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How to improve attendance rate at virtual events

Robert Strobl
February 15, 2022

Virtual events present a multitude of benefits. They are more engaging, easier to organize, and less expensive compared to physical conferences.

Virtual events have been crucial during the extended period of social distancing. However, event planners have noticed an increased decline in attendance over the past months. Many suspect video conferencing fatigue might be the reason. The average no-show percentage to online events is higher compared to in-person events.

That's why, in today’s post, we want to share with you different tips on how to improve attendance before and during the event.

How to improve the attendance rate before the event

According to Communiqué Benchmark Report, only around 47% of participants actually attend live events they register to. What actions can you take to improve this metric?

Leverage all your channels

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to drive attendance to your virtual event. In fact, more than 76% of event planners include email campaigns in their strategy in order to attract participants. Reminders in your inbox, one week, one day, and one hour before the start can highly improve your attendance rate!

Of course, social media plays also a powerful role! By leveraging your channels, you can announce your event and create buzz. Feel free to share behind the scenes, teasers, and clips from your previous event to drive more curiosity.

What about your keynote speakers? Are they also active on social media? Their already established fan base might love the idea of seeing their favourite speaker in real-time. Encourage your keynote guest to share the event with their followers.

Pick the right day

Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday are the best days

Especially for participants with a full-time job, the beginning of the week is too busy to reserve time for events. While on Fridays, attendees might feel too out of focus to join other activities. That’s why Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are considered the best days for hosting. By designing your event around these days, you will notice a higher attendance rate.

What about weekends? In general, these days are a bit of a grey area. On one side, participants have more free time. But on the other hand, they usually schedule other activities, may be away from the computer. The best strategy would be to actually ask your audience and find out if attending virtual events on weekends is something they are interested in.

Make your agenda remarkable

Your agenda is the one that in the end will sell your event. Are your presentations proving value to your audience? Is there enough variety? Are sessions short and on point? The program you offer will attract the right crowd, make sure it's remarkable!

Once your program is set, it’s time to create your event page. Your attendees will bookmark and check this specific page numerous times. Make sure you are creating a visually appealing, comprehensive, clear page. Leave a positive impression by adopting professional photos and engaging descriptions. Don't forget to add, separate pages for each speaker with their bio, sign-up links and sponsor information.

How to improve attendance rate during the event

Across five studies, including more than 3000 participants, scientists found that the three main factors that lead to an attendance drop during a live event are: duration, burstiness, and frequency.

Duration refers to the session length. Indubitably a longer session will lead to an increased drop in presence. Make sure your presentations are short and straight to the point, in order to keep your audience engaged and interested.

Frequency relates to how often the same event is taking place. If you would ask your crowd, if they would rather join a long 4-day virtual event instead of an event divided into two blocks, most attendees would prefer picking a two 2-day conference with a few weeks in between. When your virtual event is spread over a longer period of time, committing to the program feels more comfortable.

Burstiness is defined in the study as the act of jumping from one session to another without any breaks in between. As you can imagine, rushing from one presentation to another, without any time to unwind and take a moment, can be quite draining.

From all the main determinants mentioned above, the lack of breaks between sessions has been proved to be the factor that contributed to the most fatigue. This notion proves that pauses are vital. During your planning, make sure you are prioritizing them.


Getting to the core of "fatigue"

Over the past years, the term “zoom fatigue” has been address to describe the feeling of tiredness, worry or burnout associated with the overuse of virtual platforms, particularly videoconferencing. This feeling is quite common.

While it’s inevitable to reach a certain level of tiredness during a virtual event, there are certain actions event planners can take in order to minimize the causes that potentially lead to fatigue

According to the biggest study on this kind of fatigue conducted last year, webinars and virtual events can contribute to three types of tiredness.

  1. Visual
  2. Emotional
  3. Motivation

For each point, you can adopt different strategies to make the event more enjoyable and less tiring. 

Visual fatigue

Starring at a screen for long periods of time can definitely affect your eyesight. Participants might experience irritated eyes or blurred vision. 

Before breaks, you could suggest your crowd take a moment away from the screen. Instead of checking emails, for example, your audience could benefit more from getting a glass of water or taking a short walk.

Depending on the event size, suggest your audience to turn off their camera sometimes. There is actually a very interesting research on the trade-off between eye gaze and interpersonal space. Already in 1965, two scientists discovered that individuals tend to balance the amount of eye-gaze and distance based on the context. For example, you can experience this reality when riding an elevator with strangers. The less space you have, the more you tend to compensate by avoiding eye contact and looking down or on the side.

Video conferencing can be challenging because the faces on the screen give the idea of a close proximity. At the same time, you cannot truly compensate by avoiding eye contact, unless you turn off your camera or the whole video screen.

Turning off the camera helps also minimize excessive non-verbal communication. During virtual workshops and events, when people observe themselves in the camera, they are subconsciously monitoring their non-verbal behavior. Social cues that would normally be shared effortlessly during face-to-face interactions, now need to be exaggerated in order to be sure they are perceived over the new medium. For example, someone might find themselves nodding excessively or exaggerating certain gestures. This can lead to emotional fatigue.

Emotional fatigue

Some attendees might feel moody or irritated after long sessions. While turning off the camera, moderators can additionally prepare some short check-in sessions in breakout rooms, especially in smaller settings like workshops or small events.

Motivation fatigue

According to the same scientific paper, motivational fatigue can affect personal energy levels after an event. Sometimes participants might experience information overload and feel unmotivated after the virtual event.

Avoid overwhelming your participants with too much information. Ask your speakers to add some interesting anecdotes and add more variety in their speech and tone of voice.

Conclusion

Now that remote meetings and virtual events are becoming part of the norm, we will notice more and more events shifting to a hybrid or 100% online format.

Organizing and promoting virtual events can take extensive months of planning. By placing particular attention on registration and engagement, you can substantially improve the attendance rate before and during the event.

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