The COVID-19 pandemic has turned 2020’s event schedule on its head and caused a wave of cancellations. But only at first. Thanks to companies and marketers’ persistence, as well as the event industry’s quick response and adaptation to the new normal, a surge of online events of all shapes and sizes quickly followed. In just a few months, event organizers became experts at streaming technology and helped transform and evolve online events altogether. So much so that at this point, it’s not unlikely that virtual may be the norm for events post-pandemic.
At the same time, audience engagement continues to be quite the challenge — and goal — for events. Probably even more with so many webinars and conferences to choose from and the lack of face-to-face interaction. Still, it doesn’t have to be. If event organizers open up to Interactive content, that is.
We can convey a sense of interactivity by mixing different types of content. While that’s a valid option, calling on viewers to take any action, such as answering a poll or a quiz, is a much better one. Gamification, whether limited to a single session or covering the entire duration of the event, is another. We could also interact with participants through ‘hotspots,’ hyperlinked areas leading to other sources, or video paths, where users can choose and guide the story they’d like to watch.
Interactive content can also refer to content created by participants — sort of like events’ equivalent of UGC. And if engagement is what you’re after, there’s no better sign of it than someone becoming a contributor. In fact, UGC has been found to lift brand affinity dramatically. What’s more, younger audiences state that UGC is 35% more memorable, and 50% more trusted than other media forms.
Either way, interactivity is a sure way to increase engagement and ensure that participants enjoy a unique and personalized experience. Another big plus for data-driven event organizers is the deep insights provided by many various interactions and direct answers to questions asked (via polls, for example). But with so many different ways about it, it’s good to have some pointers and advice on fixing up an interactive event.
Virtual events don’t have to be 100% live. Instead, blend synchronous and asynchronous experiences, such as live sessions preceded by orators’ video messages. Better yet, give participants the option to answer back with their own video messages. And whether it’s live or pre-recorded, allow viewers to comment and react to it.
You could also opt for a hybrid event that boasts a digital platform alongside a physical one. The online platform can host session recordings from the event, as well as pre-recorded content and content created by participants. This way, participants can not only consume more content by watching it online; they can also use it to network and share knowledge. Furthermore, it makes the event accessible to a broader crowd who couldn’t physically attend.
Whichever event you end up building, it should be accompanied by an active social media community where you could share live and recorded content before, during, and after the event.
It’s Up to You
As you get ready for the big day, familiarize speakers with available interactive options so they can make fair use of them on stage. These may include social games and competitions, including remote attendees in discussions via chat, conducting polls and surveys, etc.
It’s essential to offer speakers some hand-holding and assistance in preparing their talks. Even experienced speakers might find it challenging to engage with audiences on-camera, and even more so if there are physical and online participants. Adding interactive elements into the mix is a great idea but makes things slightly more complicated. So that everything goes as planned, consider hiring a production manager who will work closely with speakers before the event and guide them in real-time. This will also free speakers to focus on their lectures without worrying about interactive technicalities.
Mix it up
The newest and hippest social network – TikTok – has around 800 million monthly active users and was downloaded 738 million times in 2019 alone. What sets Tik-Tok apart is that it invites users to add their spin on existing clips. Tik-Tok users mimic and copy other videos, “borrow” certain elements (most often the audio track), or upload “duets” of them and the original video side by side. This type of behavior isn’t frowned upon on Tik-Tok – it’s encouraged!
Your event may not have any dance routines ready to go viral, but you can still use the content you share to get people to create content themselves. Doing so will contribute to the event’s engagement and help content stay relevant and up-to-date for much longer. UGC of this sort could include commentaries, questions, and competing perspectives, all referencing the original video. To help make it happen, try to bring in some influencers to get the ball rolling. And make sure to celebrate every content asset created by your audience and share it on your digital channels. If you’re lucky enough, it’ll reach the right people from your target audience.
Oscar Wilde once said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” At Kaltura, we say that interactivity is the best form of engagement. Getting your target audience not only to watch your content and respond to it but invest the time and effort in creating their content is priceless. Nonetheless, it’ll never happen unless you facilitate and encourage it.