13 virtual conference engagement ideas to excite your audience

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Did you know that 49% of marketers believe that engaging audiences in a virtual setting is key to a successful event? (Markletic)

It’s true. Whether you’re running a virtual conference, event, expo, job fair, or anything in between, failing to engage your audience means they won’t come back to future events.

To overcome this dilemma, we’ve compiled a list of 13 virtual conference engagement ideas to help you out.

You can use one or more of these engagement ideas and, though we are focusing on virtual conferences, they are applicable to many types of virtual events.

Let’s get started!

Virtual conference engagement stats

First, let’s look at what reports and statistics from companies who have launched their virtual events have said and what we can learn from them.

Roughly 71% of marketers polled by Markletic said they used “polling to make sure that their audience doesn’t lose attention.”

Of the 3,850 survey respondents, 61% reported using videos as an interactive element of audience engagement.

In terms of using an event app or virtual event platform, like Eventtus, around 30% of businesses reported using one to conduct their virtual conferences and events.

They added that the main reason for using an event app was for “session registration and an agenda overview,” says Markletic.

In addition, 78% of businesses who used an event application said it resulted in “positive event ROI.”

Tips for a successful virtual conference

Before we get into the top virtual conference engagement ideas, let’s look at the top elements that contribute to the success of your virtual event and conference.

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To create a successful virtual event, you need to:

  • Know who your target audience is: Your target audience is everything. They either make your event, or break it. Segment your audience and accordingly offer content to fit their various needs.
  • Know your theme: This is the main topic of your virtual event. It needs to be clear because it attracts people (and businesses) to register and explore what you’re offering.
  • Decide on at least 50% of your speakers: Your speakers are an important element in your conference. In fact, many attendees look at the speakers list before deciding if they’ll attend your event or not. Once you decide on your main topic, you can begin considering which speakers to contact.
  • Determine your KPIs for success: Key performance indicators (KPIs) are your method of deciding whether your virtual conference was a success or not. KPIs can differ from one event to another or from one industry to another.
  • Talk to exhibitors and sponsors: Both exhibitors and sponsors are an essential part of a virtual conference or event. Yes, you can run an event without them but they do help reduce the cost of the event and help attendee engagement.
  • Look at analytics: The best thing about virtual events is analytics and tracking. You can see how many people are attending your event at a given time, how many people attended your sessions, which sessions got the highest engagement, and lots more.

Virtual conference engagement ideas

Now that you’ve gone briefly through the top requirements for any virtual conference, expo or event, let’s dive into the engagement ideas.

Whether you’re launching a virtual conference or a smaller-sized event, these tips can help you. They are particularly useful for virtual conferences, which can run for more than a day and have a wide-ranging attendee base.

We also recommend having a combination of several of the following engagement ideas.

1. Offer a free ebook or several free ebooks

Offering your attendees a free ebook is not only a great way to attract customers and audiences, but also it’s great for authority building.

You can also collaborate with your speakers, who double as authors, and offer some of their books for free to those who register for your event.

2. Offer slide decks and replays to attendees

One of the top ways attendees engage with speakers is when they offer the presentation slide deck.

This not only helps attendees focus on what the speaker is saying and take notes, but also helps attendees and speakers connect, and sparks ideas and questions for conversation.

There are also many cases where attendees aren’t able to attend all the sessions they booked. Whether the timing isn’t appropriate, stuff came up, or for any other reason, they couldn’t make it for a particular session in your conference.

Your chance to engage them would be to send them the session’s slide deck and keep replays available for a limited time after the session or event.

This helps attendees who missed sessions to listen to them and collect slide decks for learning and notes.

This also helps you as an event organizer stay in contact with attendees after your virtual conference is over so you can invite them to future events, include them in your newsletter, among other things.

3. Offer online coupons – especially from sponsors and exhibitors

Who doesn’t like coupons that offer discounts on products and services?

This may be something you can use through your event organizer booth and you can also suggest it to your sponsors and exhibitors.

With coupons, vouchers, and discount codes, your sponsors and exhibitors can engage with potential customers after your event and track their own efforts. They can also gauge interest into their product offerings.

4. Use polls before, during, and after the event

Polls are one of the best virtual conference engagement ideas. In fact, data from Markletic’s survey shows that nearly 82% of event organizers are using polling to increase interaction.

Polls can be quite simple. You can do polls where attendees review sessions they have attended, polls that drive conversations towards certain topics, among others.

In some cases, speakers can conduct a quick poll during their online session.

5. Offer an immersive agenda 

Your agenda is an essential part of your virtual conference. Giving your agenda an interactive and immersive flavor can deepen the value of your event for attendees and create a better experience.

Your agenda is also your way of serving various audiences at the same time.

For example, if you’re doing a virtual pharmaceutical conference, your agenda can offer topics that cater to doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical industry leaders, as well as other pharma-companies.

Interactive agendas are a great idea for a successful virtual conference.

Why? Because “guests can access supplemental information, network with other participants, and navigate to events from one single user-friendly page,” explains TeamBuilding.com.

6. Create a social media hype ahead and during your conference

Social media has become part and parcel of our daily lives. Virtual conferences and events are no exception.

In fact, 60% of virtual event organizers, from Markletic’s survey of 3,850 respondents, said they use social media to increase registrations.

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Registrations aren’t the only benefit to using social media. You can connect with attendees through Facebook Groups and offer updates about your conference.

7. Create a hashtag for your event

Another great virtual conference engagement idea is creating a hashtag for your event beforehand. That way you can see how attendees are engaging with your hashtag and event.

We recommend you create a series of pre-made social media posts with your hashtag(s), links, and handles for Twitter, and with pre-made text for Facebook and LinkedIn.

Here’s a sample tweet that you can ask attendees to share when they join your event:

Here’s a quick guide from Whova about creating a hashtag for your conference.

8. Host a contest

Are you thinking contests are for children? Well, we’re here to tell you they aren’t. Contests are a unique virtual conference engagement idea.

But to host a contest, you need to consider the specifics and a gift or more.

Your contest can be a simple user-generated content idea like asking attendees to share pictures of themselves or their settings while attending your virtual conference.

Or it can be something like asking questions, engaging in polls, or anything else.

9. Create a private group on Facebook to familiarize your brand with attendees

We’ve touched upon how social media can be a great tool for your virtual conference or expo.

In addition to helping with registrations, you can create a Facebook group to introduce your brand to attendees and spark engaging topics.

It will also help you extend your relationship with attendees beyond the day or duration of your conference.

10. Offer an Ask Us Anything booth

A great way to get attendees to engage in a virtual venue is by having an “As Us Anything” booth. In a physical event, this is known as the “information booth.”

This type of booth helps attendees interact and engage with you as the event organizer. It also helps you stay ahead when it comes to glitches, problems, and any kind of confusion for virtual event first-timers.

The information booth can help you turn customer complaints and problems into opportunities for a better customer experience.

 

More virtual conference tips with Eventtus

Phew! Those were a lot of tips! But we’re not done yet.

We have 3 more virtual conference engagement ideas but this time from within the Eventtus virtual platform.

11. Exhibitor and sponsor booths

We’ve mentioned that exhibitors and sponsors are important for any event. At Eventtus, the event organizer has the opportunity to decide on the size of the virtual booth for their exhibitors and sponsors.

This can be something you can use to attract sponsors and exhibitors

If you haven’t considered event sponsors, here’s why you should. Of the 3,850 marketers and event organizers surveyed by Markletic:

  • 87% said they used virtual event platforms that offered sponsorship booths.
  • 91% allowed sponsored sessions because they helped generate extra sponsorship revenue.

12. Circles for networking

Networking is an essential part of any event. In fact, it’s what many businesses worry about when taking their event virtual.

At Eventtus, our networking area is called Circles. These are available for event organizers, exhibitors, and sponsors. In addition, attendees can create their own circles to connect and network with others.

Virtual conferences need to provide small group settings — workshops, breakout groups, even smaller panel discussions — where participants can truly interact and engage instead of just sitting back and watching. In real life, some of this happens naturally, but when everything is mediated by a screen, these efforts need to be deliberate,” notes Hootsuite chairman Ryan Holmes in a Forbes article on virtual events.   

You can create Circles based on topics or themes to engage attendees after side chats or sessions and spark conversations. This is one of many virtual networking ideas you can consider.

13. Use pop-ups

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view from the Eventtus virtual mobile platform

Pop-ups or triggered messages can be a great tool to drive engagement and help your audience.

See a session that’s under-booked? Send a notification to your attendees about the topic and start time to spark some interest.

 

Want to remind people about an ongoing contest or giveaway? Send a notification to let them know.

You can also send notifications for a poll you’re running that you want your attendees to weigh on.

A tip: Don’t overdo it with pop-ups. They can be super helpful but overdone, they can be super annoying.

 

Track your conference with analytics

One of the top benefits of using a virtual event platform, like Eventtus, is having event analytics.

With analytics, you can track a variety of information during and after the event.

From you’re tracking event registrations via your website and social media, to tracking your most-attended sessions, there are many options to look at when reviewing your virtual conference.

 

Final words

There are many ideas out there to generate engagement and as virtual conferences and events gain more traction, more ideas will come to light.

The important aspect is to be ready to experiment with different engagement ideas. What works for your audience may not work for another company’s audience.

Do you have an idea in mind? Share it with us in the comments.

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