Ideas to Improve Virtual Attendee Engagement

Now more than ever, it is vital to understand how to make virtual events more appealing to stakeholders, sponsors, and attendees. A recent poll from a Virtual Planner Master Class showed that 60% of planners are considering shifting their events to virtual or hybrid. With so many businesses temporarily closing or shifting to a remote workforce, there is a demand for fresh ideas that can take ordinary online events to interactive digital experiences for your attendees. Here are some ideas that can paint your virtual event red against a white background.


Don?t Lose Sight of the Physical Aspect

Tangibility is not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ?virtual? ? even more reason to utilize it. If you can manage to pull in a physical aspect, you will set your event apart from the rest.

Looking at a screen can be extremely 2 dimensional. To bring in that 3D element, you?ll have to get creative. If you are a baker, you may consider delivering a cookie kit to those who register for your cookie making tutorial event. That way, your consumers can physically follow along. Or, if you?re a librarian, you may consider delivering a physical copy of a book to your event goers, so your consumers can hold the book.?

There may not be many cookie-bakers and librarians reading this, but the same rule applies for your business?s virtual event. Give a tangible taste of your product or message. This creates value for consumers and adds an interactive element to your next virtual experience.??

Master Class tip: At the last virtual event we hosted, we delivered a tin of Garrett?s Popcorn to each panelist, which offered a positive incentive to the panelists while on the Zoom webinar.


Include Positive Incentives

Think about when you were in high school, around homecoming (I know, bear with me). You may have had spirit days, where you all wore hats to school or fashioned a crazy hairdo. It is likely that this made you more excited to come to school. Well, the same rule applies to virtual events.

Adding a twist to your event, like a virtual happy hour, gives people something to be more excited about. Therefore, people are more likely to express excitement for your event ? just like high school spirit week made you excited to come to school.

It would look something like this: you put together your event, you inform consumers that by attending your event, they will have both the event content and the positive incentive of your choice to look forward to. All of the people who tend to flake may say, ?hmmm? I don?t know if I?m up for it, but a virtual happy hour afterward is pretty cool ? can?t miss that. Alright, I?m in!?

Master Class tip: In order to encourage people in the industry to stay connected at this time, we?ve been offering an optional virtual happy hour at the end of each online event. We normally host monthly networking events and meet-ups, so it makes sense for us to continue to connect people virtually even during this time.?


Broadcasting a Virtual Experience?

Virtual experiences, like cooking demonstrations, comedy lessons, and cocktail demonstrations are all great tools to get your audience interested in attending your virtual event.?

Similar to positive incentives, virtual experiences add excitement and value to the event. With something like a virtual happy hour, the incentive is simply having fun. However, adding a virtual experience or lesson entices people by giving them the opportunity to learn something.?

You can market your virtual event by letting prospective attendees know that they will have knowledge of something new to take away afterward.?

Master Class tip: Master Class Tip: At our Virtual Planner Master Class, we partnered with Live Art International to create a unique virtual experience with DIY Wine Glass Painting Kits. Two days before the event, early registrants received a wine glass in the mail to self-decorate, along with painting materials and an instruction guide. Then, we encouraged everyone to bring their glass to our virtual happy hour. To take things to another level, we gathered selfies of everyone with their wine glasses and put them into a collage to be shared on social media.?


Use Small Group Interaction as a Deliverable

What sets an event apart from a lecture? The answer is simple: interaction. It is important to include small-group opportunities in your virtual event for consumers to see value in it. Speaking to other like-minded individuals makes consumers feel that they are a part of something, and that ?something? is your brand.

For optimal engagement, it is important to preload poll questions to captivate your audience and gather feedback. If you are looking to gather any poll feedback, you should launch the poll with at least 5 minutes of programming left.

Small groups will give your event the value of socialization, brainstorming, discussing, and more. This value is the perfect deliverable to market to consumers. Utilizing Zoom breakout rooms shifts the event from passive to active. Make it known that your event is different because it is not just a lecture, but a collaborative colloquy.

Master Class tip: To encourage small group interaction at our virtual events, we break the group into multiple smaller groups. We shuffle people around intermittently to offer maximum networking opportunities. Our timing formula changes based on the content and audience of the event, but we found moving people around keeps them engaged for much longer than a presentation format does.

Author: Emma McVady, Ateema

5 Trends To Think About While Pivoting Back to Live Events

As companies try to resume conducting business under the new normal, it will be a learning curve for all including event planners, hosts, vendors, venues, and attendees.   Adjusting to the new norm post-COVID-19, those that are able to be flexible, adaptable and can pivot during these challenging times could be the most successful!  Keeping an open mind to new ways of hosting events which includes human interaction can be very advantageous as the industry plans for live events. Here’s our projections for what trends we might see when we start meeting in person again...

Never Enough Precaution

Besides checking your typical details with vendors, suppliers, and the venue, safety and security processes will now be incorporated.  These safety protocols should be communicated to your guests to ensure them that their health and safety are at the forefront.  It is now standard protocol to have a COVID-19 event checklist that includes temperature checking of employees and guests, in addition to requiring all to wear a face covering.  There will be a dramatic difference with how everyone interfaces with each other as well.  Long gone are the days where greeters are handing out materials such as maps and agendas as events will establish more self-service features for their participants.  In addition, hand sanitizer will be more readily available and very much appreciated.  Guests might be limited to bringing their belongings as ensuring the safety for both your guests and employees will go a long way.  

Innovative Food Options 

It is important that participants feel all safety precautions were considered when it comes to the food being served at the events. As part of taking precautionary measures, buffets may not be a popular option to avoid serving utensils having multiple touches and to avoid people standing in lines.  But don’t worry, planners are looking at creative meal options.  Boxed lunches or pre-packed grab and go individual meals will be offered as well as seated meals.  Planners will also be thinking outside of the box such as leveraging favorite food trucks or catering from your popular restaurants with carry out style options to still make it an enjoyable event.  Although seating may be more restricted in numbers at a table, who says you can’t have a great experience with a smaller intimate group which may encourage better networking and connections?    

Behind-the-Scenes Workers Now in the Spotlight 

Pre-COVID 19, it was all about seamlessly transitioning the events with flipping the rooms quickly to avoid any type of event distractions.  Post COVID-19 attendees might want the staff to be more visible.  Seeing them frequently wiping down high touched spaces and continuous cleaning will now be more than welcomed. As well, I’m sure attendees won’t mind the cleaning crew to spend a little extra time in between room flips.  

Empty Rooms a Good Thing Now? 

In order for participants to feel comfortable to be in the same room with others while allowing the appropriate social distance, it is now acceptable and expected that rooms are not filled to capacity to reassure their guests.  Brainstorming possible event room layouts with bigger rooms for less people and to how to space out the furniture will be key.  Foot traffic directions that include warning signs that show “high traffic” or “high touch areas” will be part of the event set up too.  Lastly, event planners will need to consider the staff’s ability to wipe down as frequently as possible based on venue layout.    

Hybrid! Hybrid! Hybrid! 

As we adjust to our new norm, hybrid events should be considered as an option. Hybrid events combine live people with virtual attendees and with budgets that may be more limited to hosting smaller groups this still allows for that personal connection. Something else to consider is combining live presentations and entertainment broadcasted from different rooms as that will help avoid having too many people in one room at a time.  An additional benefit to hosting hybrid events, is the ability to be more flexible because the resources that you will be depending on will be more limited such as security, staff, catering, PPE, cleaning supplies, etc. Hybrid is a great alternative option for those who may still fear gathering with other people but also an opportunity to keep your event participation rate high.  

How to Craft Your New Site Visit Checklist Post COVID-19


As businesses slowly begin to reopen, it will be important as you plan your events to consider the health and safety of the guests.  At this point, there should be more evident measures that the venue has or is doing to ensure the health or safety of both their staff and guests.   As you complete your site visits, evaluating the protocols they have put in place such as cleanliness of the bathroom should be considered.  Ask them, how often will the bathrooms be cleaned and disinfected during your event?  In addition, you should evaluate the safety protocols for their staffers, will they be wearing masks now as they pass around appetizers and interface with the guests? What are they doing to take precautions with food preparation  and have serving methods changed, we already know buffets are a thing of the past - will individual food containers be a thing of the future? 

Social Distancing

Will events be limited to 25% capacity, 50%, or are we concerned at all? Other things to consider is venue space and options to accommodate social distancing requirements.  Does the venue have outdoor space to use, how tall are the ceilings in the room(s), how updated is the ventilation system and air filters, can we use multiple rooms to allow social distancing.  How will the seating or furniture arrangements be changed to limit the amount of guests from being in too close proximity of each other.  Will attendees be required to wear masks and what protocols are in place to encourage attendees to self monitor themselves prior attending the event and what is the protocol on how to handle anyone that experiences symptoms during the event. 

Tech capabilities

Every planner looks for in-house A/V capabilities when on their site visit, but what we should be looking for now is built-in cameras for broadcasting our event online. As more and more businesses open their doors, we need to remember that not everyone will feel comfortable going back out right away. People will come back in waves and it will depend heavily on the individual generation, personality, location, upbringing, and their overall comfort level with COVID-19.  Providing alternate solutions such as hybrid events should be kept in mind thus the importance of venue tech capabilities.  To increase a good turnout technological solutions will allow planners to incorporate both live and virtual events. 

In-House or Preferred Vendors

With any venue that we are selecting for our next in-person event, we must find out if they use in-house catering and A/V, or do they outsource to their list of preferred vendors. One would hope that  the  venue will try to extend whatever new health & safety policies and set the expectations with their preferred partners. While leveraging in-house services may be more attractive over having several vendors in play to limit the possible transmission of coronavirus it is important that your client feels confident with the health and safety measures that are put in place for all resources used.  Some venues will be required to utilize union resources so it will be important to confirm safety measures are put in place for any vendor whether it is onsite resources, offsite resources and union resources. 


As the largest cities in America are still on lockdown, planners are looking to other less populated destinations for their next event. Not only will they be opening earlier, but it will be easier to incorporate social distancing in a more spread out area than your normal big city such as New York.  It will be important to ask your venue what protocols they have in place for things such as public elevator access.  Can the event planner incorporate any regulation on the number of people in the elevator at a time?   Will the area be designated just for event participants or will multiple events be taken place and/or open to the public.  Is your event in a private or semi-private space will be more important than ever.