Why You Should Embrace Virtual Engagement
Why is it so important to embrace virtual engagement?
Questions from the audience are the lifeblood of any decent conference. As a presenter, they make your efforts worthwhile. They show that the audience listened and were engaged in the topic. How sad then, that in every conference, from insurance to pig farming, there is always a high percentage of people who may have a brilliant question, but hate the thought of standing up and asking it.
I have been at conferences where not a single question is uttered – it is beyond painful for every person in the room! So, how do we overcome it? Well, technology can help. Nearly everyone has a smartphone and will be very familiar using it (understatement!), as we discussed in the blog on ‘BYOD’ – ‘bringing your own device’.
How liberating that you no longer need to stand up and speak your question, when you can message it instead – easily and quietly from your seat. Everyone in the room is equally able to ask a question – this is a huge advantage for event organisers. It’s part of the same phenomenon that’s seeing more and more people preferring to send emails or messages, rather than calling someone on the phone – namely, that we are more comfortable with this form of communication.
As an event organiser, a speaker, or an audience member, virtual engagement is a type of technology that allows a greater number of opportunities for engagement. For instance, if you are part of a global organisation with colleagues in other locations, then virtual engagement can make you feel as if they are in the same room. They will be looking at the same polls and questions, at the same time as their colleagues – how brilliant is that for breaking down departmental or geographic barriers?
Younger audiences in particular increasingly expect a level of virtual engagement at events, given that so many are used to being glued to their device. For this group, not including some kind of technology will be likely to leave them cold; perhaps even with a negative impression of your meeting or event.
Virtual engagement is also unique in that it can easily enable engagement before, during, and after meetings. For instance, with OpenMeet, the audience can be sent a link before their meeting and asked to submit questions and answer preliminary polls. These can then be used to shape the meeting according to their interests and concerns.
As an audience engagement expert, when I was developing OpenMeet it was important that all the features would enable event organisers to have a variety of options through which to achieve real audience engagement. This is what makes OpenMeet so effective: it can be tailored specifically to help you achieve the connections you want.