Our attention span gets shorter and shorter every day. Platforms such as TikTok and Instagram are gradually getting us accustomed to micro-content. Plus, the constant notifications we get on our phones make us prone to task-switching and reduce the amount of attention we can dedicate to one thing at a time.
No wonder why it’s almost impossible to sit still in a room and listen to a speaker for half an hour without doing anything else. And that’s something event professionals have been confronted with for a few years already. Attendees are checking their phones, scrolling through their social media feeds, answering emails, and even working at their computers while a top-notch industry leader is delivering a stellar presentation.
The problem gets even bigger when we take it to the online world. Think about it: Your attendee is watching your online event through a browser, so it’s entirely possible they’ll have multiple pages open and be moving back and forth between them. In other words, keeping people connected to your online event is quite challenging.
And although this behavior is normal and we should accept the fact that online events come with more procrastination, there are ways to get people to pay more attention to your virtual sessions. Here are some quick practices you can apply to keep people connected to your online event and make them enjoy it.
Practice #1. Create engagement opportunities every five minutes
The last thing you want is to let your online attendees listen to a large keynote speech without any engagement or interaction whatsoever. It’s hard enough when you’re at an event and sitting in a venue chair, but imagine what it’s like when you’re at home, having so many distractions around.
To keep people connected to your online event, it’s important to agree with your speaker or moderator about running frequent engagement sessions. This doesn’t have to be complicated—your speaker can simply ask the attendees a few questions during his or her speech. Some example questions include, “What do you think about company X?” or “Have you tried the service Y?”
The speaker should ask any questions that will get people eager to share their experiences in the comments section. The speaker or moderator also needs to read those comments and interact with them, add his or her perspective, or ask more questions. And all this should happen quite often, preferably every five minutes.
Practice #2. Run fun quizzes and live polls
Another way in which you can keep people connected and focused on your online event is by running live polls, funny quizzes, or even short personality tests. Everything that will entertain your guests will do. When running a quiz, you can add a humorous answer option.
For example, the speaker may ask the question, “Who is the founder of Space X?” and offer the following possible answers: Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, or Queen Elizabeth.
Also, let’s not forget that people are always interested in discovering more about themselves. That’s why a good way of keeping them connected is by giving them a quick personality test; for example, there’s a test that helps people discover their circadian rhythm: bear, wolf, lion, or dolphin. All these tests will make the online event much more entertaining and fun to follow.
Practice #3. Provide interactive online coffee breaks
The same way people need a break during your physical event, they also need a rest during your online event. But how can you replace coffee breaks for your virtual audience? Easy: by designing an interactive experience. For example, you can run a relaxing meditation session or invite your online guests to join online conversation groups. By actively engaging your audience, you’ll keep people connected to your online event.
Practice #4. Break your event into smaller sessions
If you want to lose the attention of your online attendees, run an online event that lasts for a few hours. I guarantee you that no one will stay until the end. That’s almost impossible. Instead, break your event into smaller sessions.
For example, you can plan a six-hour conference and break it into three days (two hours each day). You can dedicate 40 minutes to your keynote speech or round table and the Q&As, then 15 minutes for an interactive coffee break, and then an online networking experience. The secret is to keep your online events short and engaging.
Practice #5. Plant Easter eggs and ask people to identify them
The best way to keep people connected to your online event is by announcing at the beginning of the session that you’ve planted a few Easter eggs into the speakers’ presentations. Then encourage the people who identified the Easter eggs to email you a list of the eggs they found. For this to work, you’ll have to offer a nice gift as an incentive for participating, such as an anticipated book or even a free coaching session with one of the speakers.
Make it fun to watch
To keep people focused on your online event and reduce the distractions, think beyond the typical webinar and actively engage your virtual audience. Check in with them every five minutes, run fun quizzes and quick personality tests, and design interactive experiences they can engage with during the breaks. Divide your event into smaller sessions and extend the timeline of your event, and plant Easter eggs people can identify (and win gifts). All these activities will keep people’s eyes, with the right online event software, on your event.