In a Livestorm survey conducted in 2021, 68 percent of respondents reported increased use of video conferencing in the past 12 months, in everything from internal meetings to conferences and tradeshows. With many companies reducing the size of their physical offices, video conferencing may be one of the primary communications vehicles for large events going forward. But screen fatigue is very real—and it’s easy for attendees to get burned out. So, what can you do to make large online events more engaging?

First, you need to gauge whether or not engagement is a problem. Here are some red flags:

  • You see people dropping off well before the end of the event. It’s not unusual to see a small amount of dropoff, but if it exceeds 10 percent of attendees before the midway point, you may have a problem.
  • Registration and/or attendance rates are declining. If fewer people are interested in registering or actually attending, that’s a strong signal that your events are not engaging.
  • Post-event survey feedback. This is the most direct way to tell if there’s a problem. In my experience, it’s primarily very happy or very unhappy people who take the time to fill out these surveys. Listen to them.

Tools for boosting online event engagement

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to make online events more engaging, some based on tried-and-true methods for engaging in-person audiences. Leading video conferencing platforms are starting to incorporate these features in order to combat screen fatigue.

  • Q&A: Just as at in-person meetings, a Q&A period during online events helps draw people in and also provides a change of pace during an event. One best practice here is to seed your Q&A with a few questions to get the ball rolling—you’ll find others will typically jump in after the first question is asked.
  • Chat: Giving attendees the ability to ask a question or make a comment via chat helps them feel more engaged with the content. It’s important to have someone manning the chat, to respond to those questions and comments. If people ask questions that will be answered later in the event (which is common), tell them that— don’t give them the answer early, or they may disengage or leave the event.
  • Polls: Ask attendees to weigh in on a topic or question with a poll. Poll responses can also help event speakers tailor their content to better fit and engage the audience. In a 30-minute event, we recommend asking up to three short polling questions.
  • Whiteboard: Digital whiteboards make it easy to brainstorm and collaborate with members of your team. They are a great tool for working effectively together, from brainstorming with digital notes to planning and managing agile workflows. They are most effective for internal meetings.
  • Emoji reactions: These give participants the ability to quickly and easily provide feedback on event content.
  • Reporting features and analytics: An important feature of a video conferencing platform, reporting and analytics shine a light on which part of your webinar attendees responded most to, and which parts may need fine-tuning.

All of these features have been proven to boost online event engagement. Use one or use all in order to make your attendees feel more connected to your event and speakers.

Gilles Bertaux is co-founder and CEO of Livestorm.