How to Engage Attendees Virtually

In every generation of events there is a buzzword that takes over as a synonym for success.  It is the way that we collectively look at an event and intuitively determine its value.  Years ago, I remember the discussion of great “event design”.  I took great pride in designing a fantastic event that was built on my clients’ brand and creating the experience they wanted.  We then started calling it a “curated experience.”

We crafted the event moment by moment to create the desired effect.  From the moment an attendee walked through the door to the coffee-to-go station when they left, we knew what we wanted them to think or feel.  We then transitioned to “experiential events”.  Everything was about creating an experience that attendees couldn’t get anywhere else – immersing them in an environment.

Today, the buzzword word is “engagement”.  How do we engage attendees and clients so they feel included, welcomed, important, and interested?  It is still important to have great design and focus on the little moments that attendees take with them.  As engagement becomes a new priority, it is interesting to think about why.

Our attention spans have disappeared.  I gain value from something 15 seconds at a time.  If that sounds like an exaggeration, time it.  Take out your phone (it is probably already out) and time 15 seconds.  Feels like a long time!  I cannot even step into an elevator without reading an article on my phone.  If your event has lost my interest in 15 seconds, I have moved on. Pay attention to how much of your day is unfocused.  How often when in the midst of a task do you pick up your phone or scan your email out of habit?

We live in a society of exhibitions.  We enjoy watching the world around us or performing for others.  Social media has made us immune to human interactions.  We comment but we don’t connect.  We say things we might never say to a person’s face, or we ignore and move on to the next comment.  We rarely look at someone and ask them what they are really feeling.  We live on the surface and keep everyone there with us.

Given this new human condition, how do we create engagement and move from experiences to connections?  Candidly – it is very hard.  It requires a kind of empathy that “designing an event” did not.  We must build on the skill developed from curating moments, creating a path for the emotional connections that we thirst for.  We must create experiences that change perspectives – experiences that people cannot find elsewhere.

  • Create a common goal.  Everyone joins an event for a reason.  It should be agreed upon and stated clearly.  We are different people, but we want similar things.
  • Agree to join the community.  Members of a community care about each other.  They work to improve each other’s experience and are invested in the outcome, even if the community only lasts for the duration of an event.
  • Deliver value in digestible chunks. Provide sessions that allow for breaks at the appropriate time.  Attendees want to laugh and cry, learn something new, then break to debate opinions with their colleagues or friends.  Valuable content is relevant and personal.  Once information is personally connected, it lasts forever.

Our solutions for virtual attendee engagement include a virtual celebrity chef experience, mediation & yoga, celebrity mixologist, and live entertainment to name a few.

To engage people at an event, we must tell stories that build the connection between information and attendee. We must show imagery that burns into someone’s mind. We must connect the physical to the virtual, give them something to physically hold.  This creates the connections that last.

At McVeigh Global Meetings and Events, we believe in the power of human connections.  This is how we create them.