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 worthwile. 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.
At some conferences, not a single question is uttered, which is beyong painful for every person in the room. So, how do we overcome it? Well, technology can help. Nearly everyoen has a smartphone and will be very familiar using it.
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 is part of the same phenomenon that is 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 organsier, a speaker, or an audience member, virtual engagement is a type of technology that allows a greater number of opporunitties 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 - a perfect solution for breaking down departmental or geographical barriers.
Younger audiences in particular increasingly expect a level of virtual engagment 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 engagment is also unique in that it can easily enable engagement before, during and after meetings. For instance, with Open Audience's tool 'OpenMeet', the audience can be sent a link before their meeting and asked tos ubmit questions and answer prelimiary polls. These can then be used to shape the meeting according to their interests and concerns.
As audience engagement experts, when we were developing OpenMeet it was important to us 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 specificaly to help acheive the connections you need.