Why COVID-19 is Going to Revitalise Attendee Engagement

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COVID-19 has been merciless in removing so many of the things we once took for granted. Venues, physical crowds and face-to-face meetings have all taken a prolonged leave of absence to ensure we can still operate during the pandemic. But if there was ever proof that some things never change, it’s our ongoing, if-anything-even-tougher battle with driving attendee engagement.

Research from EventMB shows that 40% of organisers have failed to host a successful virtual event in 2020. Their biggest challenge? Engagement, selected by 31%. This is by far the most commonly cited reason, above obstacles such as a lack of tech knowledge (21%) and the struggle with gaining new sponsors (14%).

With just 13% of planners having issues with attracting attendees, it seems we have the numbers to make virtual work but haven’t cracked the engagement puzzle. More frustratingly, it’s a problem that many would have foreseen and are still unable to avoid.

For context, it’s vital to consider the type of digital events we’re running in 2020. We’re not just hosting the odd webinar or breakfast briefing; some of us are trying to retain an audience’s attention over multiple days, which is much harder to do and especially on your first time out.

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We’re also having to redefine audience engagement as we transition into the digital realm. Tracking comments and questions is a good starting point, while completed session views mark a serious upgrade on the humble clicker. From here, we can really start to dissect each session’s resonance to see how many attendees were not only staying to the end, but actively taking part.

‘Digital attendee engagement metrics’ might be the most commonly Googled phrase from event organisers this year, but our current educational void isn’t a bad thing. Without the tech to put everything in black and white, we’ve been guilty of measuring engagement through our own interpretations of ‘atmosphere’ and ‘energy’ – two subjective qualities that virtual organisers have struggled to replicate, but never provided concrete evidence of success.

Digital brings new challenges, that’s for certain. What we hope is that organisers take the initiative and enjoy the improved accountability of digital, where it’s much easier to tell wrong from right.

The enhanced role of technology also makes it easier to measure engagement with sponsors, through digital booth views, attributed traffic to websites, leads and countless others. On top of meetings scheduled, we could even drill down into the time per appointment to see if our discussions are actually going beyond the usual formalities.

This equates to a more transparent view of engagement across all the key touchpoints. Of course, it’s one thing to measure and another thing to drive, but we’re not done yet. With experience comes excellence, and we’re expecting a big overhaul in the technologies and strategies used to push things forward.

To get an idea of what we’re talking about, tune in to watch EventsCase’s session “Engagement and Revenue in Post-Coronavirus Events” on day five of Event Tech Live (Nov 6, 14:30 – 15:00). We’ll be going through all the different ways of building excitement around your virtual and hybrid experiences with some special tips on monetisation for good measure. Alternatively, head over to the EventsCase site for an idea of how we’re engaging tens of thousands of virtual attendees with cutting-edge tools.