5 Ideas to Make Your Next Virtual Event More Engaging
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major shifts in the events industry. Event planners everywhere had to get creative to switch events to online affairs.
At first, the novelty of attending a conference from your living room couch excited people enough to pay attention for hours on end. But now, almost one year into mandated distancing, many people are struggling to find new ways to keep online events engaging and meaningful.
Digital fatigue has set in and it’s making virtual events difficult. So what can you do to make sitting in front of a computer fun again? Our team has a long list of great ideas you can easily implement to make sure attendees of your next virtual event don’t get bored, burnt-out or otherwise uninterested!
Gamefy participation to boost engagement
Gamification is the process of turning participation and interaction into a scorable system of points that incentivizes people to engage with your event. It looks different depending on the kind of event it’s used in, but the basic ideas remain the same no matter what.
The trick to pulling off gamification is having a clear set of goals you want to achieve. For example, if you’re hosting a networking event, your main goal is to generate conversation between as many people as possible. It makes sense in that situation to award points every time someone speaks with a new person! If you’re hosting a virtual trade show, it might make sense to give points for interacting with different sponsors.
Once you pick out what activities you want to award, all you have to do is assign points to each one and let people know how to rack them up. Maintain some sort of leaderboard so people can keep track of who’s winning in real time. People will like to earn points if you make it fun, but they’ll love to earn points if there’s prizes awarded to the winners.
Create a physical touchpoint moment between participants
For events like sales kickoffs, quarterly retreats and other team-building experiences, being virtual instead of in-person can sap all of the enthusiasm right out of your virtual event. When the whole idea is building unity as a team, you need to find ways to overcome the distance between people.
One way to create this connection is by sending everyone involved something physical that can link them to the rest of the participants. You’ll also want to make time for everyone to share a moment using that touchpoint. For example, sending custom t-shirts for all participants to wear makes for a moving screenshot of unity— ditto for hats, hoodies and even socks! Mugs and water bottles also work great as small tokens that can connect teams across the digital divide.
Something about seeing a group in uniform (or in unison when using the same mug) makes people feel closer. Even if it’s just for a moment, using these touchpoints can help get the people participating in your virtual event more invested in one another, and more likely to engage at a deeper level.
Break things up with rejuvenating virtual events
It’s no secret that digital fatigue poses one of the biggest threats to engaging virtual events, especially when they take place over several days. There’s only so long that people can sit in front of a screen before they start to glaze over.
To keep people on board with your virtual event, offer people the chance to participate in activities that give them a break from talking and listening to floating heads. We’ve seen people host virtual yoga classes, virtual meditation sessions, and even guided breathwork to all participants looking for a reprieve from formal activities. Of course, you’ll want to give people the option to log off completely for a while too, but you may be surprised how many folks are in need of a relaxation session these days!
The goal is to let people decompress so when they report back to the parts of your event that really matter, they feel ready to engage at their fullest level.
Use swag kits to make activities interactive
In-person events often rely on swag and fun items to get people excited about the day’s activities or the brands behind them. Deliver that same feeling by creating fully customized swag boxes with items your attendees can use throughout the event.
Swag.com can help you put together an awesome interactive box that makes it easier for people to get engaged with your event. Random things some of our customers have included are:
- Selfie lights so people can look their best on camera
- 3D wooden puzzles to be used in a friendly competition over Zoom
- An aroma diffuser for guided meditation sessions
- Custom sticky notes to play “the name game”
- Branded face masks for decompression sessions
We recommend telling people not to open their boxes until the event begins: this will build excitement and give people a shared unboxing experience that they will remember for a long time. Remember, Swag.com can help you send these boxes to hundreds of addresses at once, anywhere around the world!
Spoiler Alert for #INBOUND2020:— Denae DiVincenzo (@denaedae) September 18, 2020
The "INBOUND from Home Kit" is just as creatively and cleverly put together as I expected. Nothing is as good as a @HubSpot @INBOUND conference in person, but this certainly helps build up the excitement for next week! 🎉 pic.twitter.com/6C1jUpjOw9
For social events, look beyond virtual happy hour
Incorporating a social event into your larger digital event can be a good idea— if it’s done right. But after a year or so of Zoom cocktail hours, most people have had enough. Just because it feels like the easiest or most traditional social mixer you can organize doesn’t mean it’s the best option!
Think about offering opportunities for socializing that are not based around drinking, or trying to talk over one another after a long day of listening to speakers and breakout sessions. Arranging a virtual book club, or TV show club, or movie club, for example, gives people a chance to get to know one another without being so mundane. You could also hire someone to lead a virtual cooking class or similar creative activity.
No matter what kind of fun social event you set up, make sure to keep group sizes small so people have a chance to have meaningful conversations and not just listen one person speak the whole time.
These are just some of the ideas we’ve seen our customers come up with to make their virtual events more engaging for participants. We’re sure there are tons of others, and can’t wait for the next creative planner to blow us away! What are you doing to make your virtual event the best it can be?
This article was written by Andrew McMaster, Swag.com’s resident content marketing specialist. Swag.com helps you customize, shop, store and ship the world’s best promotional products.