Online events have rapidly become more popular with the spread of the coronavirus. Regardless of whether they’re work or social events, you’ll want to keep your online events engaging for all involved. Here are 10 ways to do so.

1.   Pick a time that works for everyone

Don’t ever overlook this aspect of engagement. You may think that everyone has “time on their hands” due to COVID-19, but even if people are staying at home, they still have lives. They have partners, children, pets, and personal elements to balance. Before you plan any type of online event – whether professional or social – check-in with your potential attendees and ask when the best time may be for them to meet. You can do this with a simple When2Meet or Doodle Poll. This leads to faster and more efficient scheduling that works for everyone!

2.   Choose the right platform 

Just like selecting a time, picking a platform that works for everyone will ultimately lead to greater success. You’ll want to make sure that it’s accessible to everyone, has the features that you need (i.e. recordings, surveys, polls, etc.), can include the right number of people, etc. Do research ahead of time so that you can properly engage with everyone you need to.

Here are some platform options you may want to consider:

  • Microsoft Team
  • Zoom
  • GoTo
  • Google Hangouts
  • Webex
  • Adobe Connect
  • Skype

Be sure to test your technology ahead of time and do a dry run. This way, the video and audio will have high quality on the day of the event.

3.   Promote your event ahead of time

You may have confirmed that everyone is available, but your attendees are human. They may forget or other things will come up in the time since they’ve confirmed. Promoting your event and sending reminders can help keep your online event on their calendars. An email list, Facebook group, text message, and app are some ways that you can continually promote it.

Don’t forget that you can also send a reminder the day before and then another the hour before the event. Something as simple as, “Thank you for registering. This is a reminder that the event will take place tomorrow at 4 PM” can help boost attendance.

4.   Practice those first 15 seconds

Whether you’re hosting a happy hour or a professional webinar, it can be awkward when people first start hopping online. It’s not always easy to engage via video and feel as though you’re connecting with your audience. Practicing those first 15 seconds can give you the confidence to continue the rest of the meeting and make it go smoothly.

The first vital step is to start on time. Just like any in-person meeting, you want to show up and start when you say the meeting will start. Then, you want to jump right in. Those first few seconds will set the tone for the rest of the event. Will attendees keep watching or will they go elsewhere? You can determine how well you hook them in.

5.   Use live polls

Integrating live polls is an amazing way to engage your audience during an event. It makes the session fun and interactive while also collecting data you can use in the future. For example, in a professional meeting, you may poll your staff to determine what type of strategy they want to utilize moving forward on a certain project. You can then use this information to direct your discussion for the remaining meeting. This data provided you with a cohesive idea of where the group is at instead of talking in circles.

Likewise, in a social setting, you can use polls for fun purposes. Poll the group on their favorite types of dessert and then plan a special home delivery to keep moral up in the workplace. Conversely, poll them on their favorite type of beer and then plan to drink it at the next remote happy hour. Whatever the case, this is the perfect way to incorporate the idea of whatever group you have online.

6.   Plan compelling sessions or speakers

If your online event is a webinar, then the content of your sessions or the quality of your speakers truly matters. Your attendees are ultimately online to learn, network or share experiences and information. They don’t want to attend a boring online event. Watch engagement skyrocket when you put compelling content at the core of your event.

7.   Incorporate a game

Who doesn’t love a little bit of competition? If you create a scavenger hunt or competition as a way to teach or engage, then you’ll instantly have your attendees hooked. Better yet, offer special prizes (see #8) and watch your session become instantly much more exciting.

8.   Give special perks to attendees

Who doesn’t love a good gift card? Even though online events are especially popular right now because everything is closed, you can still provide gift cards to enjoy special perks. For example, take out from your favorite local restaurant, so you don’t have to cook tonight? Anyone? Anyone? You’ll suddenly have everyone fighting to engage on your call!

9.   Relax

Sometimes, despite all of your efforts, your WiFi will fail or not as many people will show up as RSVP’d. Don’t get discouraged. People can sense when you’re stressed, and it can become uncomfortable. Relax and get into the groove of hosting. It may not be perfect, but if you’re having fun then your attendees will ultimately be more engaged as well.

10. Ask for feedback

When it’s all over, start thinking about your next online event! First and foremost, reach out to your attendees and thank them for coming. Then, ask for feedback via a survey through text or email. You can always improve next time regardless of the difficulties you may have experienced this go around. Allow people to let you know what they liked or didn’t like. This constructive criticism can help you improve in the future.

Final thoughts

And there you have it! Keeping an online audience engaged may be a new skill, but you’ll have it mastered soon enough.