Try these tips for making virtual guests feel as included as in-person participants.

So many conference organizers and event professionals are focused on creating an online or hybrid event that is like a TV show. They have loads of pre-recorded content so the meeting will run smoothly, and a stack of AV special effects to make it dazzling.

With today’s technology, it is relatively easy to livestream or record a studio broadcast and send it out to your attendees, wherever they may be. But your delegates want more, much more.

The underlying tenet of the events I have been involved with over the past 18 months is that “delegates want events done with them and not just to them.” A TV-show approach is not enough. If it was, you could just send everyone a recording and let them watch it, knowing that most would watch at a faster speed and “skip ahead to the good bits.” But that’s not enough to create a memorable meeting. Today’s attendees want to be part of the event, not simply subject to it.

Your delegates want more than just TV. They want two-way TV. They want to interact with it. They want questions to be taken during the session and answered live. They want to be up on the screen like bringing someone up on stage. They want to share some of their experiences with a similar situation to what the speaker is discussing. Attendees are so used to social media and constant communication that they expect the events they attend to be social and engaging as well.

Virtual Guests, Warwick Merry,

Engaging Online Delegates


The good news is that making your meetings more interactive doesn’t have to mean spending more money. You really don’t need a tech set-up like Oprah, Tony Robbins or the other big names. There are some simple ways you can incorporate the two-way TV concept into what you are currently doing.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to encourage the use of the chatbox. Get your speakers to constantly refer to the chatbox and remind people to share their thoughts and experiences throughout. Don’t worry if the chat goes a little off-topic sometimes, as this still shows that participants are engaged with your platform and using it to make connections.

Even if you use a pre-recorded session, you can still have the speaker use the chatbox to interact with attendees in real-time. Make sure your host is talking with the attendees, answering their questions, sending out polls and keeping them engaged. If you are running a hybrid gathering, it’s best to ensure that each audience has its own host to interact with.

Using polls, word clouds, digital whiteboards, breakout rooms and other tools can help keep participants engaged, energized and entertained. Make sure your speakers are comfortable with your event platform and know how to use these tools.

Our events must be designed around and executed with the attendees. Employing a two-way TV approach will significantly lift the engagement, energy, and ROI of your gathering. Online and hybrid events are too significant a part of our future event space to have them be like TV. We must take it to the next level. 

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