Moving events online: 5 ways to make your virtual presentations more engaging

You’ve spent the last nine months planning the perfect event — booking venues and vendors, contracting keynote speakers, printing banners and signage, and executing your thoughtful marketing strategy. Suddenly, you have to rethink everything.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders are making tough decisions to move conferences and events online as an alternative to postponing or canceling entirely. Marketing teams and event coordinators must get creative in their communication tactics in order to deliver memorable experiences in this challenging new venue.

It’s a scramble to replace speakers who dropped out, reconfigure breakout sessions, or reimagine networking methods.

Your newly virtual events are now tasked with being ultra-engaging despite the loss of environmental stimulation and human interaction. As you move your events online, developing engaging presentations becomes more important than ever.

Here are 5 ways to supercharge your presentations for a virtual event:

1. Maintain audience attention.

Situation

Virtual audiences are not captive. If attendees lose interest during an on-stage presentation, they are more likely to politely stay in their seats and re-engage at a later point. When those same presentations move online, they can be muted or abandoned without obvious notice.

How can you capture and maintain audience attention on screen instead of stage?

HOW TO #1

Just as professional speakers vary delivery speed and inflection, visual presentations need a proper cadence to remain engaging. Capture audience attention, then vary visuals and pace to maintain it.

Consider these presentation elements:

  • Video introductions
  • Countdown timers
  • Music
  • Subtle transitions
  • Typography
  • Infographics

Of course, the success of virtual presentations depends on their content and speakers, as well. It all starts with solid concept and theme development.

2. Make it memorable.

Situation

By relying more heavily on visuals, your presentations are more likely to “stick” with viewers.

Generally, when we hear information, we can recall 10% of it three days later, but if we see a visual, we can remember 65%. (Read more stats on visual processing in this post about infographics.)

How can you create a more visual experience that supports your primary message and main points?

HOW TO #2

Give your audience more to see than a face talking into a laptop camera. It’s not that people don’t want to look at you, but you’re not all they want to see.

To support story-telling and simplify complex processes and data, incorporate:

  • Photography
  • Illustrations
  • Data visualization
  • Charts & graphs
  • Progressive lists

Make your presentation memorable by continually asking, How could a visual more clearly and effectively demonstrate this point?

3. Accurately showcase your brand

Situation

Events offer attendees multiple touchpoints with your brand. Every detail — decor, signage, pamphlets, name tags, giveaways — keeps your brand in front of your audience.

Without your usual tactics, presentations become more influential as one of the sole representations of your brand during your virtual event. An attractive presentation can reflect the sophistication of your brand, whereas an overused PowerPoint template can suggest your brand is ordinary and unimaginative.

How can you set your virtual event presentation apart from a generic, amateur slideshow?

HOW TO #3

Make sure marks of your event branding are evident in the majority of your presentation. Beyond slapping your brand and event logos on every single slide, think about how you can create brand consistency through different visual elements:

  • Typography
  • Color
  • Background textures
  • Sidebars & callouts
  • Lower third titles
  • Iconography

If you plan to make your presentation decks available after an online event, this tactic also ensures your clients and prospects receive that information in a branded format.

PRO TIP

For larger events where you’d typically have branded premium items, consider sending a pre-event package to attendees. Include a themed notebook and pen, coaster or coffee cup, and other branded items that could enhance the virtual event experience (and serve as a lasting reminder for attendees).

4. Repurpose it.

Situation

Well-designed presentations take time and money. With all the work it requires, it can be tempting to call it finished and move on. You may even feel too exhausted from the event to look back at the presentation you flipped through 50 times.

HOW TO #4

Feature graphs and charts from the virtual event as new information for non-attendees and useful reminders for attendees. Publish presentation decks for attendees to share via social media or email and for non-attendees who qualify by filling out a form. (You can even offer other content and resources at the same time.)

Here are some other ways to recycle content through other marketing efforts:

  • Social media campaigns
  • Blogs
  • White papers & digital guides
  • Proposals
  • New business pitches

PRO TIP

Check your speaker’s voiceover notes, too. Chances are, the appropriate language is readily available and easy to repurpose through these various means.

5. Boost loyalty.

Situation

The mass implementation of online events inevitably changes attendee expectations for future events.

Returning attendees already recognize the benefits of your event. They have a better understanding of your offering and are more likely to return to your event in its usual format. Still, that doesn’t mean they’ll allow you to be lax in this virtual version. They may expect — even subconsciously — an online event that closely mirrors their past experiences.

New registrants could be an even harder sell. Depending on the history of their interactions, they may know very little about your brand. Create presentations with impact that prove your value and truly wow them.

How can you get them connected with your brand and committed to come back next year (or next time your event takes place)?

HOW TO #5

Connecting and engaging with virtual event attendees requires more intentionality than that of an in-person event, but it can be accomplished. Consider leveraging these engagement tools for your presentation:

  • Live chat feature for Q&A
  • Polls
  • Outline or agenda
  • Social media hashtags
  • Post-presentation feedback
  • Entry for a gift card or free consultation

Depending on the size of your event, you could even offer to meet virtual attendees 1:1 by appointment. Or offer a post-presentation roundtable to encourage networking and an exchange of ideas.

PRO TIP

Follow up with a survey after the virtual event, so attendees can rate your performance and content, as well as that of your presenters. Use the feedback to improve and build effective virtual event experiences.

The future of events

You’d be smart to anticipate how you’ll incorporate your virtual strategies into future events.

Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder of annual tech conference Web Summit, believes this year’s widespread cancellations will change the future model for events, “where an increasing number of people will decide to attend [events] online from home or their offices” (Fortune).

When we do get this thing under control, it’s just a question of time. I think it is going to create a hybrid future where an increasing number of people will decide to attend [events] online from home or their offices.

— Paddy Cosgrave, Co-Founder of Web Summit

That’s not to say all events are going to move online from here on out, but we should recognize the trends that arise out of this unique period of work-life reinvention.

As you reimagine your events in a virtual context, know that The Creative Department is open and available to help you with any of your presentation needs. We can deliver or guide you through these different how-tos to make your presentation an online sensation.

Below, get a glimpse of what we developed for one virtual event, which covered product updates and platform enhancements.

Fill out the form below to get in touch about your virtual event needs.

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