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Demystifying Engagement: How to connect with your audience

Posted on 10/15/2021

Connecting with your audience is key to demystifying any form of engagement when it comes to event management. Liz King graced our 360° event to shed more light on how to connect with your audience.

Liz King Caruso started her business on Twitter, but after connecting with like-minded individuals via social media, her Twitter account blossomed into a fully-fledged events business. Liz has experience in virtual and hybrid events for about ten years. Her expertise in virtual platform strategy and the monetization of virtual events is well sought after in the industry.

At InEvent’s 360° event, Liz left us with pearls of wisdom to help event planners engage their audiences in a way that better serves their virtual and hybrid objectives. If you missed it, you could catch her session on-demand here. We have identified our key takeaways from the 360° event in this article. Read on to find out more

360° Key Takeaways from Liz King Caruso – Events specialist and consultant at Liz King Eventsent

Event engagement has changed significantly over the past 18 months. According to Liz, a good starting point is to re-imagine what in-person, virtual and hybrid events look like in 2021 and beyond.

“I believe that hybrid is the future, and it is critical that we get ourselves out there and try it.” 

Liz King caruso

Sometimes hybrid events simply look like a live stream where the audience is just watching remotely. There would be a great in-person event, and people are watching virtually, but the event’s main focus would always be the in-person event.

CTRL ALT DLT event in 2017

Liz King Events produced an event called CTRL ALT DLT a few years ago, where they had a virtual program and had hubs of people participating from all around the world. According to Liz, that was the closest example they had to the type of events being produced today in 2021, in 2017. 

Liz reiterates that these event models have existed, and today we see that people want to interact with each other in a different way, which calls for a new way to look at the engagement at virtual and hybrid events.

While there is Zoom fatigue, there is no such thing as Netflix fatigue.

In Liz’s experience, she found that audiences are selective about what they spend their time on virtually, which begs the question as to why people were getting tired of Zoom, but not of Netflix.

This is valuable insight for events planners because it suggests that event producers are doing something wrong.

“We have to be more entertaining. We have seen that people’s time attention span for anything virtual is really short unless you design a TV show. People don’t have the attention span to sit and watch educational content or to network for long periods,” says Liz.

Virtual events are great for introverts.

“In my case, I was always the awkward one at the back on my phone at networking events, but virtual has allowed me to meet so many people differently,” attests Liz.

When event planners talk about the engagement metric, they usually refer to how many people are on screen. In the beginning, event planners were asking questions like “are their videos on?” or “Are they participating in conversations?” To determine engagement, but in the last year and a half, she realized that maybe that approach is not the key to determining engagement anymore.

Different audiences

“A true hybrid event is an event with two different audiences, and they have all the perfect touchpoints.”

Liz King Caruso

Over this time, Liz has come to understand that the virtual audience and the in-person audience are two very different experiences and therefore should be treated as such, especially regarding engagement.

“When we are at a virtual event, we don’t have handshakes and hugs. The breaks are awkward because we don’t have a person to turn to on the right and introduce ourselves to. We are sitting in our home offices, and every second feels like 6 minutes”, says Liz.

With that in mind, event planners need to create two completely different engagement experiences for both audiences. 

Ask yourself: To what extent do people want to connect when they are a part of two completely different audiences?

Think about the ways that you can connect your audiences to the content. Virtual event platform features like chat options, live Q&A, and upvoting questions are helpful for this purpose.

Liz suggests thinking about whether you can have your virtual attendees networking with each other in one way and your in-person attendees having a different networking experience with each other.

“I don’t think we should be that obsessed with these two audiences connecting with each other, but I do think we need to think about how those two experiences are and should be different.”

Liz King Caruso

Agenda

Does someone virtual want to attend an 8-hour day? Probably not. Event planners need to look at how we plan the agenda to be more meaningful for both audiences. 

Think about how you can make the agenda about your attendees. With the TechsyTalk Global conference, most content was designed around what the attendees wanted to talk about. “We’re not even choosing topics until part of the event has started. We had a few sessions, and we asked attendees what they wanted to talk about. Then we had some breakouts where they became part of the conversation,” remarks Liz. “I think that’s critical, especially as people are getting tired of watching way too much content. Whether it’s live or pre-recorded, it’s too much content. They want to be part of that experience, so making the agenda about the attendees is really important.”

Shorter formats

Liz suggests having sessions of about 10-15 minutes long. 

“People can get a ton of content in a small amount of time.” 

Liz King Caruso

“Rethink the most important content for your session, make it a hitlist, and maybe do the Top 5 points. Those are always our best sessions,” says Liz. “We see even with in-person, people are there to network, they want to see each other, they want to experience all the things that they haven’t been able to experience. Content is not necessarily one of those things. They skip out on the mainstage sessions, so we may want to think about mixing up our agenda as well, to see how that works for the hybrid model.”

Production value

Better technical production is imperative, and investing in the right cameras and lighting will yield better results. “We have been talking in the events industry about TV production quality,” says Liz. “We have to be TV producers, we have to make events that flow and have an entertainment factor like survivor or whatever show that makes you wanna binge-watch, and we have been obsessed with that concept for a while now.” 

Events are significantly different from TV because they are live, and they have a lot of other components. 

“Access to better technology will make a big difference to your attendees when it comes to engaging them”

Liz King Caruso

Accessibility

The best way to engage our attendees is to make the event accessible so that they can attend. You can do this by offering:

  1. Translations and ASL (American Sign Language) – there are many different tools and technologies at in-person or virtual events that can make our events easier to access, especially as we have audiences worldwide. 
  2. Different formats of events – people are tired of being online all the time, and with the increase of audiences on Clubhouse, there is a demand for other content formats. 
  3. A 365 experience – event planners have been talking about this concept more and more over the past few months. A 365 experience allows you to share content throughout the year and keep our audiences engaged by using fresh formats like on-demand content.
American Sign Language (ASL)

“It’s not just about this one-time experience, but thinking about how we can build that out.”

Liz King Caruso

Entertainment

Offer entertainment breaks instead of coffee breaks. Try virtual puzzles, meditation, comedy, improv sessions. “I recommend mixing that up in your agenda. Where an in-person audience will have lunch or bathroom breaks, fill that space with entertainment for virtual audiences, and that is how you will differentiate between audiences again,” suggests Liz.

Networking

People attend events for content and networking, but people want networking with the overload of content. InEvent has the new networking roulette feature for virtual audiences that allows attendees to be randomly paired with another event attendee. 

But what does networking look like for an in-person audience? People want most of the event to be about connecting with other people, and we need to think about that for both audiences. 

Engagement is constantly evolving, what one may understand by the word engagement may be different from another, but it comes down to really knowing your audience. Be more inventive with your event agendas. Think about the benefits for your event attendees and how you can facilitate the absolute best experience for them.

Did you like this content? Check out our blog resources and sign up to our newsletter to keep updated on the latest trends, features, and more regarding virtual events across the world:

  • Go beyond remote work with InEvent
  • Hybrid Event Examples: Best-in-Class in 2021
  • The Top 5 Venue Selection Criteria for Hybrid Events
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