5 Lessons From the Virtual Edge Summit

Attendees of the Virtual Edge Institute’s half-day digital forum came away with strategies to take their hybrid and online-only events to the next level.

Veteran planners of digital meetings and relative newcomers alike made up the audience of the Virtual Edge Summit, an online-only event presented by the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) on May 21.

The virtual event platform, powered by INXPO, offered case studies, workshops, and a panel on the future of digital events that showed how many engagement strategies for live events can be tweaked slightly to add to an online experience. Here are five key takeaways:

1. Integrate gamification into every stage of your event.

Dannette Veale, manager of digital, audience, and measurement engagement strategy for Cisco, explained how gamification helps communicate to attendees what they need to do before an event to get the most out of it. Digital badging and tracking attendee levels of completion are strategies that have worked for Cisco, and both are scalable for almost any size event. Leaderboards help to fuel participation rates, and pre- and post-meeting surveys also can be incentivized.

2. Keep your attendees on the phone.

Emma King, vice president of learning for INXPO, pointed out that it’s not realistic to expect attendees to turn off their phones or log out of email for the duration of a digital or hybrid event. So she uses that to her advantage: To maintain engagement, she asks provocative questions for audience members to answer via text, polling software, or tweets every two to three minutes. She’s also set challenges like asking someone to tweet a certain phrase to win a prize.

3. Coach your speakers.

Delivering content in front of a camera rather than a live audience can be a very different experience. Coach your speakers on how to play to their natural strengths for a digital audience. You can even have them watch themselves on camera to improve their delivery.

4. Monitor on-the-fly feedback.

Several VEI presenters suggested having a team member on the sidelines during a digital program to monitor feedback in real time and better facilitate communication between attendees and speakers. Ask the moderator to keep an eye on Twitter and feed cues back to the presenter, and to rank questions in terms of their relative importance to attendees before a Q&A session begins. Veale’s team collates a “hot sheet” based on audience feedback that’s handed to speakers 15 minutes before they go onstage.

5. Set conversion goals.

Mary Reynolds Kane, PCMA’s senior director of experience marketing, spoke on collecting data and reporting back after an event. Most virtual meeting platforms will automatically show how many hours attendees logged in, where they spent their time, and how many chat messages they sent, she said, but collecting data isn’t the same thing as using it effectively. She suggests defining different conversion goals — the actions you hope attendees will take as a result of participating in the event — before the meeting begins, and tracking those objectives through your digital platform.

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.