How to Feel Human While Connecting Virtually

The best ways to increase audience engagement at your virtual event. The key is human connection.

You’re on mute again, staring blankly at the screen full of empty squares on what feels like your millionth Zoom call.  In an era so reliant on online communication, how do we bring power, audience engagement, and most of all, human connection into our virtual events?  Here are some of the best ways to feel human while connecting virtually:

Know your tools

There are hundreds of online tools out there - you’d be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed.  There are more virtual events happening than ever before, but live streaming is by no means brand new.  Vimeo is a tried and tested platform which hosts over 10 million live events each year.  Its live Q&As, polls, audience chats, and captioning software are all valuable tools for boosting audience engagement and fostering human connection.  Even better, using one platform does not exclude others.  Vimeo lets you cast your virtual event onto a range of platforms and apps including YouTube, Facebook Live, and LinkedIn.  The world of live streaming is your oyster!      

Know your event, know your connection

The type of event you’re holding should heavily influence your event schedule. The last thing you want is for the online aspect of your event to feel like an afterthought; this only increases the distance between yourself and your audience.  

Are you running a series of talks and lectures, a panel discussion, a workshop, or a combination?  This will impact both how you market and run your virtual event.  In a workshop, breakout rooms could be perfect for small group activities such as icebreakers.  A lively Q&A or panel discussion may benefit from a live audience chat.  This allows attendees to type their questions and thoughts or note down their interest to express them verbally later on.  For a series of talks or lectures, however, a live audience chat could be distracting.  Understanding the nature of your event is key to understanding audience engagement and fostering human connection.  It’s not just about turning on a camera and microphone. 

Remember: no two events are the same.  There’s no ‘one size fits all’ - the beauty is in the details!  But don’t feel overwhelmed - there are tools to help.  Find out about some of the services available for simplifying event management here.  

Learn how to handle technical difficulties

Nothing reminds you that you are attending a virtual event more than technical glitches. But, just like running an in-person event, the best way to handle technical difficulties is to be prepared.  The better organised your event is, the less likely technical difficulties are to cause major problems.    If possible, a quick practice run may be helpful for you and your speakers to work out any kinks before the big day.  When the day arrives, consider meeting with your speakers just before you go live for a last-minute rundown and connectivity checks.  Vimeo allows you to preview your stream just before going live, saving you the embarrassment of streaming a terrible connection to your attendees.  Of course, being organised does not necessarily mean being rigid; flexibility is key.  If one speaker is struggling with their microphone or connection for example, it may make sense for another speaker to take over whilst the other fixes their issue.  Alternatively, if speaker order is important, consider activities for audience members during unexpected ‘breaks’.    

It’s not the end of the world if they do happen, and remember, in-person summits aren’t immune to hiccups either – just remember to have contingencies in place and you’ll be golden.

Connect with your speakers 

If your speakers feel disconnected, so will your audience.  Empowering speakers to represent themselves in event promotion will ensure that they stay in the loop and are appreciated as individuals crucial to your virtual event.  Create a space for your speakers to easily communicate with event managers and each-other.  One option HeySummit offers is a Speaker Dashboard where your speakers can stay up-to-date on event promotion, ticket sales, and update their own information.  

Feedback Feedback Feedback! 

Every virtual event provides an opportunity to learn and improve on best practices.  Seek feedback from your  audience, and encourage them to share their  experience of your  event.   Did they have any difficulties accessing the event?  Which part did they find most engaging?  What would they like to see done differently next time? Attendees are a precious resource; such  questions will be  invaluable in  understanding what did and didn’t work about your event and help you strengthen that human connection during your next one.  HeySummit makes it easy for attendees to answer feedback questions post-event and compiles answers into accessible reports to provide a clear and detailed picture of how your virtual event went.  Vimeo streaming includes live polls so that attendees can give feedback in real time.  However you choose to obtain feedback, it is fundamental to understanding your audience on a human level, and fostering a sense of community and connection to your attendees. 

Appreciate Virtual Events as an Asset to Human Connection

Virtual events are very much the new normal in 2021. If you see virtual events as a temporary and sub-par  replacement for in-person events, you’ll lose that connection with your audience.  Truly appreciating virtual events as a unique alternative to an in-person event provides new opportunities for audience engagement.  Alex Sidorenko, for example, finds that his virtual events on Risk Management cross boundaries of location differences and allows him to increase the diversity of speakers and attendees alike.  HeySummit offers language inputting to allow your virtual event reach audiences all over the world. Vimeo effortlessly increases accessibility through its automatic captioning software. There is a whole world of online tools you can unite and combine to appeal to an audience much larger than a single in-person event venue ever could.  Find out more about mixing online platforms here.  

Connecting virtually is your friend when it comes to human engagement.  Value virtual events and embrace new tools as a way to widen your scope and connect with a larger and more varied audience.  Best of luck!  

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