It’s no secret – online events are here to stay. Whether that be fully online or hybrid, your members want the opportunity to attend events from the comfort or safety of their own home. With so many online events bidding for the attention of your members, how can you ensure that you’re providing the best experience?
An online event should provide just as much value to your attendees as an in-person one. When you incorporate the best parts of in-person events into the virtual experience, your attendees will leave feeling like they got value out of the event.
Think about what your favorite part of an in-person event is. Are you thinking about networking and social opportunities? We are. Members join an organization not only to learn more information in their field and stay up to date with the latest trends but also to meet like-minded individuals. When possible, incorporate those fun networking opportunities into your online event. Give members a chance to get a break from the informational sessions by hosting virtual coffee hours, trivia nights, or networking breakout sessions.
Another key part of events is the opportunity for members to network with the speakers. While it can be harder to incorporate this into the online experience, we think it’s worth it. Consider giving your members an option to sign-up for breakout rooms after each speaker presents where they can have an additional 5-10 minutes each to engage and ask further questions. By creating a sign-up sheet with limited spots, members will be encouraged to register for your event and get engaged earlier.
Another way to decrease screen fatigue during an online event is to give attendees breaks, either in the middle of a speaker presentation or in-between speakers. Encourage them to grab a coffee, walk the dog, or pick up lunch. Your attendees will come back refreshed and ready to hear more.
Incorporate live polling and Q&A during your speaker sessions to get members to actively participate. They can also see the responses to the polls live. Think of questions that relate to the topic of the event that sparks a dialogue between attendees. For example, if you are hosting a session about How to Plan an Event, asking a question like “What type of event does your association typically see the highest engagement with?” can allow attendees to better understand what is working for other participants.
Promoting Your Event
Make sure to build a microsite or landing page for your event where members can quickly see the value, the pricing model, and who will be speaking. Including a FAQ section can also be helpful, as attendees often have the same questions.
Another thing to consider when promoting your event is how you want your members to hear about it. Email marketing and social media are both great ways to alert your members about a new event in places that they are already hanging out.
Event Hosting Platforms
You’re probably thinking, “This is all well and good, but what tools do I actually use to host my online event?” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve all used Zoom this year more times than we can count. It’s a platform your attendees are most likely familiar with, so a platform that integrates with Zoom is crucial.
Make sure when you’re researching event hosting platforms to choose the right partner for your association. In the demo process, map out the virtual experience that you’re trying to provide, and make sure that the platform can accomplish the basics. Then, you can use some of the extra features they may have to differentiate the platforms.
If you want to include some of the networking features that we described earlier, check out if the platform you want to use allows attendees to network with each other or speakers.
Technology can be unpredictable, so when looking into event platforms, consider what kind of tech support they offer during the event, for both staff and attendees.
Another important feature to consider is the ability for attendees to virtually engage during the panels. This may be through live chatting or polling features.
Just because you’ve become an expert on the platform you’re using to host a virtual event doesn’t mean your members have. Don’t assume your attendees will know how to use the event platform you’ve chosen. By providing them with a how-to guide before the event starts, you’re showing them that you want them to have a seamless experience and reducing the number of questions you’ll have to field on day one of the event, giving you more time to focus on the important details.
When you give your members a chance to engage, network, and discuss during online events, you’re helping to provide them with a similar experience that they would get in person. Avoid screen fatigue by giving attendees breaks and polling them during the discussions. By providing an online event that stands out and understands the wants of the attendees, you’re creating more value for your members and they’ll come back for more.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.