We put on our thinking caps and tried to come up with ways to bring remote and in-person attendees together during an event.
When the pandemic turned our industry on its ear, we focused on engaging attendees in a virtual setting. And just when it seemed like relative in-person normalcy was on the near horizon, hopes were dashed over the summer. We’re now in an uncertain environment where almost every event will feature both on-site and virtual components.
This creates challenges for event planners who understand how vital the sense of community is to an event’s success.
While we’ve witnessed a litany of inventive, immersive experiences for those in virtual attendance, technology hasn’t exactly caught up some of our more groundbreaking and innovative ideas for bringing the live and virtual audiences together. Trust us, though, the geniuses are working on it!
Technology limitations don’t mean each type of experience can’t be equally fun and fulfilling for attendees. Since the power of events is in connecting people, our group of brainstormers called down the creative thunder to devise ways we could bring the in-person and virtual audiences together.
Connections made on common ground.
Whether they’re on the convention hall floor or in a Barcalounger at home, attendees want to share their experiences at an event. It’s up to event planners to bridge the virtual gap by promoting shared experiences, as well as unearthing common interests and providing common goals.
96 million people can’t all fit into SoFi Stadium.
Live sporting events have been serving in-person and virtual audiences for decades. Some experiences are exclusive to the venue and others are aimed at the home audience. Treating your event like it’s the Super Bowl will open the door to engagement strategies that existing technology will support.
Create exclusive content for virtual attendees. The pre-game show isn’t for the people in the stadium. It’s there to entertain home viewers while fans in attendance park, shuffle to their seats with their $12 hot dogs. Give your virtual audience something to chew on before the show that doesn’t cost twelve bucks.
Offer pre-event, pre-recorded video content featuring teasers from key speakers, post-presentation analysis from participants via Zoom, and person-on-the-street interviews from the event floor using trusty smartphones.
The fans in the stadium aren’t the only ones yelling when someone scores a touchdown. Ensure virtual attendees can be heard and share their reactions with those in attendance at the event. Run their social media posts like a chyron on your virtual event platform. Project chat on the big screen during speaker Q&A, and do the same with participants interacting during sessions via Zoom.
When we watch a major sporting event like the Super Bowl, all of us feel part of the event even if we’re not there. Small measures like these can strengthen the sense of communal experience shared by all in attendance.
Take a hint from Peloton.
If people will pay thousands to get yelled at while riding a bike that goes nowhere in their dens, why not hybridize wellness sessions? Remember getting up early for walks or yoga sessions at live events?
There’s nothing preventing virtual attendees from going on a walk around the event site or surrounding area with help from an iPhone camera. If QA can be made interactive for virtual attendees in the hotel ballroom, they should be able to join an on-site yoga or Zumba class via Zoom. Virtual participants can have their images plastered on the big screen, so everyone can see each other and rightly feel that they’re enduring early morning exercise together.
Provide your in-person and virtual attendees with glorious, common purpose.
We believe it’s important to encourage virtual and in-person attendee interaction across the digital divide during the event. Look for ways to bring onsite and virtual groups together in the interest of achieving a common goal. People will work and play together if they are trying to achieve the same thing.
We’ve experimented with inserting campaigns into the event such as fundraisers that give back to the community. These activities can also be different degrees of involvement, such as scavenger hunts with virtual and onsite components or games like Bingo or Trivial Pursuit that offer similar experiences regardless of location.
Community is not place.
Your event’s community is comprised of the people in attendance, wherever they are. Since it seems like virtual will be part of events for the foreseeable future, event planners need to keep innovating when it comes to engaging both onsite and at-home attendees. We hope the ideas offered here stir your creative juices in time for your next event. And please share your own ideas with us by chatting us up on LinkedIn.