Virtual Attendance: How to Engage With Your Online Guests at an Event
For every event, there is a maximum capacity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have virtual attendees. More and more events are providing ways to participate from anywhere. But how can you engage with your online guests and make them feel part of the crowd, rather than an outsider looking in?
It takes some extra planning and the right equipment, but it can be well worth the effort. (And, PS, you can also earn more revenue to help cover the costs.) So, let’s take a closer look.
Live Stream – The Whole Thing, or Just Certain Sessions
Live streaming delivers your event to folks who can’t attend. This allows you to fill your physical venue and keep on adding registrations, which gives your brand and content a broader reach. Gotta love that.
When live streaming you have two options: stream for free or “charge admission.” This not only boosts event revenue, it gets your virtual audience engaged before the event even begins. Registration, though simple, is an official act that says, “I’ll be there!” Having to sign up to receive your live stream adds a sense of exclusivity, too.
Go Entirely Virtual, or Go Hybrid
With enough dedicated internet bandwidth and the right equipment, you could plan an event that is entirely virtual. No worries about selecting a venue, food and beverage, or all the other on-site costs. Scheduling might still matter, though, because you’ll have to consider the time zones involved.
The nice thing about hybrid events is that you and your audience can capture every possible benefit — as long as you make every effort to fully engage your remote attendees. How?
- Beef up your social media monitoring to not only monitor conversations but curate them and overtly encourage both posts and participation in Q&A, etc.
- Create one or several digital hangouts that bring folks together to discuss specific topics or just generally network.
- Make sure presenters acknowledge online attendees and speak to them as well as the people in front of them.
Virtual Presence Isn’t Just For Attendees
Speakers, too, can be present virtually. This opens new vistas for speaker selection because they don’t have to travel to you. A virtual presentation is more captivating visually than live streaming because it’s 3D and remote attendees can participate with questions, etc.
However, it does require a speaker who can speak directly into the camera, which is very different from their usual effort to move around and make eye contact all across the room. Someone at the speaker’s end must also be comfortable with the equipment to avoid any glitches.
Not for Every Event (At Least, Not Yet)
Cool as virtual attendance may be, not every event is “there” yet. So before you take the leap, consider the purpose of your gathering, your target audience, exactly how you will be able to engage virtual attendees, and how you will measure success. And keep in mind that, if you expect virtual attendees to fully interact with your programming, they will need a VR headset or something like Google Cardboard for their mobile device, plus possibly a mic and a controller. Is your audience ready for that?
Offering 360-degree video tours of the event venue ahead of time can help live attendees plan their schedules and enable digital attendees to put themselves in the picture, too. Start engaging with all registrants right away, soliciting discussion topics, questions for speakers, etc.
We thought you would be. The next step is to get with your AV team to talk about your favorite ideas and how you might make them a reality — virtually speaking.