Ideas to Pump Up Your Virtual Event Volume and Encourage People to Attend

I wrote last week that there can be a lot to like about virtual events—global reach, access to more speakers, expanded Q&As. But one virtual events problem that’s not discussed as much—as say, the networking issue—that we don’t have for in-person events is getting registrants to actually attend. I mean, who isn’t going to Florida or California or Vegas after signing up and booking flights?
But getting on another Zoom-like event in the middle of a busy day takes some coaxing.
“Keep focusing on the what’s-in-it-for-me [angle],” said Matthew Cibellis of Cibellis Solutions. “Remind them on what they signed up for in the first place. It’s a lot of retargeting. You want them there live. You’ve promised sponsors certain types of personas. Send email and text reminders.” Make it easy for them to sign on. “And use testimonials: ‘Here’s why I’m going to the show.’”
When I sign up to attend an online event, the more draws that the organizer can program the better. Interesting topic, check. Q&A check. Some type of networking, check. Some gamification, check. Wine tasting, check.



But there’s always room for newer and more fun ideas. Believe it or not, Goat-2- Meeting will bring a farm animal to mingle in your Zoom boxes. “Need a fresh face to brighten up your video conference meetings?” they ask. “The Sweet Farm Animal Ambassadors are here for you.”

“It’s hard to find fun things to incorporate into our virtual events right now. It’s like, how many wine tastings can we do?” said Katrina Kent, head of events for TD Ameritrade, in an article on Successful Meetings.
Here are a few ideas from that article and others I’ve seen:
Add a musical component. Since March, SongDivision has put on more than 400 digital events, with attendance ranging from 15 people to 15,000. TD Ameritrade hired them to write a custom song, “Invested Forever,” to honor the company’s 40-year history and highlighted major accomplishments from over the years. (That brings up another recent article I wrote here about celebrating company anniversaries.) The song kicked off the one-hour event. “People were completely blown away. It was totally unexpected and everyone wanted the MP3 of the song right away,” said Kent.
Add trivia or fun quiz questions or a giveaway. “There’s always been this big separation of church and state in the meetings industry. So, we have content and learning over here and engagement and fun over there, and don’t let them get anywhere near each other,” said Sharon Fisher, CEO of Play with a Purpose. “…the meetings that we’ve seen that are really, really successful blend the two and put engagement and content together.”
Add virtual photo elements. “There’s usually a line at the photo booth at every in-person event” writes Samantha Whitehorne in Associations Now. “And while you may think this is one element that has to go by the wayside in the virtual environment, think again. There are plenty of options out there that will allow participants to create and share fun photos and animated GIFs.” Donna Jefferson of Chesapeake Family has enjoyed success with her magazine photo contests—pets, kids, scenery. There could be a virtual contest during an event if it’s done in an expedient way.
Do a Digital Dine Around. I’ve missed my share of meals to take part in virtual events. In their Influence 2020 conference, the National Speakers Association made sure you ate well: “Have you ever wished you could share a meal with one of NSA luminaries?” they wrote in August. “This year, you can! We’re hosting Digital Dine Arounds where you can sit down for a casual ‘meal time conversation’ with NSA’s Board Members, Past Presidents, Cavett Award Recipients, CPAE winners, and more.”
Come up with an intriguing interview pairing. I saw another great example of this yesterday when Politics and Prose, an incredible independent bookstore in Washington, hosted a reading of author Tim Weiner (The Folly and the Glory) being interviewed by Asha Rangappa, CNN analyst, Yale lecturer and former FBI special agent. It proved to be a must-see-and-hear conversation. I was also sure to tune in last week to an interview with Nataki Garrett, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. One big reason was the interviewer: 67 year-old Scottish director John Doyle who reimagined The Color Purple to Broadway success a couple years ago. The juxtaposition of the backgrounds of the two made for must-see Zooming. Often the interviewer can be just as important as the speaker.

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