Evaluating new ways to engage your audiences, both the ones that you have and the ones that you want is a vital part of any engagement strategy.
Have you ever considered online events as an engagement tool for your audiences? Online events can be a powerful way to help you connect more deeply with your audiences, no matter the comms channel or event format. But what do you need to consider to help your events deliver on your engagement objectives?
Being audience-led is crucial to the success of any event. Keep your audience in mind every step of the way. Consider which audience(s) you’re trying to reach through the event. Is this audience already known to you or is it a new audience you want to attract? What channels are they already on? What excites them about your work? Investigate what insights you already have on this audience. Is there any new information or insights which you need to gather before embarking on an engagement event? If you’re not sure where to start (or need a refresher), be sure to check out our Knowledge Hub article and On Demand event on How to get the most from audience insight gathering.
Running events on any channel requires clear objectives, high attention to detail, solid planning, multi-tasking and clear communications. Who will be the person or team coordinating and running your event on the day? What tools and support do they need to be successful?
Ask yourself – what exactly are you, your team, and your organisation trying to achieve with this event? Having clarity on both your event and engagement objectives is fundamental for building the right event to engage with your audience and deliver on your objectives. Agree on your event objectives, along with measurable KPIs, and share these internally. It’s important that people are on the same page across the organisation, and there may be opportunities to cross-promote other areas of your work during the event.
Do you have a clear call to action? If so, make it easy to follow and be sure to test it.
Think about the channels your current or intended audiences use and meet them there. Are you maximising engagement opportunities in those spaces? It’s easier to engage or reach new audiences on platforms they’re already using.
We’ve previously shared stories of our own experience of running a Twitter Chat here at CharityComms, Breast Cancer Now’s live clinical and research broadcast sessions, Help for Heroes’ Hero Up gaming challenge, small charity Emmaus UK’s podcasting and Shelter UK’s dedicated Thank You Day.
Outside the sector, The Met Office uses Twitter Spaces to engage their audiences and collaborators on topics like climate change. The Academy of American Poets recently held an online gala via YouTube with poetry readings from well-known actors, poets and human rights advocates.
Your chosen audience and channel will help you decide when it’s best to hold your event. If you’re engaging audiences online via social media, use your data to understand when your audience is most engaged on those platforms. This might be during lunchtimes, evenings or weekends when people have more free time to spend with your organisation. Is there a particular awareness day, or other time of year that you’d want to align with to maximise your audience and reach?
Think about the needs of your audience and consider how much time they may have – don’t use more time than you need. In addition, give your audience plenty of time to register for the event and spread the word to their network.
It’s important to weigh up how much of your event is broadcast (speaking directly to the audience) and how much is engagement (interacting with the audience). Getting this balance right is essential to keeping your audience engaged during your event. If you’re running an online event via Zoom, for example, consider running some polls during the event and have someone talk through the results. Ensure you tell your audience how you’re taking questions or comments during the event, and who you’ve lined up to respond to these in real-time.
Consider ways to make your event as accessible and inclusive as possible. No event will ever be 100% accessible for 100% of attendees, but aim to make it as accessible and inclusive as you can. Things like closed captions and/or live transcriptions can make a big difference. Ask your event hosts to verbally describe the things shown on the screen during the event. If you share a recording from your event, captions are a great thing to add in post-production so that your content is accessible after the event too. Our resource on Accessible communication: A starting point to foster more inclusive comms can help you on your event accessibility journey.
Preparation is essential for your event to run as smoothly as possible. Have a practice session with your team to see how it all hangs together, iron out any issues and then write a script for your event. At CharityComms we use a script that details what’s happening when, and who’s responsible for what. This helps us keep to time, and it enables us to swap duties if someone is unavailable for any reason. Share your final script internally a few days ahead of your event, and ask everyone participating to flag any questions or concerns. We also run a short screentest ahead of the live event to ensure that all participants have working tech – we check their microphone, video, lighting and slide sharing. We also check that our live transcription and closed captioning are working. Having this dedicated time means that we minimise the risks of things going wrong during the live event, as we’ve already navigated tricky tech issues before we’ve opened the virtual event doors.
On the day of your event, roll with whatever comes your way. Be honest with your audience if tech isn’t on your side and be creative to keep your audience engaged. Humour and humility can go a long way with your audience when things aren’t going to plan. After your event, debrief with your team and anyone who worked on the event or attended in your organisation. What worked well, what didn’t, and what new things would you like to try in future? How did your KPIs perform? Importantly, did you meet your engagement objectives? Then implement those learnings into your next event, and before you know it, you’ll be working in an agile event way!
Check out our Charities to look out for during The Big Help Out blog to discover some of the charities who were involved in the nationwide volunteering event.
Banner Image: Andrew M on Unsplash