Emily Schneider is a Creative Services Manager with CSI DMC. With a focus on custom content and storytelling, she supports the CSI team with new and innovative takes on destinations and ideas.
With virtual events becoming more and more accessible, the newest challenge is making sure your event stands out to your guests. As we’ve worked with our clients to help them adapt to virtual destinations, we’ve come up with some different ways to excite guests before, encourage participation during, and keep them connecting after the event.
Before Your Event
Invite Guest Input: As guests gain more experience in the virtual world, they are developing preferences about what works best for them, just as they have for in-person events. Provide guests with the chance to share their preferences with you. Use your available outlets, whether that’s social media, a chat function on your website, or even an event-specific email address where guests can share their loves, likes, and dislikes about previous virtual experiences. The more you know about your guests as you begin the planning process, the better your event will be received in the end.
Start at Registration: Imagine you’re clicking through the registration site for an event, but instead of the expected landing page saying “Thank you, your registration is complete”, you see a page that says “Please don’t close your browser” that then loads a brief concert, recorded just for you! The registration process can be customized to give your guests a taste of what the virtual event will feel like, incorporating trivia or gaming components to excite and energize guests before the event even takes place.
Send a Welcome Package: What better way to get guests excited to engage with you and one another than by sending them a specially designed gift? From a simple branded box with some tasty treats and office supplies to a completely customized container that breaks down into sections that tie to different sessions of your event, there are endless options here. Limited only by budget (and certain shipping restrictions from state to state) a gift box is a great way to set guests up for successful interactions with your event.
During Your Event
Keep Talking: Guests want to share their reactions and ideas in real-time, just the way they would with friends during an in-person event. By utilizing all the options that your platform can offer from live chat to Q&A sessions with key speakers and presenters, to breakout rooms that mix and match different guests to encourage new connections and conversations, guests have a chance for their voices to be heard and to explore the ideas they’re encountering.
Stay Active: Giving guests a chance to get up and move around is critical to the success of your virtual event. In addition to scheduling breaks in programming, coordinate a chance to move together as a group! This can take the form of a yoga class, a strength training workout using household items, or even a step competition based on guests’ own fitness trackers. Getting heart rates up and keeping energy high is a great way to make sure that guests are on board and actively enjoying your virtual event.
Show & Tell: Part of the fun of in-person events is getting to know people, and there is no reason to lose that when you transition to a virtual event. Create these opportunities with teambuilding challenges that combine guests randomly into teams. Escape rooms are a great idea here, as are timed challenges that ask guests to share personal details or even coordinated giveback activities. Highlight reels from these activities can then be shared when the full group comes back together, stimulating even more conversation and laughter!
After an Event
Ask for Immediate Feedback: One of the benefits of virtual events (besides being able to attend in your pajamas) is that guests can respond in real-time. Without the usual distractions of packing, travel plans, and flight concerns, you can ask for and receive guests’ feedback about their experiences as soon as a virtual event concludes. And given the new format of a virtual event, try something different from a traditional survey format. Ask guests to tweet comments to a hashtag or even call in to a dedicated phone line where they can leave a voicemail with their comments!
Keep Doing Good: If your event included a giveback or donation component for a charitable or nonprofit organization, connecting guests with the organization post-event is a great way to keep them involved. This can be an opportunity for guests to stay involved with this organization on their own time, or even find a similar organization to work with locally. To tie two ideas together, guests who submit feedback can even be entered into a drawing where the winner will be able to direct a cash donation to a non-profit of their choice!
Encourage Continued Connections: Given that so many guests look forward to making new connections at in-person events, virtual events can still provide this benefit to your guests. Create opportunities for guests to maintain their new relationships beyond your programming, whether that’s with groups on social media, hashtags, or even building in time during your programming for guests to catch up and exchange details with their new contacts.