A Look into Engagement in the Virtual Era

15 Feb, 2021
Guides | Insightful Blogs

Over the past year, our event options have narrowed, and until a true return to the show floor is possible in all regions, virtual remains the only safe option for many. But we are all human, and sitting for hours in front of screens can be soul-destroying.  So how can we up the ante and deliver events that engage?  And how can we translate this into tangible ROI that we can benchmark?

Engagement is the vital ingredient in a successful virtual event. Yet delivering consistent results has proved to be much more elusive than expected – a variety of recent event surveys indicate engagement as representing one of the most significant challenges to overcome, with over 30% citing it as a major issue.

Without engagement, a virtual event is no more than a webinar. It is the key value item that keeps an audience onboard and involved.  From the design of the event, technology elements to excite and engage, to an inclusive digital engagement strategy- we have some ideas to share!

Setting clear goals from the outset underpins a successful event – irrespective of whether it is virtual, hybrid or physical! Realistic KPIs provide the basis for measuring success and proving ROI.  For digital engagement, this is particularly challenging so it pays to be realistic.  Increasing website traffic to key pages, boosting social media following, lead generation, audience participation and interaction all contribute to giving a complete picture. Fortunately tracking attendee engagement in this context is integral to our Exhibition 3.0 virtual platform concept, providing insights into attendee participation as well as delivering key metrics – check out all the ingredients on offer here.

For the vast majority of event attendees, networking is an intrinsic part of a memorable event.  It gives them the chance to engage, and this is particularly true with virtual events. You need a platform that provides inherent features to encourage natural networking, as well as an event mindset that facilitates it.  So, chat areas, breakout sessions, networking lounges, and increasingly, gamification elements, combine to deliver the human connection that is so vital to all of us.

Apps can play an important part, encouraging attendees to get to know each other – share profiles and identify common interests – promoting a sense of connection throughout an event. We have designed our Exhibition 3.0 platform to incorporate a range of customisable, exciting elements that go into creating unique networking scope – it’s all about tailoring the tools for the event goals.

The design of the event itself sets the tone, providing the difference between one that engages or melts into the unmemorable. Of course, great speakers and content are essential, but they can be complemented by clever session formatting, cues to encourage attendee involvement, and the appropriate use of technology.  Planning all the elements of an event involves close teamwork, crafting the platform to reflect the objectives and deliver the results.  Great presentations can be elevated to a higher level with AR and special effects, orchestrated for full impact with precise technical direction. Careful formatting keeps audiences on their toes, with quickfire presentation styling, live Q&As, on the spot surveys, chat windows, attendee matching up and workgroup creation.

Interaction during the event establishes a dynamic between organiser, presenter and audience. By creating conversations between the various players, delegates automatically become more involved. Add an experiential dimension and new levels of engagement can be achieved. By introducing technology elements such as VR, AR and 3D, it is possible to harmonise the physical event elements, such as the presentations, and the digital. It’s not about using technology for its own sake, but about selecting the right tools to elevate the content and deliver an experiential brand experience.  (Good to include a tangible example here – perhaps Dassault – to reflect how Cook delivers on this – clips from the video showing the stage direction, speaker and tech team etc – OR link to a mini Dassault case study as it encapsulates many of the blog content elements).

At the end of the day, it’s ROI that determines how successful an event is.  And for that, you need insightful analytics that enable effective benchmarking.  From the first outreach and registration, through to post-event interactions, the event tracking provides the key to unlocking the answers.  The number of client connections, time spent per session, number of sessions attended, geographic breakdown, post-event access – all combined into a comprehensive analytics dashboard. This is without doubt the backbone of a successful event strategy, irrespective of whether its virtual or hybrid.

If we can prove what works, what captures a delegate’s imagination and brings them back for more, we can achieve a truly effective engagement.