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What Are Your Attendees Expecting From Your Virtual Events in 2022?

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Two years after the shift to virtual, online events have evolved — and attendee expectations have evolved in response.

This year, guests expect more flexibility, interactivity and accessibility from their virtual and hybrid events. To earn all the followers you earned in the last few years, your events need to follow suit. So how can you evolve your event strategy to meet these changing needs? ‘

Learn how below: 

What are my attendees expecting from virtual events in 2022? 

1. Increased flexibility

The widespread shift to virtual proved beneficial for many would-be attendees that couldn’t travel to in-person events, like new parents, overscheduled executives, or primary caretakers for elderly family members. And with two-thirds of knowledge workers still working remotely, the desire for flexibility isn’t going away in 2022. 

“When you have virtual components to any event, it automatically makes it more accessible to folks who couldn’t travel because they couldn't find childcare or it’s unlocking the door for people aren’t C-suite or top level executives who get first choice in traveling to an event thats very expensive,” says Hannah Scherer, BigMarker's Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships. 

“Maybe they are immunocompromised and they can't be in a place where they’re exposed. So even if you’re fully invested in in-person events, we recommend having a virtual component to engage those attendees.”

Also, in your marketing, stress that your sessions are available on-demand — and assemble them in a Media Hub so your audience knows where to tune in for the latest content. (Want to take it a step further? Consider making your events available on a companion mobile app, so attendees can listen on the go.) 

2. Improved accessibility

The shift to virtual has also brought the importance of equity to the forefront. Everyone should enjoy the same quality of experience at your event, regardless of their nationality, ability status, financial status, etc. As an event organizer in 2022, it is important to include the  following accommodations into your events: 

  • Language - Incorporate closed captioning in a variety of languages so you can provide a seamless viewing experience for your attendees, no matter where they are or what language they speak.
  1. Ability - Virtual events also need to ensure their events are accessible for people with physical and intellectual disabilities, as stipulated by ADA guidelines.

    You can easily implement the necessary accommodations by integrating your webinar platform with an accessibility software provider. We recommend AccessiBe, a web accessibility service that embeds directly into your BigMarker event site to bring it into ADA compliance. Its interface is a session-based design and UI adjustment tool that makes accessibility modifications based on a user's individual needs.

    These include content, color and display and navigation adjustments, all of which are compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA & AAA requirements.

    In addition to adjusting users’ interfaces, accessiBe’s AI machine learning technology also uses AI technology to handle more complex accessibility adjustments such as screen-reader optimization and keyboard navigation.  
  1. Cost - Virtual and hybrid formats enable participants with cost concerns to  attend events they otherwise couldn’t afford. 

3. Continued emphasis on engagement

49 percent of event organizers say the attendee engagement is the single most important factor for success. 

However, two-plus years into the pandemic, people are burning out on long, uninterrupted online events. So how can hosts keep their attendees engaged in 2022? Here are some tips from Hannah Scherer, BigMarker’s Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships (and webinar host!): 

  • Limit presentation-style content to 20-30 consecutive minutes: Early in the pandemic, we saw hosts conduct 45-, 60- or even 90-minute webinars. However, attendee engagement tends to drop after the half-hour mark of a continuous webinar. For that reason, Scherer recommends limiting presentations to 20 or 20 minutes.

    “If you're finding you have really dense and meaningfully content, don’t feel like you need to condense it,” Scherer says. “But maybe you can break it into two parts, or do a shorter Q&A every 20 minutes instead of a one longer one at the end, just to give people a break and let them reset.” 

  • Look for opportunities to condense virtual event agendas: The same principle applies for virtual events, she continues. “We saw a lot of people try to reproduce exactly what they did online to a virtual audience. So maybe we had a 5-day-long, full-week event that we were doing virtually. But we’re seeing engagement for those kinds of events taper off after a while. So a lot of folks are finding that shorter is still better."

    At BigMarker, when we host full virtual events, we shoot for maybe a half-day of content. Half-day and full-day is becoming increasingly more popular. Obviously, if you have a lot to pack in, you can host multiple days. But if you’re hosting a 2-day event, maybe try doing four half-days spread out, or one and a half days, or something creative like that to spread out your content across a longer period of time.”
  • Diversify your content mix: The more variety in your content mix, the longer you can go without boring your attendees. So Scherer recommends supplementing presentations with more interactive content, like immersive Q&As, polls and handouts. (Aim not to have speakers talking continuously for more than 10 minutes at once.)
  • Gamify your events: Nothing sparks action quite like a competition. Gamification encourages attendees to participate in different parts of the event by awarding points for completing specific specific activities — like visiting the Networking Center. The highest point getters can win a free trial of your service or a prize pack of proucts from your sponsors. (Learn how to use gamification to your advantage here.)

    You can use a standard point structure — or you can experiment with other game formats. “I’ve heard of things like Find the Donut, where people are looking for easter eggs [hidden objects or icons] throughout the virtual event site,” Scherer says, “But if we boil it down, we want to gamifythose experiences to encourage deeper interaction with the content on offer."
  • Use video Q&A: By nature, Q&A sessions make sessions more conversational and interactive. But if your attendees can see and hear fellow participants asking questions in their own voice, they’ll feel like they’re right there in the room. That’s possible on BigMarker thanks to our integration with Capsule, a video Q&A service that allows attendees to submit video questions to presenters.

    “If you’re pre-recording sessions, allow people to pre-submit their Q&A. On BigMarker, we have a cool way to do this with a video approach,” Scherer says. “So people can pre-record video questions and submit them into the feed for that pre-recorded session to answer those questions. But you can also do it live and that creates an even more interactive experience.”
  • Host guided experiences: It’s safe to say that people appreciate a personal touch now more than ever. And increasingly, we’re seeing companies supplement their virtual events with experiential programming and “surprise and delight” activations. “I’ve seen things like sending gift boxes that people open for each day of the event and then it corresponds with the activities that they're doing,” Scherer says. “It takes a lot of effort, but if you’re looking for something new, it can be very effective.”
  • Incorporate networking and other virtual event features into webinars: On BigMarker, you can incorporate virtual event functionalities — like networking, gamification, etc. — into your webinar without committing to a full virtual event. This allows you make a bigger impact in a shorter amount of time — which is the name of the webinar hosting game in 2022.  

4. Increased in-person engagement opportunities

Don’t get us wrong, there are many benefits to virtual events. But after two years of isolation, people are clamoring to connect in person again: According to a 2021 MarTech study, nearly 85% of marketers surveyed expect to attend an in-person event in 2022.

Complement your webinars and virtual events with hybrid gatherings. If your team can’t swing a full hybrid event, consider smaller networking meetings or round tables as a test and learn opportunity.  

5. More personalization

From Amazon recommendations to those tailored ads that feel a little too accurate, personalization is everywhere. As a result, consumers have come to expect that their content and marketing messages will be tailored to their needs.

So if you don’t make an effort to individualize your virtual attendees’ experiences, they may feel like a number and leave. Consider personalizing your attendee experience with the following:

  • Use agenda tracks to tailor content to a variety of interests. 
  • Ask attendees to submit their job title and/or interests on their registration form via custom registration. On BigMarker, attendees can then get content recommendations based on those preferences. 
  • Use AI-powered matchmaking to match like-minded attendees together for networking conversations. Attendees are matched through the virtual event platform and from there, they can decide whether to conduct a 1:1 video call or chat. This allows attendees to chat only with the people who are most relevant for their needs. 

6. Increased engagement throughout the customer journey

B2B decision-makers are conducting more of the buying process on their own, as 47% of buyers view at least 3–5 pieces of content before they contact a sales representative and 96% of B2B buyers look for more information from industry thought leaders before buying. That requires a lot of extra work from your content team… unless you’re generating that content through your webinars and virtual events.

Each online event generates at least 20 minutes of content, while also allowing users to ask questions in real-time. So it’s a great opportunity to educate leads and move them along the sales funnel. 

To do this, create a series of events that targets a specific user as they travel throughout your sales funnel. 

For instance, if you represent a marketing automation software, you might produce a series of three webinars for a hypothetical new prospect:

  •  “How Marketing Automation Can Help You Crush Your Marketing Goals” for top-funnel leads
  • “When and How to Use Marketing Automation in the Sales Funnel” for middle-funnel viewers
  • Then close the deal with a case study, like “How Company X Used Marketing Automation Software to Save $100,000 Per Year.” 

Viewers can then progress through the series as they move closer to a buying decision, rather than trying to find the piecemeal content they need — and finding your competitors in the process. On BigMarker, you can convert those live webinars into on-demand recordings, and embed them onto your website, to make this process as easy as possible.

7. Continued focus on security

Data security continues to be a concern for virtual and hybrid event attendees. Keep your attendees and their data safe using a variety of security measures, from gated entry and geo-fencing to SSO-enabled logins and multi-factor authentication, all of which are available on BigMarker.

But safety goes beyond protecting passwords: With the recent spike in inflammatory speech and hate crimes, it’s more important than ever to create safe spaces for discourse at your events. While you can’t keep every troll away, you can minimize hurtful speech by adding filters to your session’s chats, so that prohibited words are automatically blocked from the discussion. You can also remove unwelcome attendees from the session and block them for future events if needed.

Feeling overwhelmed trying to make sure your event platform has all of the functionality you need? Reach out to sales@bigmarker.com to discuss with one of our event experts today.

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