While research has shown that it takes 8 seconds to capture an audience’s attention, keeping their attention is a different story. Even when live events were the norm, anyone who has presented in front of a live audience understands how difficult it can be to keep attendees engaged throughout a session or presentation. Now, with live events, conferences, and exhibitions being moved to virtual event platforms, the challenge to maintain audience engagement has become even greater. A virtual event might have good content but it will still have to compete with online distractions like social media, emails, and even work tasks that are just a click away.
Current sentiments also appear to indicate that audience attention spans are shortening, particularly because the most popular online content is short and succinct, making it difficult to engage with them for extended periods of time. However, this has been proven false, and Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at Open University, claims that people’s attention spans are ‘task-dependent.’ This means that the amount of attention people pay to a task is determined by how demanding it is and how well they can process the information given their prior knowledge.
As a result, virtual event organisers must ensure that they have compelling content that their audience is interested in, as well as opportunities for them to directly interact with the content in order to keep them engaged throughout the programme. Thus, this article will go over a few pointers that can help event organisers better connect with their virtual audience and keep their attention for a longer period of time.
How To Maintain Audience Engagement During Virtual Events
1. Create compelling content
As mentioned above, compelling content will be the first step in ensuring audience engagement. This is because the audience is probably attending the virtual event as they want to learn more about a specific topic and so, it is important that they feel like they are acquiring new knowledge or insights throughout the event. There are a number of ways to ensure that the event content is interesting and compelling. For example, companies planning virtual conferences can gather employee feedback on what issues and products they would like to be addressed so that they can structure their content accordingly.
Another way to create compelling content is to engage speakers who are not only experts in their fields but also can deliver their content in an interesting manner. While the presentation does not have to be over the top, it does help if the audience can see that the speaker is passionate about their topic, and thus keep them attentive. Another aspect of creating compelling content is reducing technical issues. This means making sure of the following: strong Internet connection, the software has been updated to the latest version and that the online event platform can adequately accommodate all of the event’s needs.
In addition, having well-produced videos and presentation decks is a hidden tip to making sure audiences are engaged as people tend to focus more on aesthetically pleasing visuals and content.
2. Provide opportunities for interaction
A virtual event with exceptional content may be for nought if the interaction is only one-way, with audience members expected to simply sit and listen. This is because, unlike live events, virtual event attendees can easily leave if they become distracted or do not find the content interesting. As a result, virtual event organisers can keep the audience’s attention by allowing them to engage with and interact with the content directly. As a result, a good event management system will include audience interaction features such as polls, Question & Answer (Q&A) sessions, Live Chat, and even raffles. All of this can be done at regular intervals throughout the event so that attendees can test their knowledge through polls, have their questions answered by speakers, win prizes, and give feedback about the event. Even something as simple as running a session preview video before a presentation can hold an audience’s attention while the speaker gets ready.
Moreover, scheduling breaks in between different sessions is also a good way to keep audiences engaged. While people’s attention can hold for long periods of time, they can still get exhausted due to the amount of content they are viewing. As such, instead of packing presentations back to back, it will be better to put a buffer time in between them so that the audience can take a break and refresh themselves before heading to the next session. For large-scale events, such as virtual exhibitions and conferences, it is recommended to split the sessions over several days so that the audience does not get fatigued.
The Power of Audience Engagement
Keeping the audience engaged is a major challenge for both live and virtual events. While virtual event organisers must contend with distractions that are only one tab away, as long as they structure and cater their content to the attendees’ goals and objectives, they can easily maintain their attention throughout the event. Fortunately, all of this is possible with the assistance of a good event management system. Contact us today to learn more.