May 11, 2021

5 Virtual Audience Engagement Strategies for 2021

By Nova Halliwell

In our recent CONNECTED session, Audience Engagement Strategies for 2021 (*Hint: They’re all Virtual*), one panelist revealed that their virtual events draw three times as many attendees as in-person events. But as many of us learned in recent months, triple the attendees doesn’t necessarily mean triple the leads.

In this post we explore how and why digital event attendance differs from traditional in-person events, as well as some winning strategies to drive engagement and outcomes with virtual attendees.

2021 Virtual Engagement Strategies

1. Use Soft Touches to Better Gauge Intent.

Before the pandemic, event registration and attendance implied a certain level of intent. However, as events shifted online, those metrics have eroded, making it difficult for organizers to accurately classify leads.

“The buying journey is far less predictable than it was pre-COVID,” explains Conversica Sr. Director for Demand Generation & Integrated Marketing Amanda DePaul. “We realized fairly early that our traditional way of scoring leads post-event wasn’t working as it had in the past.”

To that end, Amanda began to incorporate soft touches earlier in the sales funnel in order to better gauge intent and, in turn, focus on high-value leads.

2. Extend the Experience Beyond the Event.

If event attendance is no longer a gold-star metric, then what is? Engagement.

“Organizations are not only looking to extend the life of their content but also increase engagement so they can measure intent more accurately,” said PathFactory Sr. Director, Marketing Cassandra Jowett. “We look at how much time the person is spending on the content hub, how many assets they view, how many videos they accessed.”

Pulling that data together gives brands a much better sense of where targets are in the journey, as compared to traditional indicators like registration and attendance.

3. Drive Engagement with Content and Community.

At virtual events, the audience isn’t exactly captive. If they don’t find the content useful, they may tune out.

Cassandra has found that one way to offer relevant content is to ask participants about their goals and interests during the registration process. She also gives them an opportunity to share best practices that can be showcased during the event.

In a crowded landscape, it also helps to break through the clutter with creative and personalized sends. For example, Demand Gen Report leverages a variety of sending options, from food delivery services to branded swag to pre-event packages, to build excitement for upcoming events.

“Direct mail is a big thing for us,” confirms Demand Gen Report Editor Klaudia Tirico. “We send virtual event attendees a welcome kit and they post photos on Instagram and Twitter, which helps build that sense of community.”

Sending strategies like those used by Demand Gen Report have proven effective, boosting webinar attendance by 70% or more. To learn more about our incredible sending success stories.

4. Make It Active.

For participants, the value of an event comes from interaction—with panelists, exhibitors, and other attendees. It’s important that virtual event organizers take that into account when planning and managing their digital events.

Cassandra suggests planning every last detail of the virtual event, from how speakers will engage the audience during a Q&A, to how they will solicit feedback and comments, to how they will run polls in real-time. Organizers should also consider dedicating a human to manage the event chat so that it more closely mimics the in-person event experience.

5. Prepare for a Hybrid Future.

Virtual events may continue to be the norm in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that in-person events are a thing of the past. Nor does it mean that virtual events will be phased out anytime soon.

“Virtual events have presented an exciting opportunity to widen the reach to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend,” explains Splash Sr. Manager, Marketing & Communications Rebecca Miller. “If there’s a way we can blend physical and digital models, it can be a win-win.”

However, creating a winning hybrid event will require yet another strategy shift on the part of Sales and Marketing teams. Organizers will need to continue to evolve to meet their customers and prospects where they are—whether that’s a conference hall, chat room, or both.

Want more details about how to drive virtual event engagement in 2021 and beyond? Watch our CONNECTED session and schedule a Sendoso demo to learn how your business can leverage our sending platform to drive event registration, attendance and engagement.

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