How to keep your audience engaged during a virtual event

Written by: Adrian Eyre

Keeping hold of your audience’s attention during an online event is no mean feat. You’re competing against the endless distractions from family, technology, their latest amazon delivery…

So how do you keep them engaged? And better yet, how do you make them remember and care about what you’ve got to say?

After running countless online conferences, award shows and zoom based events over the last 6 months, our events manager, Adrian, explains what it takes to make a virtual event memorable for the right reasons.

11 ways to keep attendees engaged during virtual events

Here’s a useful guide on how to create a virtual event that your attendees will want to stick around for.

Pre-event: planning for success

Once you’ve nailed what the content of your virtual event is going to be, there’s plenty more to plan before the invites go out. Here’s some pre-event planning tips.


  1. Sound out your speaker(s). The quality of your virtual event host and speakers is just as important (if not more so) than it is for in-person events.
    Nothing makes a person click the exit button faster than a waffler who’s visibly uncomfortable on screen. Your speakers need to be confident in front of the camera. They should be energetic, entertaining and be able to hold the attention of the (virtual) room.So what happens if the CEO is desperate to give a speech, but their presentation skills are lacking? Depending on the type of event it is, consider placing their section towards the middle or end of the event, so your attendees are more invested at that point and less likely to leave.
  2. Pre-event polling. One of the biggest challenges of virtual events is the lack of audience interaction and participation. Consider running a social media or email poll ahead of your event to get your attendee’s thoughts on a specific topic. The results can then be used throughout the event to make your audience feel more connected to what’s being presented.
  3. Don’t skip on production. There may be less set up involved in a virtual event, but that doesn’t mean production quality should go out the window. If you really want to avoid the ‘you’re on mute! or ‘who’s making that background noise!?’ technical blunders then getting an experienced virtual event professional involved is key.Equally as important is the quality of what you’re presenting. If you want someone to look at a screen for a long period of time then you’d better make sure it’s easy to understand and interesting. Remember: the government has the luxury of being able to present shoddy slides, you probably don’t.Delayed starts, issues with audio and poor visual quality will have people exiting swiftly, so invest in production if you want your virtual event to be a success.
  4. Organise a surprise delivery. Bring some of the in-person experience to your event by sending out goodie bags or gifts to your attendees a few days before. You could even send a drink to all attendees so they can raise a glass together during the event.
  5. Do a dress rehearsal. If you really want to reduce the risk of an event fiasco from technical issues, speaker confusion or even a schedule that doesn’t actually plan out well, then getting a practise run through ahead of your live virtual event is the way to go.

    During your virtual event

  6. Use your intro wisely. Should I stay or should I go? Your attendees will be weighing up this question, even more so in the first 10 minutes of your virtual event.To command their attention early, get them excited about what’s coming up and consider using high quality, concise animation or video content to deliver your introduction. Avoid long-winded explanations, overselling or taking them through an in depth history of how the event came about – otherwise you could lose your audience before you’ve even started.
  7. Create variety with virtual rooms. Depending on the size of your event it may be useful to provide breakout areas in the form of virtual rooms for your attendees, to foster more intimate discussions. These smaller virtual rooms could also be used to deliver workshops and talks from other supporting speakers, giving your audience more autonomy and variety.
  8. Make space for audience interaction. Keep your viewers engaged by making time for attendees to participate through things like live chat, polls, trivia and Q&A. That being said, make sure your attendees are comfortable with participating – no one likes being forced to put their camera on!
  9. Manage your event length. With all the distractions you’re battling against, you can only hold your attendee’s attention for so long. Just like with face-to-face events, regular breaks are necessary to break up listening time.When it comes to Q&A time, be wary of letting time run away too much. Just like at a real event, everyone is conscious of the coffee and biscuits in the lobby and can be keen to get there. The same applies to a virtual event, it’s just that the biscuits are in their kitchen!
  10. Get your event trending. Create a unique hashtag for your virtual event and ask your attendees to use this throughout as a way to get your event trending on social platforms such as Twitter. Showcase some of the best posts during the event to encourage engagement (you could even consider running a competition for the best post).
  11. End on a high. The end of a virtual event often gets overlooked, since it’s often assumed that your attendees will have dropped off by then. But the end is a good opportunity to reinforce an important message raised earlier in the event and to end with a bang to leave a lasting impression.

We hope you found these virtual event tips useful. If you need someone to make your next virtual event happen smoothly and make an impact with your attendees, get in touch to hear how our TMG makers can help

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