Engagement, or lack of engagement, is one of the top concerns we’ve encountered from clients and customers as events have moved to virtual environments. Without the physical elements of an in-person event, can virtual have the same impact?

Here, Sheridan Roberts, Head of Events at HeadBox shares her top tips for ensuring your virtual event is as engaging as possible.


Before you do anything else, I would recommend using the AIDA model and planning how you will apply it In the build up to your event:

Awareness – Decide the best way to bring the event to your guests attention – different campaigns may be required to target different personas.

Interest – Generate interest amongst your target audience, what is going to make them want to attend?

Desire – Create a sense of need for your guests, what are the benefits to them of attending? Make this personal to the guest.

Action – Give invitees a call to action, this could be as simple as registering, or filling in details for a prize draw or a gift, or submitting questions ahead of a fireside chat.

Create a sense of FOMO

Content is king when it comes to virtual events but this is just the beginning. Once you’ve created an event that you know your guests will want to attend, it’s time to create a sense of exclusivity to ensure it’s an event they won’t want to miss.

There are a number of ways you can do this. Choose exclusive speakers (both internal & external) that are relevant to your audience and create a bit of excitement. You could also add catering to your event and send your attendees a hamper filled with goodies; use entertainment and activities to create engagement or perhaps  add a raffle or prize draw.

Now you’ve created a top-notch agenda, you need to build anticipation. Use slick invitations and clear communication ahead of the event, build anticipation through teaser clips or drip feeding the agenda or to drive interaction, ask you guests to get involved before the event by choosing their workshop, submitting questions or entering the prize draw.

Choose your platform carefully

Think about the platform you’re using and the look of your broadcast. Choosing the right tech for your event can elevate it from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Make sure you do your research and choose a platform that works for every element of your event. Do you need different stages? Does it have functionality for networking? Is it simple enough to use and navigate? Are your speakers all presenting from home or can you get your main hosts into a studio and create an engaging stage presence? Nail these points and you’ll have a solid foundation for your event..

Community is key

Virtual events provide a unique opportunity to create a sense of community around the event. Have chat functions open ahead of the event where people can go to network initially before the event as well as during the event.

Make sure you are regularly communicating with your guests in the run up to the event. Talk about the benefits, why should people attend? What’s the benefit to them? Try to get a sense of the issues that matter to your attendees and feed this into your content.

Short and sweet

Keep sessions or keynotes & other event segments short & sweet. Adopt the “rule of the third” which essentially means whatever your agenda would be for an in-person event, only keep one third of it for virtual events. Keep sessions varied and get creative with the content. Try not to have presentation after presentation after presentation. 

Change it up

Try to combine different formats too, using single speakers, duo’s and panels. Use different media too, whether it’s video, music or presentations and get the audience involved through Q&As, polling and quick fire questions.


Networking is one of the more difficult elements to replicate in a virtual environment but it should still be a vital part of your event.  You could include networking in short rotating sessions on Zoom with people with similar interests, or you can get creative and use  interactive workshops, games or activities to help people get to know each other. Taking the time to match people for 1:1 time is also a hugely valuable tool and will set your event apart.

This is an extract from our Ultimate Guide to Virtual and Hybrid Events. Free to download from next week.

Planning a virtual event? We can help! Simply send us your enquiry here.