The most popular Digital Event formats – and how to get them right!

By redback

We all spend so much time and energy working on our digital event speakers, topics and content – but what about the format?

Many of us aren’t even aware of the options we have available to us, yet viewers definitely have an opinion on what they prefer, and these preferences are changing!

We asked respondents of this year’s Redback Report to rank their most preferred formats – here’s what we found.


Multiple presenters maximise engagement.

There are so many different ways to present content in virtual events — but what are our favourite formats? In general, we like the engagement, interactivity and the variety of having more than one person on-screen.

A moderator and one presenter is our preferred presentation format, selected by just over one in four respondents (27%) — slightly higher than last year.  Also popular were interactive audience Q&As (23%) and panel discussions (21%).

Single presenter events — once the standard for most webinars — were nominated by 19%.


Moderator + presenter 27%
Interactive audience Q&A 23%
Panel discussion 21%
Single presenter 19%
Fireside chat 10%


So how can you get these formats right?

It’s all well and good to mix up your formats, but it’s important to get them right and ensure you have the right people for each of the roles. Let’s delve into each type:


Moderator + Presenter

This preferred format works because it results in a clean, organised and engaging online event.

Moderators are crucial when it comes to keeping your presenter on track and managing your online audience. Their role is to introduce your speakers, cover off housekeeping, manage Q&A sessions and keep your webinar on track. And if you select the right moderator, they will add a level of sophistication and professionalism.

Consider using an internal employee to moderate your events in your series. This creates consistency across your program and saves you having to retrain.

Watch an example here.


Interactive audience Q&A

Allowing your audience to be involved in your event is a quick and easy way to maximise engagement. People love being heard and sharing their experiences; therefore, this format works well — but there’s things to keep in mind to ensure you don’t get caught out.

Ask your questions to pre-submit questions so your presenters have some idea about the answers they will give – especially if there’s more than one speaker involved.

Also ask your speakers to come up with some Dorothy Dixer (aka fake) questions they would like to answer. Why? Because there’s a chance you may not get as many questions as you would like. This ensures you will have enough to cover your allocated time and allow presenters to cover off topics which may not get brought up by your audience.


Panel Discussions

Creative discussions, controversial topics and high-profile speakers work best for panel discussions. But – they must be managed correctly.

Consider using a facilitator who has experience in moderating these discussions. There’s an art to creating discussion between presenters and tying in questions from the audience. If you don’t have anyone in mind, you can ask your webinar provider as they should be able to provide you with some options.

Pre-production calls are also crucial – if your speakers haven’t met or spoken about their key topics there will be no rapport and your event will come across as disjointed. During your pre-production call, try to develop a rough run sheet so your facilitator at least knows who is a subject matter expert on which topic. This will be likely to change throughout the event, but it’s good to have a guideline.

We also recommend using a professional webinar studio to host panel discussions. While they can be facilitated remotely, studios will increase the experience for all.

Watch an example here.


Single Presenter

The traditional webinar speaking method, single presenters definitely still have their place in the online world.

These days, they are usually used for training or professional development sessions and are accompanied by slide decks.

To increase engagement with these types of events, ensure you take full advantage of the interactive features available with the webinar platform – including polls, resource folders, chat boxes and Q&A Session.


Fireside Chat

These types of events are definitely on the rise. They are similar to moderator and presenter but are usually much more casual and are conducted on chairs or lounges.

As the name suggests, they are typically informal chats and are delivered like a talk show. To execute this well, an engaging moderator and speakers are a must! It’s important they have a rapport and can keep the conversation light – all while delivering content of value.

Watch an example here.

For more digital event insights from this year’s Redback Report, download the research here.