Think about the best events you’ve attended – both in person and virtual. They likely had one thing in common: An element of fun. Maybe those elements were woven throughout the entire event, from the plenary to the closing session, so that you were never far from something – or someone – that made you smile or laugh. Those experiences stay with us.
Now, in our virtual events world, it’s easy to overlook fun as we’re designing and planning a meeting. But, doing so, is a huge mistake.
Consider this: Lynn Barnett, a professor of recreation, sports and tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says in this Washington Post article: “At work, play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction; and at home, playing together, like going to a movie or a concert, can enhance bonding and communication.”
Just because we can’t meet in person (for now), we shouldn’t eliminate the focus on engaging attendees through fun activities like we do when designing our in-person events.
So, how can planners inject fun when we’re all sitting in front of a screen, miles away from other attendees?
Make light of the situation
At the American Academy of Pediatrics’ annual meeting, the co-hosts kicked off the [virtual] meeting with a pre-recorded skit, where one host pretended to have traveled to the site that was chosen for the in-person event (San Diego). Of course, he was shocked to get there and find the convention center – and everything around it – empty.
The personalities of the hosts were key to pulling this off, of course. Having this as the opening of the 4-day event set the stage for engaging experiences throughout, such as a cooking lesson – with live Q & A – with re-known chef Wolfgang Puck and a game-show-style trivia game.
Cvent suggests creating a calendar that encourages attendees to show their spirit – hats days, jersey days – or, maybe even crazy hair days. (We’re all getting a little stir-crazy, after all!) Even if you’re not planning on having attendees on video, they can take pictures and post to social media channels or in the virtual platform. Not only does that infuse some fun into the event, it engages a wider audience and promotes the event (and shows just what they’re missing).
For example, you can use the mobile event app to engage attendees in challenges for prizes. Have them each out to sponsors, network with other attendees, or take surveys to get them involved and earning points.
In years past (when the meeting was in person), the American Academy of Pediatrics’ trivia game has been played by a select number of people up on stage, as other attendees watch the action. This year, however, with the virtual platform, the team was able to open the game up so that every one of the 14,700 attendees could play and compete.
This Forbes article has some additional suggestions, such as online Bingo and photography challenges.
Get attendees moving
As a species, we have been known to spontaneously, get up and dance. (Check out this New York City dance party. I dare you not to smile!) AssociationsNow asks why not do the same for a virtual meeting? Hire a DJ to host a dance party for attendees; give them a chance to show off their moves or just hang out in your platform.
Integrate adjacent attendees
Many attendees will be logging into your event while the rest of their family – including kids – wonders about in the background. (If you have kids, you know “background” could mean many different things, including on your lap or at your feet.) AssociationsNow suggests finding ways to engage them as well, such as an art class both adults and kids can take part in together.
Of course, these are just a few ideas to get you thinking about how fun can – and should – be a key element for your next virtual meeting. Just because we’re all away from each other right now doesn’t mean we can’t be having fun together. Not only is this good for us and our mental health, but the experiences you create will stay with your attendees well after they log out of your meeting platform.