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Graduate Your Audience from Attendees to Participants

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The following is a guest post by Nick Caston of Blue Sky Broadcast.

Introduction

The word “engagement” has been coming up frequently – and rightfully so. Engagement can transform a good webinar into a great event and can transform passive attendees into your biggest fans. Successfully delivering webinars and hybrid events is a challenge in itself, but, to truly engage your audience and enable them to engage others is an art.

Some recent tips posted on “Casting Calls” include using polls and Q&A, integrating Twitter feeds and leveraging video to create a more emotional connection. When delivered correctly, these and other tools can transform your web–based events into experiences that keep your constituents coming back for more.

Here are a few more tips that should result in increased engagement and greater outcomes.

1) Encourage feedback from your audience BEFORE, DURING & AFTER the event.

Use existing platforms and social networking tools to solicit feedback from registrants and prospective attendees. “Here’s the topic, what would you like to learn.” I’ve witnessed a single event blossom into a series and a content-week event tackle the most challenging (and unknown) issues by simply utilizing a LinkedIn conversation to engage the audience. This approach helps create a sense of ownership amongst your audience. And… if you want to create a movement, enabling a sense of ownership is key (Brains on Fire).

2) Recognize your participants.

Has your favorite radio station ever answered your call on the air? Have you ever won that major award? Something as little as saying a few names or verbally recognizing a group during your event can go a long way. Not only does it fulfill that desire for recognition most of us have, it reinforces the sense of community that remote participants need to be reminded of. If it’s a hybrid meeting, reminding the speaker and on-site audience of the remote audience is always a great move. A breakout session with 50 in-person attendees takes on a wildly different form when it’s announced that 1,000+ are participating online.

3) Create content for remote participants only (Hybrids)

The remote audience should never be “an afterthought.” Crafting a portion of content that isspecifically designed for the remote audience enables you to express this loud and clear. Stream a pre or post-session interview with the speaker or a key thought leader or address submitted questions/Tweets in a live setting. Even pre-recording a brief message to be played “mock-live” gives the remote audience something extra to talk about.

4) Initiate interaction amongst all parties.

Via integrated Twitter feeds, chat rooms, breakout rooms and more, event moderators can help facilitate interaction amongst on-site participant and remote participants before, during and after the event. If you have an opportunity to help your participants meet one another and “break the ice” before the event, the experience will mean that much more. Various platforms act to extend the engagement and conversation “around” an event, be it a single webinar or annual conference.

5) Mix it up!

Talking heads and PPT slides get old. The format is old!  But, it’s not always feasible to do anything more so you have to mix it up! Most platforms enable you (or the end user) to manipulate the viewing experience. Take advantage of this. If there’s a content-heavy portion of the presentation, enlarge the slides/presentation media and minimize the talking head/speaker photo. For interactive Q&A, hide the slides, stream the video or turn on the webcam, focus on the chat room and use pick tools that align with what’s happening, or more importantly, what the audience wants to be happening.

The idea here is to see the value of your events through the eyes of the participant. While they’re not going to tell you how to do it, they’re looking for a deeper experience and deeper engagement. Thus, the bigger picture focus should not be simply on the success of the event, it should be on creating a continuum of engagement that catapults your organization into a leadership spot.

Conclusion

I’ll wrap with the an incredibly wise Tweet from @leadrshpadvisor that I came across a few weeks back.  “We can’t command #engagement. We can only create an environment that facilitates it.”

About the Author

As an Account Manager at Blue Sky Broadcast, Nick Caston works with organizations that are looking to extend the reach of their meetings and events via live streaming and virtual event solutions.

Day to day tasks involve providing consulting and strategic services to organizations that are looking to further develop and extend the reach of their educational offerings. Blue Sky Broadcast is a technology integrator that leverages world class products/tools/platforms with their own proprietary technology and experience to deliver solutions that work today and grow with your needs tomorrow (webinars, webcasts, hybrid/virtual solutions, eLearning, LaaS).

 

Post contributed by Dennis Shiao

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