sports Awards integrations was overwhelmingly positive.
In this virtual world we live in today, it’s easy to get complacent and do the bare minimum while we wait for a miracle solution to the current pandemic. But what we need to realize is that 1) a few simple enhancements to your event presentation can transform it into a professional, engaging experience that your attendees will remember, and 2) these virtual event activations aren’t going anywhere once this pandemic is over. Even if in-person events resume soon, the opportunity to expand your reach virtually is easier than ever and doing so will only improve the overall experience.
If you have any questions or want to connect on ideas for an upcoming event, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tagboard!