20 Interactive Conference Ideas To Increase Engagement With a Virtual or Hybrid Audience

June 20, 2021
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The key to event success? Keeping your audience engaged. A fact most understand, but is sometimes harder to implement. It’s more important than ever to get innovative with audience engagement, using both virtual and in-person tactics to interest your audience and gather important data.

Audience engagement is supported by virtual conference ideas that enhance how your event attendees absorb information. This is especially true when combining an in-person audience with a remote, virtual audience for a hybrid conference.

Another fact: Hybrid conferences and events are hard. Because your audience is in two different places simultaneously, it can be difficult to know if your virtual attendees are participating and if your sessions interest both types of audiences.

So how can these different attendee groups network with each other and what can you do to make a virtual, hybrid, or in-person conference interactive? We have good news for you. Using today’s virtual event platform’s engagement tools, you have many resources at your disposal to get creative and keep your audience involved with your brand and socializing with each other, no matter where they’re located. 

how to make conferences more interactive

How to Make Conferences (Online and In-Person) More Interactive

As mentioned, the success of all events, virtual or in-person, comes from audience engagement, where you give attendees opportunities to interact with each other and connect to your brand. After all, events are meant to spark networking, questions, and learning.

This becomes more complicated when hosting a hybrid event, trying to communicate to two different audiences — in person and online.

The first step to making conferences more interactive is starting with a robust online event platform that can connect your attendees and speakers with fun and useful features.

We’ve come up with 20 examples of virtual engagement activities, interactive post ideas, virtual conference ideas, and meeting engagement ideas to stimulate your hybrid audience from anywhere.

Need the latest information on taking events hybrid? Check out: The 2021 Guide To Virtual Conferences (And Why You Might Want to go Hybrid)

Below Is a List of Our Top 20 Interactive Virtual Conference Ideas To Ensure Your Online, In-Person, or Hybrid Event Is a Success

Idea #1) Interactive Activity Feeds That Make Audience Engagement Easy

Your audience likely uses social media, like Facebook and LinkedIn, to engage with their friends, family, and professional network. That’s exactly why this sits at number one on our list of virtual conference ideas. Activity Feeds or news feeds within virtual event platforms, spark many interaction post ideas and work just as well for interacting with attendees.

Feeds allow hosts and attendees to share moments and insights from the event, like interactive posts with pictures or videos, where users can like and comment.

When one audience member is sitting at home, and the other is at the convention center, the Activity Feed becomes a shared place for both visitors to engage seamlessly.

Idea #2) Incorporating Gamification to Make Engaging and Connecting More Fun (and Valuable)

Gamifying your event makes it more fun and competitive for attendees who are in-person and virtual. 

Use Activity Challenges to start friendly competitions within your audience. Incentivize your audience to participate in competitions by giving them points. For example, give 10 points to attendees every time they exchange virtual or real business cards with others. Have the points add up to various rewards they can win.

Or consider running a photo contest on your Activity Feed. Give a gift bag to the attendee who has the most popular photo using your event’s hashtag. 

Idea #3) Looking for Easy-to-Implement Virtual Engagement Activities? Include Polls

Polling provides streamlined audience interactions with your speakers in live time, whether it’s giving feedback before or after a presentation. Polling also allows the audience to guide panel discussions with their favorite topics. Polls can be as simple as giving a star rating or asking single or multiple-choice questions.

Consider running a poll with a short time frame, encouraging users to give their feedback before the poll expires. Try to poll every 15 minutes or so to actively keep your audience engaged.

Using your event app, your in-person audience can answer polls in live time alongside their virtual attendees who are completing polls on their desktop. This gives your event more accurate polling responses and unites both audiences during sessions.

Looking for more interaction ideas? Read: 20 Virtual Event Ideas to Inspire Your Upcoming Events.

Idea #4) Create Engaging Quizzes to Improve Audience Interaction

Test your split audience’s comprehension of the subject by giving them quizzes

Questions can be presented on the attendees’ mobile or desktop virtual event app. After answering questions, attendees can see whether they answered correctly. 

Quiz results are collected and visible for event hosts to analyze, gauge how knowledgeable the audience is, and guide presentations if certain topics need more clarification.

Idea #5) Successful Audience Engagement Requires Breakout Sessions

Breakout sessions allow for small groups of attendees to join together to discuss specific event topics. They can be created virtually or in-person with the help of a virtual event app. 

Using Participant Matching, you can ensure compatibility within your virtual and in-person breakout sessions by matching people with similar interests. Virtual attendees can join their own private video chat room.

Try to hold several breakout sessions throughout a presentation to increase virtual engagement activities. Get creative with your meeting engagement ideas by swapping breakout room attendees each time. This allows for more networking among your audience.

Want to mix things up? Combine in-person breakout sessions with virtual sessions by bringing a laptop or tablet to the in-person breakout rooms. This can allow an online attendee to interface with in-person guests.

event marketing show

Idea #6) Use Exclusivity to Encourage Guests to Interact and Network at Special Events

Be sure to allow free time for users to network with each other, virtually and in person. Create a “virtual happy hour.” Attendees can browse their contact lists and connect with new people while everyone is online. 

Chats are a great way for users to set up private or group conversations with one another. Consider an interactive post idea where you ask fun questions on an Activity Feed post to allow others to comment and interact with each other.

Sometimes messaging online is an easier way to network, even if some guests are in-person. Having access to view attendees’ profiles is particularly useful for icebreaking and remembering connections.

Idea #7) Draw Audiences in by Featuring an Entertainment Act

Virtual or hybrid conferences don’t have to be 100% serious. Lighten the mood by bringing in a performer like a magician, comedian, or musician to entertain your audience. 

Attention spans tend to be shorter for virtual audiences, so providing entertaining and stimulating content allows them a chance to take a mental “breather” and relax, so that when your regular programming starts again, they’ll be sharper and more engaged. 

The entertainment can help attendees strike up conversations over their shared experiences.

Idea #8) Keep Audience Engagement Top of Mind With Push Notifications and Daily Reminders

Conferences can be multi-day affairs, often featuring several presenters and live streams. Make sure your attendees stay up-to-date on any changes or calls-to-action by using notifications.

Notifications allow you to send personalized or general updates to make your audience feel included and remind them of upcoming events on the agenda. You can also inform your in-person audience about a session change or cancellation before they walk across the convention center to find it’s been canceled or relocated.

Use push notifications to increase conference interaction by promoting special offers and sponsored messages to your audience.

Idea #9) Let Attendees In On the Action With Live Q&As and Applause

When exploring ideas for making a virtual or hybrid conference interactive, remember that one of the main draws for attending conferences is the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers from experts.

Using Live Q&A, participants can ask questions before and during a live stream. If your in-person audience members are shy, they can ask questions through their event app instead, giving you more ways to connect with both audiences and track the conversation.

Using a moderation panel allows the moderator to see user-submitted questions to pick and choose what questions are displayed for the audience.

Instead of clapping to show approval for your guest speaker, attendees can press the “applause” button to react. Data insights gathered during presentations, like applause, can be analyzed to see what moments were the most popular among the audience.

Idea #10) Offer Both Live-Streaming and On-Demand Presentations

Creating an organized agenda filled with live speakers and webinars makes your event feel lively and urgent, and can encourage engagement from attendees. But you should also add on-demand content to your virtual or hybrid event for your audience to browse as well. 

It’s simply not possible for attendees to watch or attend every presentation. Sometimes their schedules or attention spans simply won’t allow it. By adding on-demand content, you allow attendees to learn at their own pace and get as much as they can from your event.

Idea #11) Keep Their Attention with Rapid Fire Learning

Spending 30 minutes to an hour talking about one topic can get boring quickly during a session.

Instead, try new meeting engagement ideas by implementing rapid-fire learning to quicken the pace of your sessions.

This could mean spending only 10 minutes per topic, quickly followed by a Q&A session, then followed by the next topic. To make it more engaging, conduct polls during each rapid-fire presentation as well.

Or bring in multiple speakers to talk about the same subject, but have each speaker present for a few minutes before tagging the next speaker in. Hearing multiple speakers talking about the same subject can prevent your audience from becoming complacent.

Idea #12) Make Audience Interaction Easy and Simple With a Mobile Event App

When hosting a hybrid event or conference, rethink your strategy for bringing together a split audience, since they’re now located in-person and remotely.

The easiest way to do this is by implementing a mobile event app for your event.

In-person guests can download the app on their mobile device to receive useful notifications, view maps, and interact with virtual guests by sending messages, participating in polls and Q&As, and creating their unique user profile.

For your virtual audience, this event app is the venue, allowing them access to attend from their mobile device or desktop.

No matter where your audience is, they can easily interact with each other and consume useful content through the event app.

ideas for a virtual conference

Idea #13) Develop an Effective Registration Form to Understand Your Audience and Ensure Your Virtual Engagement Activities Work 

Use your registration form as a tool to gather feedback from your audience before your event even starts. Add a question or comment box to learn how they heard about your event, what they’re looking forward to learning, or suggestions for guest speakers to invite.

If you keep receiving the same questions through your registration page, consider creating an FAQ section on your registration page or event website.

Idea #14) Choose Speakers That Will Engage Both In-Person and Virtual Attendees

The way you can engage attendees at an in-person or virtual event is different. You’ll need to have experience and practice in both to effectively connect with guests using interactive conference ideas and practiced speakers.

Don’t feel like all of your speakers should be on-site either. You can have a blend of in-person and virtual guest speakers. Just make sure that all of your virtual speakers have a high-quality camera and microphone to ensure the best video and audio quality, especially if you’re broadcasting it to your in-person audience.

Your in-person speaker should keep a laptop nearby so they can read online poll results and questions to keep both audiences engaged.

Idea #15) Break Up Your Presentations and Vary Your Session Formats

Traditional conferences usually have sessions in 30 or 60-minute chunks to make scheduling easier for navigating the physical venue. But it also means your audience may hear redundant information to fill the time. 

When it comes to hosting a hybrid event, what is a virtual audience going to engage in? They will quickly lose interest if sessions run too long. Remember, they’re not confined by the restrictions of a physical venue and can be more flexible in attending multiple sessions.

Ideas for a virtual conference involve breaking up the monotony of your presentations by varying session formats. Instead of saving Q&As for the end, introduce them quickly to keep a lively engagement between both audiences. Introduce breakout sessions frequently throughout to encourage participation.

Idea #16) Develop Different Content for Virtual Attendees at a Hybrid Event

When hosting events that are more suited toward in-person attendees, you have to get creative with your interactive conference ideas to appeal to your remote attendees so they don’t lose interest.

Your virtual audience is more flexible than those visiting in person. They can consume content much more quickly and freely, especially through the use of adding on-demand content to your hybrid event.

On-demand content lets your virtual audience pick and choose how they engage with your conference’s information. This can include uploading past webinars, infographics, pre-recorded videos, case studies, blog posts, and other interaction post ideas.

Idea #17) Create Different Price Tiers to Increase Your Audience Size

An evolving interactive conference idea and one simple way to boost engagement is to offer multiple price tiers. For example, you could charge money for an in-person ticket, but allow free basic access to your virtual attendees. 

If your virtual attendees want access to on-demand content, breakout sessions, or exclusive Q&As, then they can upgrade to a paid tier for more remote access.

This simple trick can increase your event’s attendance five-fold and can demand more in terms of gaining sponsorship, attracting more famous guest speakers, and can help you collect more data for your marketing efforts.

Idea #18) Personalize Content for Each Attendee

Appeal to your individual attendee’s interests by creating personalized Agendas and Digests to keep them coming back to your event app.

Digests are smart reminders that keep your users engaged by providing them with updates and summaries of the most popular content from their Feed, Agenda, and Messages modules.

Customized agendas can be made per user, based on their interests. This can create a deeper level of virtual engagement activities as they primarily see content that is relevant to them.

Idea #19) Find Out What Worked Best Through Post-Event Surveys

Send a post-event thank you message and ask your attendees for their feedback. Was there a certain session or speaker that resonated with them? What can you improve upon? 

Even though a lot of your user collected data can tell you which sessions were the most popular, asking direct questions through surveys can help you determine your brand’s sentiment — what your users actually thought of your event. Then you can produce an even more engaging event next time.

Idea #20) Work with an Event Production Partner to Enhance Your Production Quality

Want to create a hybrid event environment that will wow your audience and get them talking? Work with an event production partner who can create an unforgettable experience for your guests.

A production company can elevate your set design and venue space to transform it into a remarkable event. They can also improve your live streams by upgrading audio and visual quality for your remote audience, which will reduce “Zoom fatigue.” This creates a more enjoyable virtual event experience, where people are more likely to engage with your presenters.

Want to learn more about event production? Read: Event Production for Hybrid Events: Why It Matters and How to Turn Up the Heat in 2021.

Which Interactive Conference Ideas Will You Use to Make Audience Engagement a Key Component of Your Virtual or Hybrid Event?

Now that venues are opening back up, you can implement these interactive conference ideas to transform your next event into a truly hybrid experience for your audience. 

Using SpotMe’s hybrid event platform, you can now reach a larger audience than ever before. 

Using our mobile event app, keep your in-person and virtual audience engaged together by participating in polls, Q&As, and networking opportunities. And don’t forget about including HD quality live streams and on-demand content to keep your remote audience engaged.

Are you ready to start your free test run of SpotMe? Contact us to start your free trial today.

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