The virtual conference is a brilliant concept but also deeply flawed. And, despite everything we say here, it’s going to grow as a mainstream, event format. However, there are major challenges with participation – the Zombie audience.

Virtual conferences are a brilliant concept. They extend audience reach. They may help save the planet – reducing travel and carbon footprint. There’s less time away from family and friends. They’re a more efficient use of time, all round.  The benefits are many. However, unless there’s a management edict to participate (eg a virtual conference on company strategy) most virtual events, especially if open to a wider public or loose-business community, have patchy participation. People sign up with the best of intentions, to attend, only to have impromptu meetings and deadlines derail that participation. You end up with the Zombie audience. How do we tackle this?

For the internal audience, the management edict can work. Though even that can be problematic, with remote participation dropping-off during a virtual event. Or, folks never login. They become distracted by project deadlines and impromptu meetings. So, how can you boost and energize participation? 5 ways to do this are:

  1. Set up remote satellite hubs in a conference room (office or hotel) with catering and a charismatic moderators or team influencers, where remote-attendees can come together and watch the main event, and collectively interact with questions and ideas submitted to the presenters and host in the main broadcast hub-event.
  2. Send out video-teasers, pre-event, to build excitement, the same way a Hollywood blockbuster promotes a release. Set up challenges issues and build some mystery around the virtual event.
  3. Include high profile, guest speakers with social media cachet, and provide hashtags and live shareable content.
  4. Send out a party-pack to genuine, homeworkers with bag of goodies (eg popcorn and smoothies and fun give-away) to watch event.
  5. Create a quiz or survey based around the event content, that goes out before and after the event, which staff are encouraged to complete.

Make it an event, not a business-TV broadcast.