UKSV’s Top 12 Tips for Keeping an Online Audience Engaged
With the rise of live streaming, virtual events and webinars in the professional sphere, being able to hold the attention of an audience online is becoming increasingly more valued as events organisers look to take events onto a virtual platform. Navigating the transition from face-to-face to online, however, is no small feat, and careful consideration and attention to detail is essential.
One of the biggest challenges in live streaming virtual or hybrid events is keeping a remote audience engaged. In a world where you can no longer see your virtual attendees, you have given them a ‘cloak of invisibility’. It is easy for them to tune out as the societal pressure to be a good audience member is no longer there as they aren’t being watched by you or other attendees – gone are the days where an disapproving cough was enough to recapture the attention of these day-dreamers or social media checkers.
At UKSV we have been curating events like this for over 10 years now, and we’ve picked up some nuggets of wisdom along the way. Below are our top 12 tips to engaging an audience throughout your online or hybrid event.
1: Consider Your Aims
Most importantly, consider what you want the event to achieve. This is no different to a physical event – if you don’t know what you want people to do after attending your event, they won’t do it no matter how good the event is. Set simple achievable objectives and build your event around ingraining those in your audience.
2: Consider Your Content
A lot of people believe that an online event can be run similarly to a face to face event without making any significant changes to the programming. This unfortunately isn’t the case. There are many things to consider when trying to repurpose your content such as breaking the programme up into smaller chunks and allowing your guests the same networking capabilities that they would have received on the day. In situations where you have two audiences, for example your in-person audience and your virtual audience attending your hybrid event, you need to be considerate of both. One of the aims of the hybrid event is to give both audiences the same experience of your event, meaning both audiences are your primary audiences.
3: Consider Your Voice
The quickest way to disengage people is to talk in a monotonous pitch throughout, instead try to vary the way you talk; sound interested in what you are talking about and your audience will be more inclined to listen. The delivery of your talk an often overlooked but integral part of your event. We have done a lot of work in this area, and we offer speaker training to those who are lacking in confidence, or those who need work on pitch and timing. It is worth noting here that talking at virtual events rather than in-person events differs greatly and where you might be comfortable in a room full of people, speaking directly to camera can be a little different. Make sure you are familiar with what you are saying, and mindful of how you are saying it.
4: Make Friends With Awkward Silences
This is especially important in the first stages of your virtual or hybrid event. If you discourage people from interacting in the beginning of the conference or webinar, this will have a knock-on effect throughout the event and people will feel as though they aren’t able to take part. The easiest way to get people interacting is to allow awkward silences to run out. The longer you wait the more likely it is that someone will speak up, and once this ball is rolling, you often find that is enough.
5: Be Comfortable With The Technology
Do some test runs first. It is important that you know how to do your online event so that you can ensure a smooth running on the day. Your audience will mentally checkout pretty quickly if you start to experience technical difficulties, so it is up to you to minimise this risk as much as possible.
6: Get People Involved
Perhaps one of our most important tips: you want to include interaction. Keep the audience engaged and on their toes with elements such as a poll, a collaborative whiteboard session or a question and answer session. There is only so long audiences will sit and listen to a speaker talk at them, rather than engage with them. We can help you deliver these interactive elements specific to you and what you are trying to achieve with your event.
7: Be On-Screen
Include visual aids, but also include yourself. It is easier to listen to someone talk when you can see their facial expressions and their body language since we rely so heavily on both.
8: Look at the Camera
Aesthetics plays a large part in how professional your event feels. Make sure your camera is level with your eyes so your aren’t looking up or down at the camera (this can make you look submissive or domineering – neither of which is really the look you are going for) – it can help to put a couple of stick notes with arrows either side of your webcam – especially if you’re using an inbuilt camera – knowing where your audience “is” is paramount.
9: Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
The virtual environment can be fairly unforgiving, and you want to know your content inside out. It will be obvious if you are reading your content from the screen or you’ve forgotten who you are supposed to hand over to next so make sure you’ve done your homework.
10: Consider the Medium
Think about each of the ways that your audience could be watching your event. You need to optimise for not only laptops but also for mobile and tablet too.
11: Run Time – Keep it Succinct
Just because you had a 2 day event off-site before doesn’t mean you need a 2 day web conference! Take this opportunity to refine your content to the pertinent points – people are bouncing from one virtual meeting to another and I’m sure you’ve all experienced digital fatigue because of that. Keep meetings to a morning maximum or shorter if possible. Most things can be said in an hour and to be honest, your audience is not likely to remember all of that so keep it relevant.
12: End on Time
No one likes being kept after class, and this is relevant to online events and presentations too. Try to keep yourself on a time limit, without negatively impacting their ability to understand the content given to them.
UKSV can offer all kinds of assistance with virtual and hybrid events, from content creation to execution. If you would like to see how we can help you and your event plans, visit our virtual events page or give us a call via our contact page – we are always happy to help!