If you hosted a virtual event in 2020, there’s one thing that you have probably realized quite quickly; they’re anything but watered-down versions of their live counterparts. While they have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and we’re firm believers that the pros outweigh the cons, as online events have become more commonplace, many are starting to struggle with attendee drop-off rates.
High drop-off rates will probably result in an event that is less successful than you might have hoped, but it also might lead to lower sign-ups in the future. Unlike physical events, you can’t entice an online audience with a post-conference cocktail party or deter attendees from leaving because of closed doors. This begs the question then: how can you encourage people to stay for an entire online event, including the virtual Q&A?
Implement strategies to entice your audience to stay
How many virtual events have you signed up for this year? How many Q&A sessions have you stayed for? Not many? Why? People are busy and time is valuable. If you don’t capture and hold your audiences’ attention and provide them with valuable content throughout the event, they’ll simply click away before the Q&A because they’re bored, distracted, or have something better to do with their time.
Keep your audience engaged
To ensure that your audience stays for your entire event, it needs to be valuable, engaging, and offer a phenomenal overall experience. You do can do this by:
- Delivering exceptional content
The speaker you choose and the content they deliver are hugely important; these two factors can make or break any event. This is even more poignant in the online space because it’s all too easy for people to leave. Your speaker and the content they deliver need to add unbelievable value to attendees, but it also needs to be prepared and presented carefully and be worth every bit of your attendees’ time.
Offer content that can ease a pain point, answer your target audience’s most common questions, or solve a problem. If you give your audience something they can really use and will find value in, they will be more likely to stay for the Q&A and perhaps even inspired to ask a question or two.
- Practicing until it’s perfect
Once you know your content is on point, it’s time to ensure the delivery is perfect. Boring, badly run webinars riddled with glitches and mistakes are sure to see massive drop-off rates.
Presentations that are slick, offer great content, are delivered in a smooth, natural way (as in, they don’t sound scripted), and that run on time, are less likely to lose their audiences.
- Incorporating polling
The more interactive and interesting a webinar is, the more likely you are to minimize your drop-off rate. Your audience wants to feel like a part of the presentation and that what they think or say matters. You can encourage attendees to participate by making use of polls (the results of which you can release in real-time to further increase engagement), quizzes, chat consols, and games throughout the event.
Interacting with your audience and making them feel like a part of the event is key to keeping them interested for the entire session. Tools such as polls can only be used in live and not pre-recorded segments, but they have the added benefit of being able to generate some potentially interesting data for your brand.
Promote the post-event Q&A
Let your audience know that there will be a Q&A session at the end of your online event before your event even starts so they know to stay until the end. It might also give them some time to think about their questions as the event unfolds. You can mention it on the registration form, in your email correspondence, or even right at the beginning of the live feed—however you decide to communicate this to your audience, make sure they know to stay until the end for some added value.
Hire a Q&A facilitator
One of the first things you need to do when you are planning a virtual event is to hire an experienced Q&A facilitator. They’ll ensure that your session runs smoothly by reviewing questions, selecting the most important ones, and even encouraging conversation around certain questions or topics to encourage greater audience engagement.
Offer an incentive
Another great tactic to use to ensure that your audience stays until the end of your virtual event to give them an incentive to do so, which you can allude to throughout the session and can create hype around before the event kicks off.
The incentive can be in the form of highly-anticipated intel, an unmissable giveaway, a surprise guest (like a well-known industry expert), or a special discount or offer on one of your most coveted offerings that will be revealed only to those who stay until the end. Whatever you do offer at the end, make sure it’s worth waiting for, and don’t give any of the big details about it away before the time is right.
Get feedback from previous Q&As
If you have already hosted several virtual events with various drop-off rates, it might be an idea to send surveys out to past participants to see what worked and what didn’t about the event as a whole and the Q&A session. If you can better understand what your audience wants, you’ll be in a better position to know what to adjust and improve on for your next event to ensure a lower drop-off rate.
Prepare some possible questions and answers
Take a look at your webinar and think about what your target audience might want to know more about. Then compile a potential list of questions and answers that might come up in the Q&A session. This will ensure that you are ready to answer these questions if they do come up, or if your audience isn’t asking too many questions, you could discuss some of your pre-prepared questions and position them as frequently asked questions to stimulate discussion.
Consider using a Q&A tool
If your event is huge, you might want to consider using a Q&A tool, like Slido, to facilitate the session. It will make it easier to go through the questions and you can even get people to vote for the ones they most want to be answered, which will help you to keep the attention of your audience.
Charge an “entry fee”
A great way to encourage your virtual event attendees to both show up to your event in the first place and stay until the end is to charge an “entry fee” or encourage them to purchase e-tickets to the event. This can simply be a small token amount—it’s less about how much it is and more about the fact that we believe people are more likely to participate in something they have paid for. Naturally, you have to ensure that your online event provides proper value and is something people would deem important enough to pay for if you go this route.
Crowdsource your questions beforehand
Another fabulous option to ensure your audience stays tuned for the whole Q&A is to get them to send in their questions in advance. Those who do will ultimately want to stay to hear their question answered. It has the added benefit of giving you the chance to prep your answers and to calculate, based on the number of questions that come in, how much time you might need for the Q&A so as not to drag out the session.
With a little planning, creativity, and thought, there are myriad ways to ensure that your drop-off rates stay low. All you need to do is remember to keep your content relevant, valuable, and interesting and to find ways to keep your audience engaged and interacting with your content.
When you plan your virtual event, you’ll probably want to work with a team that is as invested in the success of your event as you are—like us at The Event Production Company. With over 29 years of experience, we’ve helped countless brands leverage online events to help them hit their business goals and we’d love to do the same for you. Get in touch with us to discuss your next event today.