Attendee Engagement Starts Early: 14 Virtual Tips to Excite People Before, During, and After the Event

June 20, 2023

Getting people to sign up for and attend your event is only half the battle. Now the real fun begins … It's time to engage with your audience!

For better or worse, nearly half of event organizers say attendee engagement, though one of the biggest marketing challenges, is the top contributing factor to a successful virtual event.

This means that as you're planning your event strategy, you should be thinking about how you'll keep people interested, intrigued, and in the moment. Engagement isn't relegated to the time of the event, either; it starts long before the event and wraps up afterward, as you'll see with our post-event engagement tips.

Today we're breaking down our best event engagement tips, as well as pre- and post-event strategies. You'll learn how to give your events the best shot of generating a lot of buzz (and ROI!) and how to grow brand awareness for your company.

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Ready to get inspired for your future virtual and hybrid events? Let’s dive in!

Pre-event engagement tips

So, your event is scheduled and you're actively promoting it across channels. As event planners, your goal right now is to keep your virtual event top of mind for people, get people really excited about the event, and boost your overall attendance numbers.

Here are some tips to do just that!

Gifting and swag bags

Gifts provide a really nice, personalized touch for your audience members. As a general rule, these tend to work best for VIP events and experiences.

You can work with a third-party vendor to have a kit sent out to event attendees in advance of the live streaming experience. Perhaps you ask several attendees to do an "unboxing" style opening of their bag and post to social media to raise awareness of your brand and upcoming events.

Or try doing a virtual-only swag bag! Depending on your budget, you can pack these full of resources, gift certificates, and other goodies with a relatively low lift on your end.

If you want to do a giveaway for larger-scale campaigns, that can work, too. Try messaging that teases a swag giveaway; tell people you'll be raffling off something like a t-shirt to attendees, but they have to attend live to be entered. Our organizers did this for Webinar Week and Rock Your Funnel and found that people loved the chance to win live!

PS: Get even more ideas on how to supercharge your events with smart gifting.

Emails

Pre-event emails, like registration confirmations and digital event reminders, serve to keep your audience in the loop before the event. You can also prompt registrants to take certain actions ahead of the event.

For example, you could send a form and ask people who are signed up for the event to submit questions in advance. Then, you can use those questions to guide the discussion, or feature several of the questions during the live Q&A portion of the event.

Or, you might use pre-event emails as an opportunity to promote certain aspects of your community and let registrants know how to get more involved, or to share relevant content that can help people learn more before the big day.

Networking rooms

Now's the time to build out any relevant breakout rooms or networking rooms, which are great tools to warm people up before the event and help people with common interests connect. Networking is one of the biggest things people miss from the in-person event days, so offering a chance to replicate that is a huge plus!

We've found it's helpful to have a distinct theme that's relevant to your audience. Assign an internal "owner" or "moderator" for each room; this person will be responsible for guiding discussion or moving things along.

Another good tactic is to have an internal person in the room before anyone else arrives. That way, they can break the ice and dispel the awkwardness that tends to pop up when people feel like they're "first" in a room (something else that you may remember from the in-person days!).

Branding

This one might sound like a bit of a stretch at first, but hear us out!

Taking the time to brand your event experience can take it from feeling like "just another online meeting" to a true, well, experience. When people feel that way, they'll show up energized and excited on the actual day of your event; they'll be ready to see more.

We recommend fully customizing the look and feel of your entire event experience—that means that the second someone clicks on your landing page, they should understand what you're all about.

On the day of your event, aim to be as engaging as a Netflix show (easy ask, right?). Pre-event buffer videos are a nice touch to amp people up before the event starts and start off your day with strong momentum.

Social media

For larger events or a recurring series format, tap into the power of social proof. Create hashtags that people can use to spread the word about the event or share info during your session.

Use the event hashtag anytime you post event-related or relevant content, and keep an eye on its growth to see how often people are sharing content.

It's showtime! Live event engagement tips

All the elements are in place for your event to be successful. Now, it's time to go live and keep people active throughout your event!

A major piece of advice here is to tell people how you want them to engage. Have your moderator or initial speaker be upfront with people about what actions you want them to take. Should the audience be chiming in with GIF and emoji reactions throughout presentations? What's the best way to ask questions as they arise?

Being clear with expectations helps get everyone on the same page before the event is truly underway.

One note: Be sure that the host of the event addresses questions and comments as they come up. If you want people to ask things, be ready to answer them! That will make your audience feel as if they're participating in a two-way conversation and not just watching a one-sided keynote.

Here are some other ideas organizers can use to increase engagement during your event:

Live chat

Again, prompt folks early on to engage in the live chat. The goal is to get people talking—the more, the merrier!

Some initial icebreaker prompts that work well:

  • Let us know where you're joining from today! Drop it in the chat.
  • Tell us your name and the current weather where you live.
  • Connect with other attendees! Share your LinkedIn in the chat.

With Goldcast, you can highlight relevant chat features throughout the conversation via the lower-third of the screen. This keeps certain convos or topics top of mind for people and allows them to easily follow along with both the chat and the speakers.

Polls

Polls can be the perfect way to kick off your virtual conference. Create a prompt related to your topic, and then share the results with everyone who's attending! This will spark conversations and keep them going during the event.

Polls can also give you some helpful intel for relevant post-event follow-ups. For example, if the majority of people indicate that they're looking for help with a certain pain point, your sales team can tailor emails to speak to that challenge and address how your product solves it.

And don't feel like you can't launch polls during the event! Polls can be great "active interludes" that allow you to break up longer segments and get people involved.

Be creative here! One recent example we love: Drift's "Go to Market Showdown" featured two experts going head-to-head, with the audience chiming in via poll to declare the winner. Check out the highlights below!

Q&A sessions

At this point, most people expect Q&A so while you're not exactly offering anything groundbreaking here, it's still an expected way to allow for audience engagement.

We find it's helpful to have a dedicated tab for Q&A so hosts and moderators can easily find and manage questions. Otherwise, they can get lost in a sea of chats! Bonus points for being able to move questions accidentally dropped into the regular chat into the Q&A tab (psst: Goldcast has this functionality!).

Again, don't save questions and answers until the very end. Keep an eye on questions as they roll in, and ask them when they're hot off the press. You can also highlight the question on the stage for more visibility.

For maximum engagement, try video Q&A! This allows attendees to join presenters on stage and engage with the speaker live. Because people may be nervous to do this, it's helpful to have an internal person do this first to break the ice. You can also offer an incentive, like a small giveaway, for the first video Q&A participant.

Booths

If you're looking for a way to showcase partners and sponsors, look no further. Booths give people a space to promote themselves and share their own resources and materials. Be sure to cue your hosts to prompt the audience to check out the different booths!

You can also think outside of the booth (sorry, we had to!). This doesn't necessarily have to be a sponsor area; you could make it more of an event content hub, with booths for different themes that relate to your event. People can peruse at their leisure and discover more valuable content as they go!

Embedded apps

You can leverage embedded apps to keep people interested for longer periods of time. Some good examples include games (Pac-Man and Connect Four come to mind), photo booths, and interactive whiteboards.

The idea here is to keep people in your event, while giving them a "brain break" that feels refreshing and fun. Taking a minute to snap some candid photos is a fun breather—and, as a bonus, it gives people content to share on social media to promote your event!

Video production elements

Similar to what we covered with pre-event branding, video production elements are seemingly small touches that really elevate the overall event experience.

These are elements like:

  • Sharing polls to the stage
  • Displaying comments across the lower-third of the screen
  • Changing up speaker layouts
  • Using pre-recorded video clips to break up longer sessions
  • Fun virtual backgrounds

Being thoughtful about the way you produce your event can tie things together and make for a more seamless attendee experience, which fosters engagement.

Gamification and leaderboards

Game-like elements are a surefire way to engage attendees. A bit of healthy competition can motivate people to interact and engage in the hopes of winning.

To start, tell people how they can earn points and climb the leaderboard. Maybe it's using the live chat, visiting different booths, asking questions, etc. Then, folks can visit the leaderboard to find out how they're doing compared to other attendees.

You can also have your hosts shout out the high scorers to keep the friendly competition going!

Live event entertainment

We're all in favor of the occasional entertainment break. There's a reason long plays have an intermission! People's attention spans are limited, and folks tend to enjoy quick breaks and come back to the content feeling reinvigorated.

The options here are endless:

  • Bingo games
  • Trivia
  • Dueling pianos
  • Magician acts
  • Yoga or meditation breaks
  • Cocktail, coffee, or snack class
  • DIY arts and crafts

People are probably not coming to your event expecting to see a live magic act—which is great because it means their interest will be piqued!

To see some options in action, check out some of the highlights of the in-event entertainment sessions we hosted during Rock Your Funnel.

Post-event engagement tips

Now that your event is over, it's time to think about how you can maintain the engagement and conversation you worked so hard to generate. This is your chance to share relevant content with people, keep them informed on future events, and make them feel like they're part of your community.

The most important thing here? Give people a clear next step. What do you want them to do? Be transparent about this in your communication!

Personalized follow ups

People generally expect you to follow up after the event to thank them for coming and send the on-demand event link. This allows people to view the content at any time after the session.

The easiest approach is to send a single email to all registrants with the above info. But if you want to take it a step further—which we recommend!—segment your list and send different emails to people who attended vs those who did not attend. Include different resources for each audience and different next steps.

This is where MAP and CRM integrations come in handy. With the right virtual event platform, you can easily get the info you need to send hyper-personalized follow-up emails. Your sales team should also be able to use the data to gain insights on prospect activity and follow up accordingly.

Surprise, delight, engage → now rinse + repeat for future events!

You now know that engaging attendees is a big job, and it starts way before your event.

It takes time to build a process around engaging people before your event, keeping folks energized during the live event itself, and then following up in ways that keep the conversation going—but the payoff is well worth it.

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