One challenge of transitioning from live to virtual and hybrid events is that some of the elements that make live events so successful are missing or altered when you take an event online. Of all the differences between live and virtual events, the interpersonal aspect is one of the most critical. Adding one or more forms of chat is an effective way to bring this into a digital environment.
Why Add Virtual Event Chat Options to Your Next Event?
Live events are full of interpersonal interactions. There are chance meetings on the trade show floor, networking events, and scheduled sales appointments. It is possible to bring those interactions into the virtual world. Using various kinds of chat can add that interpersonal, interactive element your event needs. Adding text, voice, or video chat can improve a virtual event in a number of ways.
1. Add a Social Element and Create a Community
The social element is an essential part of any gathering, and it’s part of what keeps people coming back to the same events year after year. It gives them the chance to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and enjoy some social time after-hours. Humans are social animals, and without that social element, they get bored more quickly. Social interactions also build a sense of community that can encourage brand loyalty and keep people coming to your subsequent events, both virtual and physical.
2. Increase Event Engagement
Engagement is important for all events. Highly engaged attendees are alert and focused. They’re enjoying themselves, and are more receptive to your content and your marketing messages.
However, it’s vital to pay special attention to engagement at virtual events, simply because it’s harder to engage virtual attendees. They typically have more distractions competing for their attention, so your content and brand messaging needs to be on point.
Interactive elements such as live chat are an effective engagement booster. Give your attendees a way to communicate with one another, and they’ll find plenty to talk about.
3. Attendees Spend More Time on Your Event Platform
If attendees can’t chat on your event platform, they’ll do it elsewhere, either on their mobile devices or in new browser tabs. That means they’re not engaged with your event, and you risk them switching off altogether. Let people talk on the event platform, and they’ll be less likely to find other places to chat. Better yet, integrate both chat and social media into your event platform, and let them do both!
What Are Your Virtual Event Chat Options?
You have three chat options:
- Video chat
Each has specific features and benefits, and each is best suited for specific kinds of situations.
Text chat: A simple, effective option that every attendee can use, without having to set up extra equipment. Text chat is an all-purpose form of communication that works well for Q&A sessions, polls, and other forms of engagement. It’s also the lowest-bandwidth option. Since it uses very little bandwidth, you don’t have to worry about having lots of breakout spaces or private chats going on at the same time.
Not everyone will want to hold conversations in public all the time. Some attendees will want to take their chats private, for instance to discuss sales or make an appointment. And at some kinds of events, private chat functions will be necessary. For instance, privacy is essential in the legal and medical industries, so private chat functions are needed for any such events.
Audio chat: Audio chat is useful for meetings, breakout groups, private chats, and other small-group settings. Audio chat uses more bandwidth than text chat, but thanks to VoIP, it’s still a relatively low-cost option.
Audio chat isn’t always the best option when you have a very large audience, as it can quickly become chaotic when big groups of people are involved. This is especially the case when those people don’t know each other well.
In large-group settings, such as in a speaker audience, it’s best to limit the number of audio chat participants. This prevents people talking over one another, or worse, over the speaker. The simplest way to do this is to disable audience audio chat and then enable it for specific users at the appropriate times. For instance, for a panel discussion with a Q&A session at the end, audio chat can be enabled for the panel and the moderator throughout the session. During the Q&A portion, you can enable chat as needed for audience members to ask questions.
Video chat: Where text and audio chat are more casual and more general-purpose options, video chat is best used in more specific situations. It’s the most resource-intensive option, which can be another reason to limit its use at smaller events.
Video chat is ideal for meetings, conferences, breakout groups, and other collaborative scenarios. With both video and audio available, this is the best option when you want everyone in the group to be able to communicate and collaborate freely. Video conferencing has been particularly popular in recent years as a tool for remote working.
Another effective way to use video chat is at large events such as trade shows and conferences. By making video chat available in specific ways, you can help attendees make connections that further their goals. For instance, a video chat feature at exhibitor and sponsor booths can allow attendees to schedule person-to-person video chats with sales staff or sponsor representatives.
What’s the Best Chat Option for Your Virtual Event?
Ideally, you’ll be able to have all three types of chat available at your virtual event. If not, the second-best option is to have text chat plus audio or video. If that’s not possible, which is the best virtual event chat option?
If you can pick only one option out of the three, which should you choose?
Choose text for a casual chat option that allows everyone to participate freely without disrupting the main speaker.
Choose audio for more dynamic group and one-on-one discussions and to have control over general audience participation.
Choose video to facilitate group discussion and collaboration where everyone can contribute freely, or if you want a special chat option for specific purposes at a larger event.
Virtual Event Chat Helps Your Event Attendees Connect
Finding ways to bring the best elements of live events into the virtual sphere is one of the most pressing concerns of virtual event planning. Virtual event chat helps with this by making it easy for event attendees to communicate with one another, as well as with guests, exhibitors, and sponsors.