Virtual events platforms have been a saving grace for event planners. In the maelstrom of COVID and the restrictions it’s spawned, they have allowed facilitators to modify live events so that their essence is captured virtually. There’s one major problem….
As events professionals, we’ve become really good at understanding how to plan, organize and execute live events to create an experience that enthralls attendees and derives maximum value. But when it comes to the virtual events, we’re still figuring it out.
One of the biggest hurdles event marketers face in the virtual world is how to keep attendees online and engaged throughout their events. In fact, numerous post-covid studies have shown that audience engagement is the largest challenge when it comes to virtual events, followed by interaction.1
Wait a minute? Aren’t engagement and interaction the same thing? Not exactly….
While interaction can be considered a form of engagement, there are some differences. Let’s explore those distinctions and how to create BOTH interaction and engagement during a virtual event.
When you think of the word interaction, what comes to mind? Likely you picture two people talking (interacting) with one another. Maybe you view that interaction as an attendee stopping by a sponsor’s booth and participating in a demo. Or perhaps you picture an attendee asking a question during a session.
These are all great examples of interactions that translate to the virtual world. But in the virtual world there are additional opportunities for interaction such as “likes”, poll responses, page views, button clicks and more. Basically, think of interaction as a singular action or group of actions that someone takes during the course of your event.
In our experience, attendees love clicking buttons, chatting, and using all the fancy bells and whistles that virtual platforms provide for expression. And although interactions offer value and serve as a way for your audience to provide information and become more engaged with your event, interactions don’t necessarily mean an attendee is actually engaged.
Right now you may be feeling a little lost, but bear with us. It’ll all make sense shortly.
Engagement goes deeper than just interaction. It is a feeling; a deep-rooted connection or motivation for someone to immerse themself in your event and beyond. When an attendee is engaged, they are truly interested in and captivated by the content, conversation or demo. They’re not just there for the CE credits, free swag or time away from the office.
To better understand engagement, let’s return to an interaction for a minute. It’s very easy for an attendee to answer a poll. It’s just one button click on their end. But if that same attendee also asks meaningful questions during a session, actively networks, and/or interfaces with a company’s social media account after the event, that’s what you would consider engagement.
Engagement means that the attendee has shown enough interest to dedicate time and attention to your event, its content and other participants.
Interaction vs. Engagement
Let’s take a look at a few examples to help shake out the differences.
EXAMPLE 1: The Swag Grab
Interaction: Attendee visits a sponsor in the exhibitor hall, does a quick obligatory intro and then gets some free swag or enters into a drawing to win something.
Engagement: Attendee visits a sponsor in the exhibitor hall, actively participates in a demo, completes a call to action (i.e. schedules a follow up or joins a mailing list) THEN gets some free swag or enters into a drawing.
EXAMPLE 2: The Session
Interaction: Attendee joins a session. They introduce themself in the chat and then sit back and listen. Maybe they occasionally give a like or ask a question.
Engagement: Attendee joins a session. They introduce themself in the chat and then stay actively involved throughout — participating in the chat, asking questions, etc. After the session is over, they connect with the speaker to continue the conversation or have a follow-up convo with other attendees who joined. They join the speaker’s mailing list, buy their book or follow them on social media.
A Fine Line
We admit that there is a fine line between interaction and engagement, but hopefully these examples start to shed some light on the difference between the two.
Interaction creates opportunities to get your audience actively involved in your event and is a key element to building engagement. The more interactive your event — in person or virtual — the more opportunities your attendees have to feel like they are part of the experience. And when attendees become part of the experience they become more immersed, more connected and ultimately, more engaged.
That engagement is critical because it provides you with greater opportunities to build meaningful relationships with your attendees, provide value to your sponsors and partners, and achieve your event (and business) goals.
The good news is that as the events industry has evolved, so have virtual events platforms, and creating strong engagement during virtual events is no longer out of reach. With the right virtual event partner, you can engage and captivate (encaptivate) your audience!
Learn how encaptiv can help you create an encaptivating experience for your virtual, hybrid or in-person events. Schedule a demo today.