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Physical events offer interactivity through questions and answers at the end of a session. This approach is also common in webinars, blended with polling questions integrated into a session. But all teams defining virtual event programs are challenged with how to improve interactivity during a virtual session and understand what works live and what works for recorded options.
Moderated Q&A and polling questions in live sessions inherited from the webinar blueprint
Webinars mimic the interactive elements in the toolbox for physical events. We can ask polling questions during the sessions, where a virtual audience responds on their PC and a physical audience with a smartphone app. In parallel, they can ask questions in a moderated chat box, with answers provided at the end of a session.
Moderators creating interstitials in between sessions
An essential part of the interactions in virtual/hybrid events is the bridging between sessions. Moderators can add color to the transitions by reflecting on the finished session and talking up the coming session. Great snappy 60-90 second interstitials eliminate the risk for session transitions becoming the commercial break that makes your audience switch channels.
Moderators can be live or recorded. In both cases, moderators need to be entirely up to speed on the scope of each session and excellent at delivering messages in 15-30 second bites.
Unmoderated chat during virtual sessions
An alternative to the moderated chat-style from webinars, you can consider an open chat where the audience can interact with speakers and other participants. The level of engagement you can expect varies between audience types.
The unmoderated chat is highly transparent, and all comments are visible to the audience. Anyone can comment—an approach you have to decide if it aligns with your preferences.
Unmoderated chats can attract party crashers joining your event to hijack the conversation for their agendas. This approach also relies on a knowledgeable team behind the scenes, able to questions rapidly once they become visible. Be prepared for tough questions.
Twitter interactions during sessions for social savvy audiences
Twitter is a great engagement tool for social media savvy audiences. Your audience picks up on details from your speech or takes pictures of your visuals and tweet. You or your team can post curated visuals and highlights from your talk on your business’ and speaker’s social media accounts.
This model works both for live and recorded options but requires a ghost poster if you speak live. Not very complicated as the social scriptwriting represents the heavy lifting
Speakers present when recorded sessions go-live
This alternative is a new option introduced with recorded virtual sessions. When speakers record in advance, they can both talk and engage with their audience at the same time when the session goes live. If speakers can not attend the go-live moment, someone from their team might backfill.
This option is limited to recorded sessions and represents an underappreciated option that is easy to pull off. Just announce yourself in the chat when your session starts and interact with your audience throughout the session.
Use a TweetChats to create excitement before the event
If it is a more significant event, you can boost interest and momentum with a tweet chat. Use an influencer with an extensive network as a moderator and aim for a one-hour session with a new question posted every 5-6 minutes for best results. Your audience interacts with the question posted via Twitter. Consider using the same question you address in your talk, and you get valuable input from your audience before doing your speech.
Tweet chats work great for both live and recorded talks, as there is no production link to your prime delivery.
Offer virtual demos as a complement to pure speaking sessions
Various event platforms have a demo section to mix speeches and demos. Expect your virtual audience to be more excited by the speakers than the demos. Reversed compared to physical events where demos often is the part people come to see.
Demos work for both live and recorded events. Demos provide a tad better experience for live events where you have dead zones between sessions, whereas recorded sessions have a fully packed flow with fewer options to drop out into demo rooms.
Sum up an event with a Fishbowl session after hours
A nice wrap-up of a 3-4 hour event gathers all speakers for a moderated after-hours chat, and you are mimicking the wind down after a physical conference. For an excellent fishbowl session, you need a seasoned moderator who listens to all seasons as they go live and access the speakers. A more exclusive group of 30-50 people make it easier to blend in audience questions in the chat. You can deliver a fishbowl session with Teams, Zoom, or a social audio media platform like Clubhouse, Dizhua, TT voice, Tiya, and Yalla. Pick the option where your audience already hangs out.
This type of interaction is limited to live as you want to engage your audience during the rush-bowl session.
Create a bridge between sessions with a break-out room
For significant events, you can insert break-out sessions in the program. Aim for parallel sessions where a smaller group gets to talk, managed by one moderator in each room.
This option is limited to live events between scheduled speeches.
Additional questions for you and your team
- How eager is our audience to interact – it is hard to create virtual interactions beyond what you see for the target audience at physical events.
- How concerned are you about transparency for questions asked?
- Which interaction types work best for you now?
- Which of the options above do you want to try first?
Additional reading suggestions
- How to boost attendance and engagement at virtual events [ARTICLE] – Lauren Weatherly, Forbes
- How to drive social interaction at your virtual event [BLOGPOST] – David Meerman Scott
- 10 brilliant virtual event[s] & conferencing audience engagement ideas [BLOGPOST] – Gayatari Poswal, Airmeet
- 7 tips to improve audience interaction in your virtual events [BLOGPOST] – Annie Teh
- 18 Ways to Engage Attendees at Virtual Meetings and Events [BLOGPOST] – Madison Howard, Cvent
- 6 ways to make more engaging and interactive virtual events [BLOGPOST] – Worksup
- First Look: The ultimate guide to virtual event engagement [BLOGPOST] – Meetingplay