10 Powerful Virtual Event Engagement Ideas for Every Event Format

June 19, 2023
Meisha Bochicchio
Meisha Bochicchio
Senior Content Marketing Manager at Goldcast

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Ask any event marketer, and they’ll tell you…

Audience engagement is the single largest challenge when it comes to virtual events.

And for 49% of those marketers, it’s also the number one contributing factor to a successful virtual event.

Because the truth is, while virtual events definitely have a lot to offer, it can be tricky to reach the same level of engagement as their in-person counterparts.Unless of course, you happen to have some proven attendee engagement tactics up your sleeve. And, luckily for you, we’re full of them.

If you’re ready to reach whole new engagement heights with your event experiences, we’ve got you covered with 10 powerful ideas to keep your attendees switched on and tuned in from beginning to end.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • First, what is ‘virtual event engagement’ exactly?
  • Why virtual events are all about the engagement
  • The 10 best virtual engagement ideas (+ when and how to use them)

👋🏻 Oh, hey there! Don’t forget to browse our latest case studies to learn how today’s leading event marketers are acing engagement!

First, what is ‘virtual event engagement’ exactly?

At a virtual event, ‘engagement’ essentially means how well your event maintains the attention of your attendees (e.g., no behind the screen snoozing 💤).

Depending on your format and platform, virtual event engagement can be measured by:

  • Average time spent in the event
  • Individual session, booth, and discussion room attendance rates
  • Booth video view time
  • Number of resources clicked or downloaded
  • Number of poll responses
  • Number of questions submitted
  • Total demo requests
  • Call to action (CTAs) clicks
  • Number of chat, video, and direct messages

With the right virtual event management platform, each of these engagement metrics can be tracked both at the event and attendee level.Because if you’re really going to rock your virtual events, you have to ensure every attendee, whether they’re at home or in the office, is participating just as much as they would at an in-person event.And that means giving your attendees every opportunity to interact and add value to their experience.

Why virtual events are all about the engagement

Today, some30% of companies say they want to improve the way they encourage audience participation. And yet, only 44% believe they’re actually effective at keeping audiences engaged. 😬

Here are a few reasons engagement is such a pressing priority for modern event marketers:

  1. Engagement is, more often than not, a direct indicator of how successful your event outcome is going to be.
  2. It also provides real-time feedback on which content and topics are best resonating with attendees to help you make future events even better.
  3. Above all, how well you engage attendees is going to have a major impact on their perception of your brand. Ace it, and they’ll be back for more. Drop the ball, and you’ve lost their trust.

Whether the goal is to learn what’s working well so you can amplify those areas at your next event or simply to increase your event return on investment (ROI), one thing is for sure:

Virtual event engagement has to be front and center in your strategy at all times.

So let’s get to the good stuff with 10 fun and interactive engagement ideas proven to win with virtual attendees.

The 10 best virtual engagement ideas (+ when and how to use them) 🤩

Keeping dozens or even hundreds of virtual attendees engaged for hours (or possibly even days) can seem like an overwhelming task.But with these top 10 ideas, there’s no way you’re flunking the engagement challenge. In fact, we’re pretty sure you’ll ace it.

When perusing this list, be sure to find your faves, ensure they're a good format fit, and consider the top tips for bringing them to life in a virtual event environment.

#1. Swag 🛍️

Hands up if you’ve ever attended an event solely because of the fabulous freebies you’d otherwise miss out on? Hey, we’re not judging — gifts are awesome. 🙋‍♀️Give the people what they want with unforgettable virtual swag bags that boost brand awareness and increase attendee engagement. Whether you choose to mail out physical gifts — such as branded confectionery, gadgets, hampers, etc. — or go totally digital — think: food vouchers, cinema tickets, App Store credit, and more — virtual event swag bags are a great way to kickstart engagement.

Works for: Most event types, just be budget aware if attendance numbers are high.

Top tip: Collect a mailing address during registration so you know where to send it.

#2. Networking opportunities 🗣️

When the folks over at PathFactory asked their survey respondents, ‘What aspects of a virtual event make you want to stay, listen, and engage?’, an overwhelming 67% of attendees responded with ‘Having opportunities to participate and interact with the speakers and other attendees.’Get your attendees talking with peer-to-peer messaging, video conferencing, networking hubs, and randomized breakout sessions.

Works for: Every event type, big or small!

Top tip: To avoid those awkward tumbleweed moments, deploy moderators to kick off the convos and keep them flowing.

#3. Social media 📱

You might already know that 60% of virtual event organizers use social media to drive registrations. But why stop there?

Social media isn’t just a pre and post-event tool; it can keep attendees engaged during your event too!

Generate the ultimate FOMO for those not in attendance with an event hashtag that encourages attendees to share a selfie, like a post, or write a comment.

Works for: Large-scale events (VIP shindigs tend to prefer privacy over promo).

Top tip: Make sure your handle and hashtag are everywhere: in your pre-event communication, at the live event, and on your customizable event platform.

#4. Virtual photo booths 📸

Lights. Camera. Engagement. 🎬

Folks today love nothing more than to share what they’re up to on social media. So give them something more interesting than their morning Starbucks to shout about.Snapbar and WeBooth are just two powerful options for virtual photo booth integrations that can get attendees interacting with your brand and boost social shares via user-generated content that’s sure to skyrocket engagement.

Works for: Virtual conferences, summits, and tradeshows — any event that has a share-worthy wow factor.

Top tip: Seize the opportunity to add your logo and event hashtag for ultimate brand visibility across social channels.

#5. Q&A 🙋🏾

Loved by some 62% of virtual event organizers, Q&A sessions are the most popular virtual event engagement tool out there.

And with next-gen video Q&A, you can even invite audience members on stage to ask their questions live. This will make your audience feel extra connected to the speakers or presenters and foster meaningful conversations.

Works for: Virtual conferences, summits, webinars, product launches, sales kickoffs — pretty much any event where questions are welcomed, and answers are value.😍

Top tip: Have a moderator on hand to keep attendees on-topic and reign in any long-winded question askers.

#6. Polls 📊

For obvious reasons, a big part of engagement is interaction. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking interaction only has to mean networking.

Polls are used by nearly 82% of virtual event organizers to increase interaction. Not only do they engage those who are tentative about networking, but they can also help shape the way speakers and moderators navigate a topic.The end result is added value for attendees and deeper attendee-level insights for you. 😉

Works for: Medium to large-scale events. The more poll data you gather, the better informed your next event strategy will be.

Top tip: Remember to keep your poll questions simple and be sure there’s an answer option for everyone.

#7. Gamification 🎲

Event gamification is the process of using game-like elements to engage your audience. From collecting badges to multi-user gaming experiences to complex scoring systems and digital leaderboards, virtual event gamification is a perfect strategy to keep attendees in your event.As your attendees’ personal scores go up, you can bet your event engagement score will increase too.

Works for: All event types. For larger conferences and summits, single-player games can be easier to run. For more intimate gatherings, competitive multi-user games are great for forging connections.

Top tip: Utilize gamification software like WeBooth and Drimify for a next-level experience.

#8. Speakers and entertainment 🎤

Every event needs speakers and entertainment — it would be a pretty dull get-together without them.But the role your speakers play and the type of entertainment you opt for is totally up to you.

Whether it’s an industry maverick, live band, Michelin Star chef, or celebrity cameo, make sure you choose speakers and entertainment that align with your event theme and attendee profile.

And if you have the budget, this is the place to go all out.

Works for: (And is essential to) every event format under the sun.

Top tip: Go outside the box! Book a band, run a movie marathon, curate a tour, host a happy hour — whatever will produce the wow factor to make your event (and your brand) memorable and keep engagement sky-high.

#9. Sponsor and sales interaction 🤝🏼

If you’ve nailed your sponsorship selection criteria, engaging with sponsors should be something your attendees actually look forward to.

For the event pros over at Gremlin, sponsorship booths for 1:1 interactions were a revolutionary way to engage attendees and generate attributable ROI for sponsors. #winwin

The same goes for your sales team. By positioning your reps in a virtual booth that comes seamlessly after a high-profile session, you avoid that ‘salesy’ event feel and create a consultative environment attendees can appreciate.

Works for: Virtual summits, customer events, product launches, tradeshows, and conferences.

Top tip: With sales and marketing misalignment cited as the #1 reason an organization’s revenue stagnates or declines, events are the perfect opportunity to master the art of account-based management and continue engaging leads throughout the funnel.

#10. On-demand content ⏯️

Attendees love quality content.

In fact, 40% of virtual event attendees agreed that having supplementary content available to read or download in-session would increase their engagement.

But engagement doesn’t stop after attendees exit your event. It carries on long after through the evergreen on-demand content your event produces.

Once the show is over and you’re about to hit send on that pivotal follow-up email, take a second to remind your attendees where they can find all the content goodies they had access to during the event, plus the recordings of all sessions.

With the right virtual event platform, you can also track content engagement, such as the number of downloads from your resource center, and use those insights to inform your sales follow-up strategy.

Works for: Every type of event.

Top tip: Consider the ways you can repurpose your event content to produce incredible on-demand resources to use again and again.

Mission: achieve epic event engagement. Status: aced it.

When it comes to virtual event engagement, variety is everything. And while networking may be the ultimate experience for some, there will always be others who just want to have a little fun, interact with sponsors, or dive deeper into topics to get their questions answered.

So have fun and mix it up. Because at the end of the day, a high-engagement experience is how you position your virtual event as the one that can’t be missed.

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