Hosting a virtual event is a great way to connect to your audience and promote your brand in new and exciting ways. So when it comes time for the online event to be hosted, you want to be prepared for just about everything.
As event organizers, we spend a lot of time preparing content, marketing the virtual event, and curating the attendee experience. And in all that busyness, we neglect one very important aspect of the virtual event, and that is the attendee’s expectations.
Attendees coming might be coming to your virtual event from a number of perspectives, expectations, and lifestyles. It’s not your job to control all of these aspects, but you should take them into consideration. Managing attendee expectations can improve audience engagement and increase the likelihood of a successful virtual event. Read on to learn how!
Understanding Potential Virtual Attendee Expectations
Virtual events, which have been on the rise for over a decade now, and have been boosted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, present a certain set of challenges that are distinctly different than in-person events. Attendees choose to participate in virtual events for a number of reasons, and since the rise of COVID-19, these reasons have changed.
In general, virtual audiences (not influenced by COVDI-19) come to online events with the following expectations:
- They are attending the digital event out of convenience
- They likely could not attend the physical event either due to scheduling, cost, or location
- They are seeking certain bits of information rather than general knowledge on a subject
- They might have some idea of the brand, product, or information being shared but this is not always the case
- They aren’t likely to be paying full attention to the virtual conference, virtual trade show, or virtual meeting
- Networking isn’t always a higher priority since networking virtually is not as comfortable as in-person networking
- They are interested in having this event on as a background noise
Prior to the rise of COVID-19, we saw attendees of virtual events, or even a hybrid event, as the attendees who are seeking more knowledge on a given subject and to gain an edge in that industry.
While these expectations weren’t always the case, the virtual event planner might recognize that only a handful of the online attendees would be highly engaged in the content. The rest of the online audience might be coming to the virtual conference, virtual meeting, or virtual event as another task in an otherwise busy day.
Now, with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen all our events switch to a virtual format, even if that style of event production did not make sense for the brand. So all the participants, many of whom would have attended the event in-person if they could, were forced to attend online. With so much competition in the virtual event space, managing audience expectations can improve your brand receptivity and success.
Mapping Virtual Audiences
It’s no surprise that because of this change, event planners are seeing different types of audiences attending online events. In this way, event planners should not be accounting for all audience types online. Event planners need to address all of these different types of audiences and their expectations to ensure that the event runs smoothly.
In addressing attendee expectations, be sure to map out your different audiences, audience goals, and customer personas. This is vital for managing attendee expectations because you need to understand why attendees are at your virtual event.
Try to identify:
- The specific knowledge, resources, or connections that audiences are looking to make in attending your event
- Key takeaways that audience members are looking for
- Reasons why the virtual attendees are attending the event (and would they have attended your event in-person if the chance was available)
- Audience types by pain points
Provide Clear Communication
Once you have a clear idea of your online audience personas, you can then begin to communicate to these audiences so that they approach the event with clear expectations.
In communicating with your audience, be sure to find the avenues that they are likely to use. This will likely coincide with your event marketing channels. Provide clear and actionable items that they can understand prior to the event. They should be prepared with the type of event you are hosting (i.e., conference, meetings, networking event) or if there are a number of smaller event types or sessions at your single event.
The event schedule and presenters are a given. Session details, like the speakers, their backgrounds, and a brief overview of what they will be talking about will give the audience the right opportunity to find the information they need and only attend when they need to.
Online audiences also need to be prepared for the virtual event platform. While this should not be the main source of communication, it is important and should be sent out in clear language, in easy-to-source distribution channels, and with clear guidelines.
Designing the Online Attendee Experience
Your online audience experience includes everything from the early event marketing emails to the event registration and video quality. As an event organizer, you need to walk through the exact process that an attendee would go through in order to get to your event. Is the messaging clear and accessible? If it’s not, then the virtual experience needs to be redesigned.
Create an attendee experience proposal or walk through that documents the steps that the normal attendees would go through. From experiencing the first marketing materials to registering for the event, logging into the event technology, bookmarking presenters, and so on.
By tapping into the attendee experience of things, then you’ll better understand the moods and emotions of the attendees when they are arriving at your event and improve attendee engagement.
Event Technology Walk-Through
Similar to designing the overall attendee experience, be sure to test out your event technology prior to the event. A smart event technology like Accelevents provides users with clear walk-throughs, but you should still configure the software to work for your brand. If you are not using the networking tab, then don’t have these options available for your users.
Give the online audience the “need-to-know” information, like if they will need to register with the platform before the event. Navigational buttons within the software should be obvious to use, not distracting, and have clear labels.
Put yourself in their shoes. Would they understand the symbols, labels, and areas of the event platform? If it’s not clear, then introduce materials that explain these labels.
Create Event FAQ
Event FAQ is one of the easiest ways of educating clearly on basic aspects of virtual events. FAQs encourage more customers to sign up for an event and it keeps future online attendees away from customer support services. Clear event FAQs can allow event organizers a space for certain questions and answers that would be too annoying in email blasts.
Keep the FAQ short and sweet, with clear searchable points and interactive components to save space. Be mindful of SEO on the FAQ page as you will want this page to be heavy on SEO so that potential attendees and registered attendees can find the page.
Virtual event FAQ will improve audience engagement because they are more likely to be receptive to the event and to stick around and interact with other attendees if they do not have major lingering questions and concerns.
Virtual event planning could also include training webinars, which are perfect for virtual event presenters and attendees. Training webinars on how to work the platform, best practices for presenting online, and more can help both the presenter and virtual audience feel more comfortable in the virtual environment.
If you are unable to develop training webinars, try to find reliable webinars. Webinars are certifications that can help attendees in the long-term, as these skills can be applied to future virtual and hybrid events.
Managing your attendee expectations will not only improve your attendee’s experience but will also offer the opportunity of a smoother virtual event experience. Attendees and presenters alike will have a more positive experience which will reflect positively on the brand.
Consider using Accelevents as your event technology, which is a smart and scalable event technology that can improve the attendee experience.