In response to the more crowded and competitive virtual environment that has blossomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many event organisers are taking steps to stand out from the crowd in 2021.
From TV-style productions and live (or as-live) broadcasts, to lifestyle events designed to engage a broad audience, the types of online events we are taking part in are developing at as fast a rate as improvements in technology and connectivity will allow.
And as more of us get used to the virtual format, the types of events we attend are only expected to proliferate.
Here are six easy ways to update your webinar strategy and attract bigger audiences in 2021.
1. Hold your Event When People want to Attend
Remote work is changing when we want to attend virtual events. As a majority of us spend more time attending events online, and many of us are conscious of the need to ensure there’s a clear distinction between working from home and our personal time, it’s not surprising that we’re getting pickier about which events we’ll turn up to, and when.
Almost four in ten of us prefer to attend online events in the mid-morning, followed by mid-afternoon, while very few of us (3%) like attending events in the evening, and even lunchtime is not quite as popular as it once was.
Weekends are also out of bounds as we look to protect our personal time.
On average, Tuesday is our favourite day to attend events, followed by Wednesdays and Fridays.
Of course, different times appeal to different audience types, so it’s a good idea to use your webinar analytics platform to find out when your audience is more likely to attend an event. Making events available on-demand will further boost attendance.
2. All Virtual Business Events Don’t Have to be All Business
Let’s face it, unless you’re a complete introvert, being locked down for weeks on end isn’t a whole lot of fun.
Not surprisingly, in 2020 business-related virtual events weren’t the only events that attracted our attention. Over the past 12 months, 40% of us ventured online for personal entertainment: from awards nights, live concerts and sporting events, to fundraisers, fitness classes and multi-day festivals.
Many organisations looked to take advantage of the virtual environment to offer their staff fun ways to stay in touch through team trivia challenges, movie nights, cooking classes, and food, wine and craft beer tastings hosted by celebrity guests and industry experts.
Expanding your online virtual event repertoire to include more casual, fun offerings can be a great way to keep your employees engaged and your clients and prospects aware of your brand.
3. Adopt a TV-style Format
Driven by physical distancing and social gathering restrictions, some of the world’s biggest and most glamorous face-to-face events moved to the online space in 2020.
What’s more, some event organisers and producers dialled up their events to another level by creating experiences that were more similar to a live television production than a traditional online broadcast.
The virtual Democratic National Convention (DNC), for example, included a massive 800 video feeds and 64 set designs, while the 2020 Daytime Emmys was completely pre-taped from the lounge rooms of the show’s hosts as well as the presenters and nominees.
Closer to home, the Australian Marketing Institute hosted its Experience Marketing Excellence event (including announcing the AMI award finalists) in a studio to create an engaging, purpose-built format that was much more like a television show than a traditional awards night conducted from a stage. The event included both formal and casual interviews and pre-recorded content to create a 45-minute, television-style presentation.
As more event managers recognise the benefits of professional studio sets, multiple camera angles, crosses to remote presenters and live editing, expect to see many more events adopt either a totally virtual or hybrid format in 2021.
4. Rise of As-Live Webcasting and Pre-recorded Events
While the popularity of live events is on the increase, so is a move towards completely pre-recorded events that are simulcast as-live.
Pre-recorded webinars provide access to the professional-quality lighting, sound, staging, editing and technical back-up offered by studio producers and local technical support.
In 2020, almost one in five (17%) events were pre-recorded and simulcast as if they were live — up from one in ten a year earlier.
As-live broadcasts give you total control over the scheduling of your event across different markets, so no one has to set their alarm to be able to attend. They also let you avoid network congestion while editing enables you to cut out any mistakes.
Three in four pre-recorded webinars are also always made available on-demand, which gives everyone the chance to attend at a time that suits them.
So if you’re planning to host a webinar this year, take some time to think outside the square and work out what type of event will be the best choice to meet your goals.
5. Take Advantage of Live Simulcasts to Boost Social Engagement
Live-streaming your webinars on your social channels boosts exposure and engagement, and creates a sense of immediacy and occasion.
It also provides more bang for your buck with live-streamed videos generating six times as much engagement as on-demand video on Facebook.
All of the big social platforms prioritise live content, so live-streaming content to your social platforms will help you rank higher in your community’s news feeds, as well as attract more views.
A good way to facilitate a more interactive live event is to assign a staff member to monitor your social simulcast for live questions that can be fed back into the webinar.
6. Use Neuroscience to Boost Engagement
Canny webinar organisers are now using simple neuroscience techniques to make remote events more engaging and successful.
Effective ways to do this include providing both visual and audio elements to reinforce messaging — which makes sense considering that up to 50% of the surface of our brains is devoted to processing visual information.
Creating a consistent, flowing narrative — i.e. telling a story — throughout an event also keeps people engaged longer.
Remembering our past successes also releases serotonin, a hormone that can boost our overall mood, so building quizzes and gamification into your webinars can release endorphins that reduce stress, create a positive association with learning, and help viewers retain what they’ve learned.
To learn more about how you can make your webinars more memorable in 2021, read our 21 Webinar Trends and Tips report.