There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Audience engagement has always been a challenge for event marketers.
But with Zoom-fatigue evolving from a buzzword to a bona fide mental health marker, event pros are having a tougher time than ever to not only get folks to sign up for their digital events — but actually show up and have a good time once they’re there.
For better or worse, attendee engagement remains the number one contributing factor to a successful virtual event for nearly half of event planners. If you want your events to generate all the buzz (and ROI!) they deserve, you’ve got to do everything you can to make your virtual events as engaging as possible.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry.
We’ve got you covered with 12 proven engagement tactics, broken down into five core categories — from communication tips to building a magical brand experience and even leveraging your event data for — you guessed it… more engagement!
We’ve even assigned a simple star rating to each of these virtual event engagement ideas to help you understand which options are likely to have the biggest impact on your attendees.
Ready to get inspired? Let’s dive in!
As an event marketer, you already know the attendee experience has to be at the heart of any event. And if there’s one thing attendees really want from an event, it’s the opportunity to actively participate in the conversations taking place. Which means giving your attendees the ability to interact has to be a top priority.
Here’s how you do just that.
Now don’t get it twisted. The low star rating here doesn't mean chat functionality isn't essential. The truth is, having a live chat at your virtual or hybrid event just isn’t something to rave about anymore. It’s so crucial, it’s expected.
In fact, for some 67% of PathFactory respondents, having the opportunity to participate and interact with speakers and attendees is the reason they show up (and stick around) at virtual events. In the modern era of event marketing, a chat function is a prerequisite feature you simply can’t afford to overlook.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Go beyond simple peer-to-peer messaging and introduce video conferencing, group networking hubs, session chat, and randomized breakout sessions.
🎬 Event engagement in action: For the event team at leading chaos engineering platform Gremlin, attendee interaction was priority one. The team needed a virtual event platform that offered a variety of networking opportunities, from 1:1 chats and speaker-attendee conversations to group breakout rooms and sponsor and speaker booths.
With a clear focus on building engagement, the team at Gremlin secured 2K attendees, 1K MQLs, and a 3.5 hour average attendance time for their annual virtual conference. Find out how they did it!
When it comes to webinars and virtual events, polls are a fan favorite.
And given that they’re used by nearly 82% of virtual event organizers, they’re a big hit with event teams too. Not only does live polling engage those who might be tentative about jumping in and networking, but they also help shape the way speakers and moderators navigate a topic in real-time.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Displaying and discussing polls is great, but be sure to actually use them too. Poll data can help event marketers generate ideas and help shape relevant event follow-up or inspire future topics.
🎬 Event engagement in action: The conversation crusaders at Drift utilize polls to actively gauge what their attendees are most interested in and what their current focus is.
We know. Q&As have done the rounds on the virtual event scene. In fact, they’re a staple loved by some 62% of virtual event organizers.
But when it comes to building engagement, the event Q&A is still king. A stellar Q&A allows virtual and hybrid audiences to feel extra connected to speakers and peers by fostering truly meaningful conversations throughout the event.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Submitting Q&A questions remotely is great, but with live video Q&A you can take it up a notch and invite audience members on stage to ask their questions live!
Event gamification is the process of using game-like elements to engage event attendees — and it’s a real ace-in-the-sleeve for event and field marketers. Gamifying your digital events can help motivate attendees to interact, engage and of course — stay inside the event if they want to win that prize. 😉
Icebreakers are arguably an event essential. So why the low rating?
Honestly, they’re usually just a little (or more than a little 😬) outdated, cheesy, or lacking in imagination.
That said, if you can shake up your icebreaker ideas — think: team challenges, an event-wide virtual game, competition for best workplace anecdote, etc. — icebreakers can and will get your attendees talking.
At Goldcast, we like to break the ice early by asking attendees to share where they’re joining from. We also like to launch a poll near the beginning of the conversation to get a pulse on what’s on people’s minds and prepare them for what’s to come.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Create randomized breakout rooms to create a more relaxed networking vibe.
If the excitement factor is what you’re after, integrated gaming solutions like Drimify and Engamio allow you to design and launch interactive games within your virtual event. The process is simple—once the game of your choice is embedded into the event app, attendees are free to pop in and check it out at any point.
Now, we know what you’re thinking—isn’t this super distracting? Actually, no! If you use Goldcast, the main stage will simply minimize but remain visible, so attendees still get to consume your content.
These apps are actually designed to save folks from bailing. If they need a brain break, they can passively enjoy the event while still staying in the event experience—versus going to check email or, worse, leaving the event altogether.
Simply put, gamification not only builds engagement — it also lets the attendee guide their own experience.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Customize your digital event games with your company branding and add irresistible prizes to the mix to keep attendees motivated.
🎬 Event engagement in action: Check out how the app automation experts at NS1 created their own arcade game to keep their events fun for attendees!
People love to know when they’ve achieved something, and they love even more when others know too. So why not create a leaderboard in your event? Give regular shout-outs to top performers and use real-time score updates to keep attendees gunning for gold.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Use point-scoring to guide attendees through your event and make sure they don’t miss a thing. Then take these point-led interactions and use them to craft personalized follow-ups to wow your attendees even after the event has closed.
Engagement isn’t just about entertaining your attendees — it encompasses the entire event experience for all your attendees. Make sure you have the right digital event format supported by features that make it easy for every event stakeholder to have an unforgettable time.
Allow sponsors to create their own virtual rooms and booths inside the event to help transform impromptu conversations into meaningful relationships. You could even stage your own dedicated virtual spaces for product demos to provide attendees with the closest virtual equivalent to an in-person experience.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Personalize the attendee-sponsor experience with custom calls to action (CTAs) inside each booth
🎬 Event engagement in action: The event team at Gremlin used booths to their full advantage by offering sponsors a place to connect with attendees while also using them to host their own 1:1 product demos.
Branding is the why behind your event marketing decisions — it’s how you give meaning to your event and tell your brand’s story. And that’s a big deal.
But great event branding also makes your digital events memorable (and that’s pretty key, too). From the moment attendees click on your registration page to the second they enter your virtual event, right up to the automated follow-up emails they receive once it’s over — your brand story needs to be consistent and engaging.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Bring your brand to life with colors, gradients, fonts, and images across all elements of your event.
🎬 Event engagement in action: For the translation wizards at Smartling, creating an event experience as engaging as a trending Netflix show was the ultimate goal — which meant no more clunky Zoom logos. The team customized every aspect of the event. Attendees didn’t even know which event platform they were using!
I was very impressed with how much customizability there was on the Goldcast platform. Smartling’s identity and voice look professional, cohesive, digestible, and sleek.” Charrel Montalbo, Brand Designer, Smartling
Let’s be honest. Sometimes the only thing keeping us from skipping an event is the thought of the fabulous freebies we might be missing out on. By splashing the swag, you’re not just doling out water bottles and branded pens. You’re creating a shared experience everyone can buzz about. (Plus, event swag is great for your brand awareness and recall metrics too. 😉)
🆙 Level up your event engagement: With corporate swag and gifting platforms, you can wow your attendees no matter where in the world they are.
60% of virtual event organizers use social media pre-event to drive registrations. But your branded or event-specific social media channels are also an excellent engagement lever.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: Generate the ultimate FOMO with an event hashtag that encourages attendees to share a selfie, like a post, or write a comment.
🎬 Event engagement in action: Salesloft’s super savvy event team knows the value of spending a little time making their virtual events Insta ready — say cheese!
The virtual photo booth was great because we wanted to give people an opportunity to interact with our brand and also advocate on our behalf by posting those virtual photo booths on social media.” — Jennifer Cummings, Director of Global EventMarketing, Salesloft.
Content is literally the stuff great events are made of. From your speakers to your entertainment, your event content strategy can work wonders for driving engagement.
Attendees love quality content. Who doesn’t, right?
But with the era of ‘sit back and listen’ largely behind us, it’s time to drop the PowerPoint and start thinking outside the box if you really want your attendees to switch on and engage with your event content.
Here are a few ways to help mix up your delivery:
🆙 Level up your event engagement: On-demand content is a great way to increase engagement via your event follow-up emails. Remind attendees where they can find all the content goodies they accessed during the event, plus the recordings of any sessions they couldn’t make.
🎬 Event engagement in action: Whether it’s hosting a freestyle rapper like the legends at Drift, hiring a comedian to lighten the mood for Metadata’s B2B audience, or busting out the band for a Starburst-inspired set — event engagement truly is what you make it.
At the end of the day, events are there to help brands better connect with their audiences. Review your event data to pinpoint key intent signals, personalize your sales conversations and make your next event even more epic than the last one.
Tap into the attendee and account-level insights in your event data to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what types of content attendees respond to, the top questions they have, and ways to make your next event even more unmissable.
If a session is poorly attended, a booth isn’t frequented, or content isn’t downloaded — you have the data you need to make the change and drive event more engagement next time.
🆙 Level up your event engagement: With real-time data insights, you can respond to key attendee intent signals while your event is still happening.
As attendee expectations rise, event marketers across the globe are working even harder to deliver a never-before-seen event experience.
The pressure to stand out is on as attention spans shrink.
But with the right mindset and tools, you can host virtual experiences that delight and engage attendees — and watch those pipeline and revenue numbers grow.