6 Takeaways on Virtual Audience Engagement to Bring with You into 2021

6 Takeaways on Virtual Audience Engagement to Bring with You into 2021 | MCI | Global engagement & marketing agency

December, 02 2020

This year required a lot of agility and resilience from organisations - trying to find different ways to maintain business continuity, audience engagement and revenue growth.

As we approach the end of this crazy year, we’ve been asking ourselves: what have we learned that we will bring with us into 2021 and beyond?

We also believe that many of the novelties introduced this year – from new technologies to the whole virtual and hybrid events sector and new business models – will accompany us for the years to come. 

Here is a selection of 6 key takeaways from this year based on our experts' experience working with brands and associations on their audience engagement challenges. 

1. Elevate the virtual attendee experience design

“Why is it that so many online conferences, meetings and seminars crash and burn? There are several reasons.  

First of all, there is low energy (among the audience). In the online space, audience click to join on a screen. There are no stimuli from the venue or people around them, or from the smells and sights of a physical environment (…) 

Emotion trumps rational thinking. The way we choose our partner, who we vote for, and what we buy are driven by emotion, before we rationalise it (with facts). Can we create a positive emotional rush in the online world? Yes, we can, through multi-sensory experiences. 

There are many ways of doing that. One of that is to make story-telling part of your content, and the other is to use powerful visuals. Believe it or not, you can also create a sense of smell in the digital world. We can deliver food to attendees, or have them smell things around the house to invoke certain emotions.” 

Avinash Chandarana, Global Learning & Development Director, July 2020 

Read more on design principles for the virtual attendee experience

2. Engage your association members with digital 

“With all the varied networking opportunities, learning platforms and advocacy programmes available, core associations’ benefits can now be accessed without belonging to an association. (…)  

Adopting digital engagement strategies will foster a stronger sense of community, through online continued education and networking for 24/7 engagement. (…)  

Size does not matter. Any organisation can be digital and implement simple strategies for blended scalable platforms to curate valuable content and trigger knowledge sharing and e-learning, whilst bringing automation into their processes.” 

Frances Hulme, Marketing & Communications Manager MCI UK, June 2020

Read more on association's digital transformation

3. Drive revenues with innovative sponsorship opportunities 

“Virtual events provide new and innovative sponsorship opportunities with even greater ROI.  

Virtual sponsorship packages offer flexible and customised options, beyond the event’s one-size-fits-all opportunities.  

They also provide measurable and impactful data, allowing sponsors to strengthen their brand awareness and engagement with their target audience. (…) 

New and innovative sponsorship opportunities may be identified by reviewing the digital platform options. Remember, revenue may hide in areas you didn’t think about and opportunities to impress sponsors are endless.   

By adopting a blended approach that is at the same time agile, strategic and human-centred, virtual sponsorships can be as effective as at traditional events.” 

Thomas Howden, Sponsorship & Marketing Director MCI Australia, May 2020 

Read more on sponsorship opportunities in virtual

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4. Train speakers to engage in a hybrid setting

“The main challenge is how can we design the attendee experience that matches the value we want to offer to both physical and online audiences. (…) The speaker will need to understand their audience now in different environments. Therefore, the way they deliver their content would need to change. 

It’s like watching a competition TV show, like The Voice. The speaker will need to engage with the live audience in the room, but also somehow engage the people watching online. In some way, you need to pay more attention to the online audience because they are more likely to be distracted. Polling-Q&A,-short stories, and repeat.  

The speaker is not allowed to just read their PowerPoint for 45 minutes non-stop in the hybrid setting. 

Give them purpose. It could be a challenge that we hope to solve at the event, that requires participation from everyone, whether you’re in the room or watching the event online. (…) We need to give people a reason to be emotionally connected with the event.” 

Shawn Cheng, Project Manager MCI Canada, July 2020 

Read more on hybrid events best practices

5. Listen to association members’ evolving needs 

“Associations cannot continue with the traditional “one size fits all” approach to membership. (…)  

The time has come for associations to catch up with the realities of today’s consumer habits and reconsider how and why people around the world engage with organisations. Like them, your members want to enjoy a customised, personalised experience – and on their terms.  

Fundamental shift to this is the recognition that value is defined by the customer (the new member) - not by the association.” 

Nikki Walker, Global Vice President Association Management & Consulting, December 2020 

Read more on the future of association membership

6. Carefully select the digital event platform 

“When venturing in the virtual events world, selecting the right host platform might seem the most obvious choice, until you’re confronted with the hundreds of providers in the market. 

It becomes critical then to carefully select the technology provider that best suits your needs, budget and time available.

In the case of virtual events, one size doesn’t fit all.  

They range from simple live or recorded broadcasts to complex AI-driven learning platforms to inform and serve subscribers year-round.  

Finding the perfect match between a provider and your event brings you one step closer to a successful result. It takes you from having simple attendees to brand ambassadors.” 

Leen Jan Van Dijk, Director Corporate Division and

Naud Becker, Director Congresses & Associations MCI The Netherlands, July 2020 

Read more on selecting a digital platform provider

Are you curious to know more about our experience designing human-centric and multi-channel solutions that bring your people together? Get in touch to find out what we can achieve for you.


benedetta fadini

benedetta fadini
Benedetta Fadini

Global Content & Social Media Coordinator

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