The business of virtual events has been exploding since even before the pandemic — and now, there’s no denying it. Every virtual events platform or business seems to have a crazy statistic: For example, 1.8 billion minutes of virtual events and webcasts were viewed on Intrado’s platform in 2020, a 350% increase from the previous year. “To put this number in context, that’s more than 39 million NBA games,” writes W. Mark Whitlock.
Ruben Castano, CEO of 6Connex, a virtual events platform, reports the same: “‘We have seen our business of virtual events grow by 1000%. We have been working overtime and hiring non-stop to keep up with the demand. Interest from colleges, sports teams and requests from international businesses is something we didn’t anticipate growing so rapidly, but we are thrilled to assist as the event world reconvenes online.”
Of course, the main challenge with a virtual event: Your audience is likely at home, along with every possible distraction that comes from being at home. Even putting aside regular work (all those Slack updates…), things like family life, personal appointments, household duties, and such are ever more present. Not to mention, every virtual event is now competing with the endless entertainment and content from social media (and social audio is a significant component of that now, too). There was a 5% increase in social media users worldwide from 2020 to 2021 — 3.78 billion people now use social media. To put that 5% in perspective, there’s been a 32.2% increase since 2017. Here’s a look at what the top apps people are using if you’re curious. TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat… the list goes on.
So your audience certainly isn’t as captive. What can you do about that? Let’s go through a few best practices to engage your attendees.
The 4 Best Virtual Events Best Practices to Excite Your Audience
Discussing virtual events best practices wouldn’t be complete without first acknowledging the shared goal — what will be of the most value to your audience? Obviously, your company has business goals from hosting a virtual event, and there’s a specific return on investment you’re looking for. Whether your business is prioritizing increasing sales to existing clients, collecting data on potential new clients, analyzing sessions attended, or something else entirely, you have an objective.
Of course, best practices can vary based on your industry and event, but let’s focus specifically on two themes that are broadly applicable: Connection and engagement.
1. Choose a Virtual Event Platform
Keeping in mind the themes of connection and engagement, it’s important to choose a virtual event platform that will not only provide a great virtual venue for speakers to deliver content and information to attendees, but also will facilitate genuine conversation between attendees after during the networking portion.
Of course, there are the "obvious” choices: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet… but let’s take it a step further. While these platforms work well for some use cases, there are a number of other options now that have even more creative ways for attendees to engage with one another.
Check out and consider these 3 virtual event platforms. Especially note the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2021 that SpatialWeb hosted, and what made it special. It definitely didn’t hurt to have Billie Eilish perform, sure, but the real special part? “SpatialWeb made it feel totally different from a Zoom. For MediaLink, it has never been about the food or the party; it is about the efficiency and the opportunity to interact,” said Kassan, chairman and CEO at MediaLink.
Related reading: What is the Best Proximity Chat Platform in 2021?
2. Integrate High-Quality Audio
Audio is the integral part of any virtual event. It’s so obvious it could almost be overlooked — but what other component is so broadly used for every online gathering?
The Power of Audio. This is an article that has some cool research on why yes, the audio quality at your virtual events absolutely matters.
To highlight one of the findings… In an experiment, people rated a physicist’s talk at a conference as 19.3% better when they listened to it in high quality audio. Following suit, people also judge the speaker as more intelligent, competent, and likable when audio quality is high vs. low.
So how can you integrate high quality audio into your virtual events platform? Fortunately, there’s actually an easy way to do this now. Here’s a quick FAQ all about how to do so using High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio API. If you’re curious to learn more about spatial audio itself and why it helps people chat more naturally with each other, check out this next section...
3. Re-think How You Connect Attendees with Each Other
So, “spatial audio”. What’s so special about this? Why it would help attendees connect?
First, we can acknowledge that there are a myriad of ways attendees can connect at virtual events: Breakout rooms, interactive speaker sessions, creative happy hours, 1:1 booked meetings… you get the picture. But many people feel that virtual simply can’t capture the human aspect that an in-person traditional conference can. Does that mean you shouldn’t try?
Spatial audio recreates the way we hear sound in real life. Because many conversations can take place at once (while still being understandable), it mimics the feeling of a real life gathering, bringing about that ‘human’ sort of experience so many virtual events are lacking.
“Most audiences genuinely miss the networking aspect of a conference. They miss meeting new people, shaking hands, and being among their peers. Every virtual event should have a way to connect attendees and drive interaction and engagement,” Ben Chodor says.
He continues: “Right now, event organizers have an opportunity to drive connections for people who have been working from home and craving inspiration, motivation, and the chance to talk to industry peers.”
Integrating spatial audio into your virtual events platform, or using a platform with this type of audio, goes a long way. Just ask the attendees of CES in SpatialWeb who got to mingle at the after party.
4. Share Recorded Keynotes and Follow Up
Finally, be sure to follow up with your attendees to engage them not only before and during the event, but after as well. Not only does sharing recorded keynotes provide your audience with additional value, but it gives an opportunity to check-in with them as well for your business objectives. You may want to send them a post-event survey.
Bonus: You can even help connect your guests after the fact. “Take a hard look at your attendee list. Think back to who raised the most questions, expressed the most excitement, or even reached out and asked for more ways to get involved. Look for similarities between those guests like company size, industry, and job role. Once you identify a couple, reach out to both in a simple, concise way to connect them,” writes Hannah Swanson. Obviously this isn’t always feasible, but it’s a way to go above and beyond when possible.
Host an Amazing Virtual Event Using Spatial Audio
Overall, the human experience is at the core of any virtual event, and spatial audio is one great component of that — just like in real life.
“Let the audience observe a good conversation, especially one that is human-centered, no matter what the subject matter is,” says Allan Tate, executive chair of the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium that pivoted to a virtual series in 2020.
Natural communication (including the ‘cocktail party effect’ at real life gatherings that allows you to zero in on specific conversations in a group… read more about that here) is so important, especially nowadays.
If you’re curious to check out additional guides to integrate spatial audio into your web app, here are some great resources.