Rethinking the virtual summit: 5 tips to increase attendee engagement

Major tech companies around the world are instituting worker travel restrictions and work-from-home policies in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But that’s not all. Major players like Adobe, Atlassian, Dell, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce have replaced upcoming in-person conferences for virtual summits. For a full list of companies that have either canceled events or are now hosting virtual summits, check here.

An unseen side effect of the rapid spreading of COVID-19 has been its impact on, and acceleration of, the future of work. With less global travel, there’s been greater importance placed on video conferencing, virtual conferences, and digital collaboration. While tech workers of today may be well-versed in remote engagement, this sudden increase in virtual summits actually provides an opportunity to up the digital collaboration ante; making virtual conferences more engaging than ever before.

Typically, switching from an in-person event to a virtual summit follows this framework: stream all the conference sessions and allow for playback at a later date, at the attendee’s discretion. As simple as this may seem, this actually provides an opportunity for attendee disengagement. Recorded sessions make it much easier for attendees to multi-task, passively learn, or worse, not watch the sessions at all.

Use this opportunity, and the following ideas, to enhance your virtual summit and transform it from a passive experience into an actively engaged and collaborative one. Your attendees will thank you.

Gamify attendee engagement

Incorporating gaming elements into your virtual summit is a surefire way to increase engagement and take your online conference from good to great. Poll Everywhere Competitions offer a seamless way to gamify audience engagement and keep the attention where it should be – on the speaker or topic. Using real prizes provides a competitive edge and an element of surprise that your audience will not forget. Have the winner email you after the competition is over to collect their prize.

Make your agenda interactive

Empower your audience to provide their input on which subtopics they would like to see covered, how long to discuss each, and which questions they would like addressed first. Giving your attendees some decision-making power is a quick way to improve their engagement and personalize their experience. Poll Everywhere makes this process simple. In real-time, you can take quick votes and polls to determine the conversational flow, get instant feedback, and immediately adjust to the direction of the virtual room.

Invite collaboration

Let’s face it, monotonous PowerPoint presentations can be brutally boring and painfully uninspiring. But, they don’t have to be. Why not switch out your static slides for interactive content that turns presentations into collaborative workshops? Similar to a breakout session, interactive presentations can provide a framework for attendees to work together to create a deliverable or key takeaway. Poll Everywhere’s real-time response display also serves to generate discussion around attendee ideas.

Capture instant feedback

Harvard Business Review has cited this as one of their keys to hosting a successful virtual meeting. The benefits of collecting feedback are many; they can influence future business decisions, change the course of the virtual conference to fit the audience’s unique needs, improve internal processes for hosting virtual events, and much more. Collecting valuable feedback allows you to fine-tune your virtual summit to better engage your audience, while your event is in session.

Provide virtual attendance options

If your event has not yet been canceled, or you’re waiting to decide if it should be, it’s a good idea to provide virtual attendance options. Your attendees may be hesitant to travel, and allowing for virtual engagement with your upcoming conference sessions prevents anyone from missing out. Enable password-protected live streams of keynotes, breakout sessions, or main events. Keep remote attendees engaged with a tool like Poll Everywhere to host Q&As, collect feedback, or upvote and downvote responses.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, remote work, remote meetings, and virtual summits will become increasingly prevalent. Is your organization prepared? Join us next Tuesday, March 17th at 1pm PDT as we share best practices and expert advice on creating your most engaging presentation yet – from anywhere.

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