Event experts devise ways to improve audience engagement online

As people tire of virtual meetings and webinars, new ways to hold their attention have to be thought of

Conference and event organisers are thinking on their feet to evolve audience engagement – through bite-sized events and non-traditional speakers – as event attendees tire of basic Zoom meetings.

The shift is happening as virtual-only events give way to more hybrid events in the region, encouraging optimism for the return of physical meetings.

As people tire of virtual meetings and webinars, new ways to hold their attention have to be developed

“I think hybrid is here to stay and I think every virtual conference will have a physical element,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder and editor of Singapore-based Web In Travel.

“I definitely see bite-sized events throughout the year, so you don’t have to have the big one, but just the tentpole and have it spread out with smaller, intimate gatherings throughout the year, so that there’s continuous engagement, whether with your customers or target audience,” she continued.

Yeoh was speaking on trends in the corporate meetings sector as part of a deep dive breakout at PCMA’s Convening Asia Pacific – Global Recovery Forum this week. She said she also sees potential in the growth of watch parties that allow small communities to gather and be part of much larger events.

“Just as the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore organised a watch party of the US elections for more than 100 people, if you can’t get together in an industry room, why don’t you organise small client parties and watch an event together?” Yeoh proposed.

Meantime, Hong Kong-based technology keynote speaker James Bennet, director of Creative Technologies APAC for Project Worldwide, told PCMA conference participants the industry as a whole needs to move on from just watching livestreams, and limiting audiences’ online engagement to Q&As and conducting polls.

“They’re a necessary piece of the puzzle but I don’t think they’re the answer to anything,” he said, before continuing to demonstrate from his remote location in real-time, how a global audience can be immersed in 360 experiences like being onstage at an Elton John concert, or importing a six-foot robot into your room using a QR code.

However with digital, Yeoh said the onus is on individual participants to make the most of technology to create new connections for networking. “I don’t think we can be passive and that applies even in the physical world. But if you’re active, the virtual world really gives you a lot more connection points than the physical world so it’s up to you to make use of all those connection points to build your relationships,” she said.

PCMA’s Convening Asia Pacific – Global Recovery Forum featured topics and speakers considered non-traditional for the industry, such as a disruptive entrepreneur for its welcome keynote and heads of advertising companies, in response to feedback on the changing needs of business events tourism players.

“It’s the type of stuff we need to start thinking about and leaning towards, not more of the same,” said PCMA Asia Pacific’s managing director Karen Bolinger.

The forum was attended by more than 500 participants in 20 countries in a hybrid event filmed from ICC Sydney, with 46 per cent of attendees engaging with PCMA for the first time.

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