Keeping Participants Engaged During Long Virtual Events
By Karyn Greenstreet
Are you offering multi-hour or multi-day virtual events, like full-day mastermind group meetings or weekend virtual workshops?
Worried about how you’ll keep them engaged?
I’ve been toying with the idea of doing full-day virtual workshops or multi-day virtual mastermind group retreats. However, I’m concerned about participants burning out and getting distracted during such a long amount of time each day in front of their computers.
So, I interviewed people who had attended these types of events and asked them what they liked/disliked about the format.
Here’s what they told me — 12 tips for keeping your participants engaged:
- Adopt a “TV Channel” mindset. This means that no segment is longer than 30 minutes without some sort of break, even if the break is simply changing the format of what you’re doing. For instance, if you’re teaching a class, teach (lecture) for 30 minutes, then do a Q+A, or have them do an exercise in-class, or break them up into mini discussion groups, or give them an in-class stretch break. If you’re running a full-day virtual mastermind group meeting, make sure you rotate between hot seats, action planning, and other exercises often. Anything to switch up the delivery method and energy.
- Use live chat and polling to keep them engaged. Ask them questions that they must reply to using chat. Use the polling feature in video conferencing software to get feedback and bounce ideas off them. Keep their fingers (and minds!) moving.
- Take a real break every 90-120 minutes. That means, get them OFF the video conference, whether it’s for a 15-minute coffee break, or whether you give them a homework assignment to do while they’re eating lunch.
- Consider using interstitial content to fill those small gaps of time while they’re away from the main video room: show an animal cam, or someone doing a yoga routine, or someone planting a living wall. Use relaxing, easy-to-watch videos that play while they’re waiting for the next segment of your event to begin. Who doesn’t love to watch Eagle Cam?
- Use breakout rooms to divide your bigger group into smaller discussion groups. Give them a topic and a series of questions to discuss.
- Use quizzes, worksheets, guided note-taking, or any tool that keeps them writing while listening.
- Give them time during the day, while they’re still on the video conference, to silently implement what you’re discussing with them. For instance, if you’re teaching them how to write headlines for a sales page, give them 20 minutes, in-class, to write as many headlines as they can. If you’re working on goal-setting with your mastermind group, have them take quiet time while still live on the video conference to write down their goals and milestones for the year, or do the Eye Opening Year End Exercise with them..
- Create physical games where they have to do something on-screen.
- Create a trivia game in alignment with the topics you’re covering, or just some fun topics to use between segments of your event.
- During breaks, teach them about how to stretch at their desk. Just google “desk stretches” and you’ll find a ton of great information to share.
- Consider having a networking cocktail Happy Hour after each day’s event for 20 minutes. Divide people up into breakout rooms so they can socialize. I’m hearing that some video conferencing software has “speed networking” built into it: two people enter a breakout room and have 5 minutes to get to know one another before they’re swapped out to another room. (I don’t know which software has this…does anyone know?)
- Bring in guest speakers to switch up the energy so it’s no always you doing the presenting. You’ll have to decide in advance whether these guest speakers can “sell from the stage.” Some participants are turned off by all the selling that happens during a supposed “training” event, especially a training event that they’ve already paid for. Or, use a panel of experts to discuss a topic.
Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them! What keeps you engaged during long virtual meetings?