As an association leader, you may find it difficult to make virtual events engaging without the in-person connections that form during traditional events. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to create a virtual event that is fresh and exciting, though.
It will require additional effort and creativity to make your event immersive and enjoyable for attendees. From the first time they navigate to your event landing page until they click off your event hosting platform, attendees should have a cohesive, engaging experience that presents your organization in the best possible light.
With the tips in this guide, your organization can plan a high-quality virtual event that rivals that of an in-person event. Let’s get started!
Don’t wait until the day of the event to get people excited about it. To get members excited about your speakers, sessions, and workshops, start by sending innovative online invitations to your supporters.
Consider leveraging online invitation software that allows you to customize your invitations with your association’s branding. Some platforms even have animation features that make your invitations look like they’re coming out of an envelope, just like a real letter. Then, add the link to your event registration page to encourage people to sign up.
You’ll also want to promote your virtual event online to attract more attendees. Getting Attention's guide to digital marketing suggests using a variety of platforms for best results, such as email, social media, blog posts, search ads, and your website. For example, you may tease the event on social media with a behind-the-scenes look and include details about the event in your email newsletter.
When you use a platform that keeps all of your event information in one place, you eliminate the need to switch between different systems, and data will flow together automatically. As a result, you can focus more on the experience you’re providing to attendees and less on managing details. The best event management software will lighten your load by automating repetitive tasks and offering a variety of user-friendly tools.
For example, Fonteva recommends that associations look for an all-encompassing association management software with event management capabilities, such as live streaming, panel platforms, event registration, and event promotion. That way, associations can keep all of their event management activities in one place while also managing other member communications as well.
Event management software simplifies the virtual event planning process even further when it integrates with your existing tools. For instance, if your organization already uses a CRM based in Salesforce, look for a platform that’s a native Salesforce application to avoid lengthy data transfers or having to build integrations.
Video is one of the most immersive forms of media. In fact, viewers claim to remember 95% of the content contained in a video, proving this type of content will elevate your virtual event experience.
Videos allow you to communicate large amounts of information in a more interesting, engaging way than text. Take a look at the different types of videos you could use in conjunction with your virtual event:
When you invest in a user-generated video platform, you can create all of these types of videos for your next virtual event. These platforms can also make your videos more authentic by setting up a video request landing page and obtaining clips from customers, staff, beneficiaries, supporters, or association members, depending on your organization type.
If you want to entice people with your virtual event content, don’t rely on vague descriptions of what your organization does or the topic at hand. Expand on the opportunities your organization can provide members with.
Storytelling helps people understand your organization on a deeper level and become more engaged in your event. For example, an animal shelter hosting a virtual fundraising event will have better success explaining the story of Hazel, a cat that was just adopted by a loving family after a volunteer found her abandoned on the side of the road, as opposed to simply stating that their organization prepares pets for adoption.
When you tell a story, you inspire people to learn more about your organization. Whether you’re an association explaining how a networking opportunity you provided helped one of your members secure a new job or a nonprofit describing how donations to your cause have changed the lives of specific beneficiaries, stories have the power to elicit action.
Lastly, storytelling helps you build transparency and trust with attendees. Attendees will be more attracted to your organization if they can point to a real-life example of how your organization has benefitted the people it serves. Even if you’re not trying to promote a product or service, storytelling ultimately captures attendees’ attention and leaves a lasting impression after your virtual event is over.
If you’re wondering how to make your virtual event more engaging for your audience specifically, leverage data that represents their demographics and interests. Take advantage of the data in your customer relationship management software (CRM) to personalize your content to your attendees.
For example, if the majority of your audience belongs to Gen Z, you may capture their attention by inviting an industry-relevant influencer to speak at your event and featuring a variety of authentic user-generated content.
You can also use your CRM to segment your supporters and alter your event messaging accordingly. Creating one segment of past attendees and another of members who have never attended your events can help you focus your outreach and personalize your communications to both groups.
Past attendees may receive a message that says “Welcome back!” when they join your event whereas new attendees may be greeted by “We’re excited to have you join us!” This level of personalization shows that you care about each attendee’s individual experience and can get them excited about the event right from the beginning.
To gain more qualitative feedback to incorporate into your events, consider sending surveys to your audience. Ask them what types of activities would interest them and gain insight into what made your past virtual events stand out for attendees. Then, you can add these elements to your next event.
Virtual events have the unique opportunity to engage people around the world from wherever they may be. Take advantage of the possibilities that virtual events present, and make yours distinctive by putting the attendee experience at the forefront of your strategy.