Content Marketing
4 Virtual Event Engagement Ideas to Keep Guests Happy

4 Virtual Event Engagement Ideas to Keep Guests Happy

February 14, 2024
5 min read

So, you’ve decided to host a virtual or hybrid event.

You’ve spent weeks pouring over the details, from tapping into the latest marketing trends to creating a pain-free registration process. Your team has put significant time and energy into planning a stellar event, and the last thing you want is for guests to mentally “check out” 15 minutes into it.

Fortunately, organizations are constantly developing new and innovative ways to catch and keep the attention of their online audiences. We’ve compiled a few of the best tips so you can follow their example and keep your online audience engaged in your next event. Let’s get started!

Make Your Event Easy to Join and Enjoy

Have you ever arrived at an event and been a little unsure about what you were supposed to do as an attendee? Perhaps you didn’t know which conference room to go to or where to sign in and get your name tag. It’s a nerve-wracking feeling that you don’t want to replicate for virtual or hybrid guests!

The last thing you want is for guests to fumble with their technology while trying to join your event, and as a result, miss the start of the event itself. Your goal should be to make it as easy as possible to join and participate in the event.

For example, say that you’re hosting an online charity auction. To make it easy for guests to join and get set up, you could send a direct link to your online auction site or mobile app that guests can access without creating an account or signing in. Or, you might email guests step-by-step instructions on how to register themselves.

No matter what kind of virtual event you’re hosting, make sure to streamline the steps for guests and make it as simple as possible for them to join. An organized process from start to finish allows guests to focus less on how to engage with your event, and more on the engagement itself.

Add Interactive Elements to Pull Guests Back In

Here’s the thing: Even if you’re watching something that aligns with your interests and is exciting from start to finish, it’s easy to zone out when you’re staring at a screen. You’re inevitably going to lose the attention of a few folks during your event. That’s fine! It just means you need to incorporate a few strategies to re-engage your guests and pull them back in.

You can do this in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Text messages or push notifications. You can use quick texts and notifications to get guests’ attention at any event. Returning to our auction example, you might leverage mobile bidding software to send guests outbid notifications to alert them that the item they want is up for grabs. These messages keep guests engaged and help you solicit more bids.
  • Live chat. Allow your guests to talk to organizers and other attendees in real-time throughout the event. This will increase engagement, especially for those joining a live or hybrid event virtually. For even more engagement, recruit a volunteer to keep an eye on the chat and ask fun questions to help keep the momentum going. You can even utilize chat to mitigate guests’ technical issues and offer support!
  • Polls and surveys. This idea not only re-engages guests but also lets you learn a bit about the individuals who are attending your event. You can ask guests to give their opinion on a specific topic discussed, answer trivia questions, or even answer general questions about themselves and why they’re attending your event.
  • Competitions. Few things are more engaging than a little healthy competition, and there are plenty of ways to use it at your event. For example, you could have a running trivia contest throughout the event, randomly posing trivia questions and keeping track of which guests answer the most correctly. The winner gets a prize! Or, you could split guests up into teams and have them complete engagement-related tasks throughout the event. The team that completes the most tasks wins!

These ideas aren’t meant to be the backbone of your engagement strategy. Instead, these are the quick, eye-catching strategies that you sprinkle throughout the event—so if a guest zones out and finds themself staring at a wall rather than paying attention to the event activities, they can quickly be wrangled back into the main event.

Keep Up the Momentum Throughout the Event

Have you ever attended an event that didn’t have a clear ending? Maybe the excitement slowly died down as it got later in the night, and guests trickled out as the event lost steam.

To avoid this,  you want to ensure your event has a strong pace from start to finish, providing equally engaging moments from beginning to end.

Keep the following tips in mind to drive your event from the opening to the finish line, maintaining steady engagement along the way:

  • Provide updates throughout the event. For example, if it’s a fundraising event, you might project a fundraising thermometer to show guests how much has been raised and how much is left to reach your goal. If you used any of the competition ideas from the previous section, you could provide updates on who is winning the competition at different intervals.
  • Feature a live presenter when applicable. Bringing in a charismatic emcee to provide some entertainment between event sessions can liven up all kinds of events. Auction organizers might use live auctioneers, while a professional conference might have a well-known host introduce your speakers.
  • Consider making the event four-dimensional. For example, you could mail a meal (or even just some snacks) to guests for them to enjoy throughout the event. Or, you could include a tutorial session in which guests make something alongside a presenter, again mailing the necessary items to guests in advance of the event itself. These ideas can draw guests into the event and make it seem more intimate and less like they’re connecting with your team via a computer screen.

These ideas are only the beginning. If you have trouble coming up with new ways to keep up your event’s momentum, see what other event planners in your sector are doing and take inspiration from what works well.

Leverage Specialized Event Software Features

The software you use to host virtual and hybrid events likely has plenty of exciting features you can leverage to keep online guests engaged.

For instance, if you use specialized software to host silent auctions, mobile bidding features allow guests to bid from anywhere and get notifications when they’re outbid. Other features like online auction catalogs give you the opportunity to open bidding for different items throughout the time the auction is open to keep interest. For instance, rather than opening your entire auction at one time, you could save a few items or categories and open those with a big announcement via text and social media to encourage more engagement.

Your event software might also include in-app participation features that allow guests to participate directly from their phone or tablet, making engagement convenient and accessible. In-app experiences often include features such as push notifications and live chat that make the experience more interactive and engaging.

Additionally, any type of event software should let you livestream the event and help virtual attendees feel like they’re in the room with you. Explore the event platforms you currently use and see if there are any features like these that you could use to engage guests more effectively.

When you run virtual and hybrid events, it can feel like you’re speaking out into the void. With these ideas, you’ll keep up the pace of your event from start to finish and decrease the virtual space between your team and guests.

As you try out these ideas, monitor their success by sending a post-event survey. This will give you the best insight into whether your engagement efforts made an impact and help you improve them for the future.

Jeff Porter Jeff Porter, CEO

Jeff is no stranger to fundraising events, having participated in them for over 25 years. He ran his first fundraiser in 2005 and has managed over 50 auction events and fundraisers for his own charities, not to mention hundreds more with Handbid. Jeff has been involved in technical product and software development since 1996 and has built and managed mobile app solutions since 2008. When it became clear that he and his wife, Kari Porter, needed a better solution for their fundraisers, developing a mobile bidding app was a no-brainer. The result? Jeff and his wife Kari developed and launched Handbid in 2011. The rest is what they call “history.”

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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