How to Keep Your Virtual Event Engaging for Attendees

While virtual events have become the new norm, hosting conferences and other professional gatherings still presents some unique challenges for event organizers. Audience engagement is one of them, as hosts must work hard to maintain attention in the space of a small screen. Thankfully, today’s organizations can choose from a wealth of online tools and employ creative strategies to keep attendees engaged.

To combat Zoom fatigue and help your virtual event stand out, you’ll need to keep things fresh. Consider these ideas and best practices to ensure your next digital event packs as much wow factor as an in-person experience.

12 Ways to Keep Virtual Events Engaging for Attendees

From technology to tactics, you can adjust many different aspects of a virtual event to get your audience involved. Try these 12 tactics to maximize attendee engagement.

1. Get Creative, but Always Center on Your Message

Virtual events aren’t exactly like their in-person counterparts, so don’t expect a 1:1 conversion for every component. As Moz’s CMO Christina Mautz advises, it’s not smart to simply “copy and paste” an in-person agenda into a virtual plan.

Sara Little, Managing Director of the Co:Laboratory, an experiential event agency owned by Catch Hospitality Group, says it’s crucial to “think outside the box, both literally and figuratively” when it comes to planning. Virtual events may seem more restrictive at first blush, but they can also open up a variety of opportunities that real-life, in-person interactions just can’t match.

However, now that the newness of virtual events has started to wear off, it’s also important to think about “tailoring to the needs of the content and the messaging you’re trying to convey,” says Little. To start, think about your brand messaging and what key concepts or ideas you want to transmit to your audience. Build your event around that message, and then add some creative and fun touches to support your primary goals.

2. Keep Engagement and Interaction Top of Mind


Engagement is crucial for any event. In fact, 49% of marketers say audience engagement is the biggest contributing factor to an event’s success.

Little explains that connecting and engaging with event attendees is all about offering something that goes above and beyond or falls outside the box. This might include proprietary access to talent, exclusive content, premium product giveaways, or an unusual experience an attendee wouldn’t expect to easily find somewhere else.

3. Gift Appropriately and Inclusively

Little shares that gifting is “number one” in terms of creating “that out-of-home, in-person experience [inside] the home.” With this in mind, make sure your promotional gifts and any other branded assets give off an elevated, premium feel wherever possible. The ideal is something highly curated, personalized, and beautifully packaged — even opening a box is a chance to provide a memorable experience.

Gifts and promo products should be perfectly branded. Little advises considering every aspect of a gift — “not only logo placement, but also the color, finish and feel of everything from a pen to an entire box, including inserts.” Every detail down to the weight of your cardstock should get careful consideration, because each of these touchpoints is an opportunity for connection and to communicate value. This is especially important at a time when the ability to connect with a consumer in person isn’t available.

If you’re aiming to leave an impression, here are a few ideas to consider for your next virtual event giveaway:

4. Put the Focus on Your Audience

Ever heard of the acronym WIIFM? It stands for “What’s in it for me?” Your prospective attendees want to know the answer.

Last August, we hosted our first-ever interactive and exclusively virtual event, Brandstorming. While our core message revolved around the branding industry’s latest news, insights and developments, we put the spotlight on our actual customers and how they utilize branding in creative and effective ways.

Yet we didn’t lose sight of what our attendees would find valuable. Topics included how to stay fit and flexible and how to elevate a work-from-home setup into something special.

As you’re planning your next event, remember the needs of an at-home audience are going to be different from a live program, and that includes the ways attendees will connect both with each other and your presenters. Think of all the ways you can create a feeling of community and excitement leading up to and during an event, from the release of new or exclusive content to special packages with event swag arriving ahead of attendance.

5. Double and Triple-Check Your Technological Infrastructure

There’s nothing more panic-inducing than a tech failure during a virtual event.

Little continues that careful planning around a virtual event’s technology is critical, because live digital events are often less forgiving when something goes wrong. Make sure you’ve got a contingency plan with redundant systems lined up where possible for anything that might go wrong.

Consider the attendees’ experiences throughout the event from beginning to end, making sure they align with your goals, brand and messaging. This includes everything from setting up virtual waiting rooms, enabling or disabling live mics, transitioning between speakers and having solutions if there are issues with audio or internet connections during your event.

6. Measure Your Results

While measurements won’t directly improve attendee engagement in an upcoming event, they will provide valuable insights for the next one. Online event platforms can help you track metrics about audience engagement. They might look at how often people comment, register for sessions, respond to polls or use a reaction feature. With these details, you can figure out what content worked well with the audience and lean into it for the next event.

You can also gather more insights by asking attendees for comments after the event. Consider offering a small perk, like a branded stress ball or an entry into a drawing, to up your response rates.

7. Add Variety to Your Presentations

Listening to lectures for hours on end can quickly cause your virtual attendees to disengage. Keep your event exciting by varying your presentations and their formats. Consider dispersing panels, presentations, Q&As and webinars throughout your event. Attendees can switch between these types to stay engaged.


You’ll also want to add variety within your presentations. Virtual events offer a unique environment — put it to good use with features that allow you to engage with the audience. Consider adding the following tools to your presentations:

  • Polls
  • Quizzes
  • Challenges
  • Breakout sessions
  • “Raise your hand” features
  • Chats

Tools like these can help foster two-way conversations, bringing attendees into the discussion rather than passively listening. They also break up the presentation, calling the viewer’s attention every few minutes. Add these tools into your events to keep attendees engaged, especially for longer periods.

8. Prepare Your Speakers

Make sure your speakers know what to expect, especially if they’ve never hosted a virtual event. An inexperienced speaker might not know how to interact with a digital audience, leaving them disengaged. Have them follow best practices for online presentations and rehearse beforehand so they can pay special attention to audience interaction, such as replying to comments and looking toward the camera.

Prepare your speakers for the technical aspects, as well. Let them know what technology you’ll be using. If you’re streaming a live event, give them high-quality microphones and cameras, and provide a run-through of the general process.

9. Hold Challenges Throughout the Event

Another good way to keep people engaged in your event is to hold challenges. They can be simple, like a “spin-the-wheel” game to decide which audience member gets a prize. Or they could be more complex, such as a points system with a live leaderboard. Give attendees points for certain activities, like sharing a virtual business card or getting a quiz question right.


Contests like these grab attention and can ignite some friendly competition among colleagues. They’re also a handy way to add variety to a presentation, as we mentioned earlier. Here are some other ideas for challenges and games:

  • Photo contest: Create a prompt and ask virtual attendees to submit photos. For example, you could have people take pictures of their pets “helping” them with the workday. The most creative photo wins, either chosen by you or by a voting system.
  • Scavenger hunt: Set up a virtual scavenger hunt across your event. Make a list of small details or items for attendees to find, like the image on the bottom left corner of your website’s home page or the product displayed at virtual booth #12. This contest is also a great way to draw attention toward specific areas.
  • Virtual games: Online versions of popular games like Pictionary® and Scattergories® offer some time to relax and have fun with fellow attendees. Set up a lobby for these games in between sessions.
  • Trivia: Trivia works similarly, offering a fun opportunity for networking and relaxing. Build a virtual trivia game with a platform like Kahoot® and quiz your attendees on their industry expertise or general knowledge.

10. Incorporate Spaces for Downtime

Many people use the breaks during in-person events for chatting, networking and de-stressing with others. Event organizers can give attendees a similar opportunity during breaks for your virtual event. Online programs like Kumospace and Gather allow you to create a virtual environment that looks like a cafe or lounge, where attendees can move their avatars around to visit others and engage with them. This approach can add subtle connections, such as a wave or a brief chat, and allow guests to talk without a specific agenda.

Another great way to incorporate downtime is through dedicated get-to-know-you events, like icebreakers or virtual happy hours. Like games, these events can help attendees connect while giving them a quick moment to de-stress.

With downtime options, your attendees can stay engaged throughout the event and maximize their time with colleagues.

11. Keep the Energy High Before and After the Event

Building up energy before the event is, of course, crucial to getting the attendance you want, but it can also help raise engagement. If your audience is excited about the event and already interacting with you, you have a great foundation. Spread the word by posting about your event on social media and sending emails.

You can also ask for input on the event, such as a poll about what freebie they want or a form to submit questions to panelists. These early interactions can help your guests feel valued, especially when they see the results later, and ensure your speakers have content that will resonate with the audience.

Even after everyone closes their laptops for the day, continue to foster virtual event engagement online and through your communications. Send a personalized thank-you email to all your virtual attendees, and encourage further engagement with activities like posting a photo online and using your event’s hashtag. This email is also a great opportunity to ask for a follow-up survey. Post your updates online, such as a photo wall or a recap of the event’s highlights.

12. Include On-Demand Options

Guests at in-person events often have to choose which panels they want to attend since they can’t see them all. Online events offer the unique benefit of easy recording, so you can provide on-demand options and allow your attendees to soak in all the content they want. On-demand options also accommodate diverse schedules.

Another way to include on-demand content is by using it to supplement your live presentations. Say a panelist has resources to share, like an old webinar or the slideshow for their presentation. By offering these extra resources, you increase the value of the presentations and can help attendees stay engaged with the event long after it ends.

Branding Helps Make Any Event More Successful

Whichever strategies you choose, strong branding can pull the audience in and keep your event top-of-mind. While you can plaster your logo and colors across your virtual event, sending out promotional products helps break down the barrier of a screen and makes your attendees feel more connected to the event.

ePromos offers a wide range of high-quality promotional products and gifts, and our services help provide the best experience for your guests. We can package and send your gifts to all of your attendees, complete with inserts or other special requirements. Use our rush service if you’re in a hurry. If you’re planning a virtual event, get in touch with our team. We’d love to help you choose the right gifts and promo products to connect with your audience and make your event a success.


Updated 6/25/24

About Author

Katie Salerno Avatar

Katie S.

Reviewed By: Kaite S. - Marketing Brand Specialist

Tenacious brand warrior who is laser-focused on boosting our brand through effective social media presence and multiple resources. Principal producer of marvelous messages and email exposés. Message + Creative maestro who has an opening for a puppy co-worker with the expectation they stay clear of her pommes frites.