2020 may be firmly in the rearview mirror, but the coronavirus pandemic is not. This means that for the foreseeable future at least, event professionals will have to continue to plan and host hybrid or virtual events. While these event formats offer a number of benefits, like increased revenues and greater audience reach, there is one significant drawback—screen fatigue! Our work and social lives have moved online which means we spend an increased amount of time staring at our computer monitors. In order to hold a successful virtual event, and keep virtual attendees satisfied, you will need to do more than disguise a webinar as a full-blown virtual event. To help you combat virtual event fatigue, we’ve put together this list of useful and actionable tips!
When planning your virtual event, you need to do so with attendee engagement front and center in your mind. Webinar and Zoom fatigue is very real and so you need to create an experience that is going to go above and beyond a simple virtual meeting. Use data from previous events to really define your event goals and hone your target audience. Once you have pinpointed who you expect to attend, you can present the content that they will want. It is much more difficult to become bored and fatigued when you are interested in the subject matter being presented. Tailor your event as much as possible to speak to the needs and goals of the audience.
Because engagement and audience ‘buy-in’ are essential in combating virtual event fatigue, gamification can be one of your biggest assets. Event gamification takes elements of games and competition and applies them to a non-traditional setting. Adding competition, fun, and camaraderie to your virtual event will break up the steady flow of information, prevent people from becoming bored, and improve the overall event experience. Consider adding trivia contests, virtual scavenger hunts, escape rooms, polls, and even traditional board games to your event agenda. Make sure that the prizes and rewards for participation are worth the investment or you run the risk of attendees feeling like the gamification is just a bit of a chore.
No one likes to spend all day sitting passively and staring at a screen while someone talks at them. No matter how informed and well respected your speakers are, an audience will struggle to focus if your event consists of back to back lectures. Diversify content by including networking sessions, Q&As, fireside chats, product/service demos, meet and greets, whatever makes sense for your event theme. The more you can do to change up the pacing of your event and keep the audience on the edge of their seats, the better.
Preventing screen fatigue at your online event is more than just getting the audience to interact with the sessions, it is also about making them comfortable. At live events, attendees have freedom of movement and can easily take breaks when they need and network with each other when not listening to a keynote or seminar session. When they are at home, they can take breaks, sure, but disengaging from the screen can also mean disengaging from the event. Schedule more breaks into your agenda than you would ordinarily and run light programming in between major sessions. Open a viral lounge or breakout rooms so those who don’t necessarily want to take a break from the screen have something to do. Set up your virtual space to create the best possible audience experience. Use fonts that are easy to read, offer closed captioning and, if possible, translation services. When deciding on event content, consider as many diverse perspectives and presenters as possible. Including persons of color, women, religious minorities, and LGBTQiIA+ voices can go a long way to helping your audience feel comfortable and increase the learning opportunities at your digital event.
When planning your virtual event, event organizers need to consider timing. The virtual event format eliminates the need to worry about traffic or weather-related scheduling troubles, but it does not mean that you do not have to still consider the date and the scheduling of your content. You will want to avoid holding your event on or around holidays or significant occurrences. If your target attendees aren’t already booked for those dates, they will likely be distracted by their plans and other considerations. Similarly, avoid holding your event near or on the same day as other big virtual events. You do not want your audience to have to choose (in case they choose the other!) and you do not want them feeling burnt out after having sat through another event before attending yours. If you are attempting to attract a global audience, consider making allowances for different time zones. Try to avoid scheduling sessions that might create significant conflict or complications to someone hoping to tune in outside your timezone. One way to handle different time zones is to use simulated live video (simulive). Simulive allows you to broadcast pre-recorded video as if it were live, complete with live moderation and chat options. This live vibe will help keep audiences engaged and reduce potential event fatigue.
Social media is a great way to build relationships and foster community. It is also a great way to avoid virtual event fatigue. It is likely that your brand already has a social media presence but you should create a page for your event as well. Use this space to generate excitement and stoke conversation. Post interesting and relevant content to get people talking. Attendees can ‘meet up’ before the event, giving them something to look forward to when the event date finally arrives. A virtual audience can see your event as more than just fancy video conferencing but as a social event as well. Social media can help your event brand to appear more attractive and interesting. Because you can engage directly with individuals, it will humanize your brand and establish the sense of trust that is necessary for audience engagement and attendee satisfaction.
We mentioned above that you should work additional breaks into your event agenda. But instead of just scheduling dead air, consider working in some actual activities. This is a great time to add some gamification but you can also take things a step further by using the time for icebreaker activities or wellness sessions. If you are hosting a multi-day virtual conference, for example, try hosting an early morning group yoga session. Maybe break up a long day with an afternoon guided meditation or stretching routine. End the day with a virtual cocktail hour. Think carefully about your target audience and include the activities that you believe will make the most difference to them. If you are at a complete loss, consider including a short survey with your event registration.
Most of the tips mentioned above require the use of comprehensive virtual event software. Accelevents is a hybrid and virtual platform that allows you to register attendees, host keynote addresses, panel discussions, networking sessions, small group activities, live and simulated live video stream, and gamification, while offering real-time data to help you make the right decisions on the fly. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the events industry longing for live events and totally saturated with video calls and remote meetings. But just because you cannot host a physical event, it does not mean that you cannot create a truly valuable virtual experience. We are all tired of staring at our screens but if you make use of a platform like Accelevents while following the tips laid out above, you can combat virtual event fatigue and keep your audience tuned in and interested! [/fusion_text] [/fusion_builder_column] [/fusion_builder_row] [/fusion_builder_container]