Virtual events are more than three times as popular in 2021 as they were in 2019, according to Community Brands research. So, how do you make the same meaningful impact on your attendees as you had when you were face-to-face? Creating an engaging virtual event requires out-of-the-box thinking. Let’s dive into some of the ways your organization can create engaging and meaningful content for your membership.
The world is evolving, and more than ever, aspiring professionals are looking for ways to earn certifications and continue their education virtually. Flexibility and ease-of-use are two of the many reasons that professionals are looking to further their education online. Online learning events offer a convenient option for members to engage with the content. They also allow organizations to expand their reach to members who do not attend in-person events. In addition, these virtual events can even bring in additional revenue to your organization.
Develop a Virtual Event Strategy
In the 2020 Virtual Events Report, based on a study conducted by Tagoras with 361 participating organizations, research discovered that 90% of respondents rated their virtual events as very or somewhat successful. Those that rated themselves very successful were the ones that had a documented virtual event strategy. Of those surveyed, 66.2% had not prepared a virtual conference strategy prior to 2020, but planned to by 2021. In order to develop an effective virtual event strategy, it’s important to assess your current capabilities and figure out the priorities for learning in the future. Tagoras invented the Business Learning Maturity Model to help organizations review their current framework and create engaging virtual events in the future. As part of the framework, Tagoras suggests that businesses with learning objectives are in one of the following categories:
Take the assessment to figure out where your organization stands, and use your results to optimize your framework for future virtual events.
Select an Innovative LMS Partner
Investing in new technology can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a variety of features and functionalities that are pertinent to creating an engaging virtual event. Here are five key aspects to look for in a learning management system (LMS) to support your virtual events and deliver a great learning experience for your members.
Flexibility – Look for a system that allows you to grow your online learning program over time to meet your members’ needs. For example, you may want to offer only on-demand learning now, but as your program evolves, you may want to also offer livestreaming for in-person events. No matter which delivery method you prefer, you’ll want to consider whether the LMS platform you’re investing in offers on-demand and live delivery, personalized learning paths, assessment and testing options, continuing education certifications, social learning communities, mobile friendly interfaces, reporting, and more.
Interactivity – One of the key elements that makes your on-site events appealing is interactivity, including talking with other attendees, asking questions, and making comments. Interactivity can be brought to virtual experiences as well. Look for a system that supports networking and interaction opportunities in your online learning experience. In addition, make sure that your LMS is able to conduct polls and offers expansive Q&A features with the ability to control automatic questions from attendees.
Ease of Use – Be sure the system you select streamlines and simplifies manual tasks. Free up your learning staff to focus on more valuable contributions, like providing the content your members need when they need it. Similarly, it’s important to give members easy access to the content they need throughout their career journey. Look for an LMS that allows your staff to easily tag and categorize content so your members can quickly find the specific information they’re seeking.
Integration Capabilities — To create an easy, seamless, and complete learning experience, your LMS should integrate with your membership management system and your association management system (AMS). Integrations will streamline your processes and make it easier for your learning team to keep track of membership accomplishments and journeys. When you’re in a demo with an LMS provider, make sure to ask them how the integration works, how much it costs, and how much time the integration will require from your team.
Support — For livestream events, be sure your LMS vendor can offer phone and online tech support for your attendees while your staff is busy dealing with your on-site event needs. The last thing you need is to be dealing with tech issues during your live broadcast. Make sure your LMS provider has a support team you can trust to have your back if any technical issues arise.
Create Engaging Virtual Event Content
Once you’ve developed a virtual learning plan and chosen your LMS partner, you’re ready to create content for your virtual event. This is the most important part of planning a virtual event because your attendees are coming to learn something new and valuable. This is where the real work begins. To create an engaging virtual event, you must make your content relevant, timely, and valuable. Learners need to be challenged, but they also need checkpoints to ensure that they are intently listening to the event. So how do you stop your attendees from daydreaming during your sessions?
That’s the age-old question from teachers everywhere. However, there are a few key tricks to keep your learners motivated. The best way to ensure engagement is audience participation. Ask questions, take polls, and interact with your learners on a frequent basis. This will keep your attendees thinking about the presentation and increase the retention rate of the information. Another best practice for audience attention is to incorporate stories into your examples. As a civilization, we are constantly surrounded by stories. Whether it’s a book, tv show, ad on the radio, or our own personal stories we create from our own lives, people are drawn to information that’s presented in a story. Use this to your advantage when creating content by supplementing the key terms or principles you’re presenting with a story.
Finally, engaging virtual events have content that is relevant to today’s pop culture and current events. When you’re preparing your presentation, think about your audience. How can you enhance the material to be relevant in today’s world? Take popular tv shows or news stories and find relationships between them and your content. For example, legal organizations could tie in the most popular court cases, even ones currently in progress like the conservatorship hearings for Britney Spears. These tactics are all ways to keep your audience listening and retaining information longer, especially during long sessions.
Host Your First Virtual Event
Once you have your content ready, you’re all set for your event! Now, comes the promotion aspect. If you’re hosting a virtual conference, then you’ll need a website, promotional emails, sponsors, speakers, and more. However, if you’ve created an event for learning credits or a continuing education seminar, you’ll be more focused on getting the registration up on your website and letting your membership know when the event is taking place. However you promote your event, you’ll want to make sure that you have everything you need to live stream or rebroadcast your content beforehand. Here are some of the key factors you’ll want to double check before the day of your event:
- Make sure that you’re testing your speakers and microphone the week of the event.
- Ensure you have designated a space in your home for yourself or instructed your speakers to find a place that provides a quiet area with no distractions.
- Make sure that your background is professional and reflects your organization well, and ensure any sponsors know the expectations for this as well.
- Check to make sure all of your features on the event are working in a test run with your internal staff members.
- Run through the agenda and presentation etiquette with any speakers or sponsors the week beforehand.
Measure Results & Optimize
Once your event has taken place, you’ll want to measure the results and assess the event’s performance. Was your virtual event engaging? Review your success metrics and ask yourself questions that relate to those performance indicators. Some of those questions might be: Did the virtual event have sustainable participation without attendee drop off? How many registrants attended and completed the event? How many participants asked informed questions? Were attendees participating in any interactive polls, surveys, or discussion boards?
Once you’ve measured the success of your event, it’s time to evaluate how you could improve your next one. Take the data you’ve gathered on the event and create a list of opportunities to optimize. Whether it’s incorporating more interactive elements or creating checkpoints to ensure attendees are listening, make sure you’re recording what you can do to increase attendee engagement in the future. Once you’ve compiled a list, you’re ready to create an even more engaging virtual event the next time around.
Whether you’re just starting a continuing education program or expanding an existing program, finding the right learning management system is a key step toward delivering a great learning experience. To learn more about how to deliver successful and engaging virtual events, sign up for our webinar, 8 Keys to Creating Engaging & Profitable Virtual Events, taking place on July 29th at 1 p.m. Save your spot today!