Skip to main content

4 Tips for Increasing Engagement Between Virtual Attendees

WildApricot Avatar
Published on December 20, 2021

This is a blog post by Christina Tomlinson, VP of Marketing & Events at Pathable.

When it comes to successfully hosting a virtual event, one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face is engaging your audience. In fact, according to this survey, 32% of nonprofits find that keeping attendees engaged is the greatest virtual event challenge, and 23% worry that they can’t create the same amount of value as is present at in-person events.

Of course, the pandemic has given event organizers plenty of time to figure out how to connect with their attendees. But even with all this newfound expertise, many are still struggling to how to run a virtual event that gets attendees to connect with each other.

Turns out, it’s a lot tougher to get your virtual attendees chatting through their laptops or phones than if they were in the same room. But trust us—the effort is well worth the reward. These attendee interactions encourage networking, boost engagement with your event content, and allow attendees to stay informed about trends in their industries. Besides, as virtual event tech evolves and virtual events become more popular, it’s important that you make them as engaging as possible!

At Pathable, we’re no stranger to the challenge of engaging event attendees. As a virtual event platform, we’ve helped several organizations make the shift to virtual events and overcome this issue. So, from our organization to yours, consider these tried and true virtual event tips to boost engagement between your attendees:

  • Ample Opportunities for Attendees to Speak Up
  • Design Event Platform for Interaction and Engagement
  • Create Breakout Groups Based on Shared Interest
  • Keep the Event Platform Open Year-round for Interaction

Ready to roll out these suggestions and revamp your next virtual event? Let’s dive in!

Provide Ample Opportunities for Attendees to Speak Up

Two way communication is a great way to keep attendees feeling engaged and included. Give them a voice by using features available on your virtual event platform, such as:

  • Live chat
  • Q&A
  • Polls and surveys
  • Gamification

Live Chat

Live chat allows attendees to make comments, share thoughts, express feelings, or ask questions about an ongoing session. Basically, you’re chipping away at the virtual barrier by rewarding attendees with the same opportunities to speak that they might’ve had in-person.

On top of leveling the playing field and allowing attendees to carry on normal discussions, this tool will make your event session much more interesting. In fact, some event organizers even pre-record their sessions so that speakers can dive into the live chat. This allows speakers and attendees to focus on what matters most to them, connect in real time, and pose insightful questions at the end of live sessions.


Speaking of posing insightful questions, Q&A is an interactive tool specifically designed to collect questions during an event session so that groups can circle back and address what piqued their interest.

As we mentioned, the live chat feature is sometimes used for this, with the speaker pausing every once in a while to answer questions that have popped up. Still, it’s good to have a dedicated tool for submitting and answering questions. It takes the pressure off of attendees by giving them more than just one place to chip in to the conversation.

Polls and Surveys

Polls and surveys aren’t just good for engaging attendees—they’re also a great way to gauge their thoughts and feelings about your event. For example, you might ask them what they like or dislike about their experience so far, or you could pose more specific questions about the sessions they’re attending.

The choice is up to you, and you can increase engagement even further by sharing and talking about the results with attendees.


Gamifying your event activities can also encourage participation and bring out a bit of healthy competition.

For example, you can create a point system for attendee engagement and share a virtual leaderboard to keep score. Every time an attendee establishes a connection, posts in live chats, contributes in a forum, or joins a breakout session they’ll earn points that bump them up in the rankings. As attendees compete for your prizes, their engagement on your event platform will skyrocket.

Empower Attendees to Connect One-on-One

Let’s be honest, your virtual attendees want to do more than just chat, attend virtual sessions, and support your organization. Many attendees are also hoping to network, forward their careers, and build professional relationships.

Seek out a virtual event platform with specific features that can help attendees seamlessly connect with each other, like:

  • Attendee directories
  • One-on-one video calls

Attendee Directories

On your event microsite or mobile event app, create a directory of attendees with important information such as names, a cover photo, and their profession. These personal details will help attendees find like-minded individuals and create valuable connections. Be sure to give attendees access to view others’ profiles, send messages, schedule a meeting, or request to meet someone.

Soon enough, you can sit back and watch as attendees start their own engagements.

One-on-One-Video Calls

Live chats are great for big group sessions, but if you really want attendees to get in touch and form close connections, you’ll need to enable one-on-one video calls. This feature is as close as your virtual attendees can get to a face-to-face meeting. It also gives them the chance to really knuckle down and form close professional connections.

With this feature, make sure it allows each attendee to send, receive, or decline a request for a video call from other attendees.

Group Attendees by Interests or Shared Characteristics

To really give your attendees the sense that they’re part of a valuable network of like-minded individuals, be sure to group attendees into smaller, interest-based communities. These groups can offer richer learning and networking value to attendees compared to a big collection of random attendees.

Consider these different attendee group styles for your event:

  • Offer content-specific breakout sessions.
  • Create “birds-of-a-feather” style group chats.
  • Leverage interest-based discussion forums.

Content-Specific Breakout Sessions

As you’re setting up your event agenda, take a second to create breakout sessions based on specific topics. For example, maybe one session would be focused on HR professionals with a conflict resolution seminar, while another is meant for managers with a session on delegation best practices.

Let attendees customize their own event experience by selecting their choice of breakout sessions before the event. Try and aim for smaller breakout groups to make their interactions more effective and help conversations flow.

Birds-of-a-Feather Groups

These informal, interest-based small groups give attendees a space to chat about session topics or trends in their industry.

There are two main ways to set up bird-of-a-feather groups: with an AI, or manually. Some event platforms also allow attendees to create their own small groups and initiate group video chats.

Interest-Based Discussion Forums

Not all attendee groups need to make a fuss and take up time during your event. Discussion forums happen on the sidelines, running quietly in the background for attendees to check on their own time. Plus, they can open before the event even starts so that attendees can begin interacting right away.

These forums can be set up to include different sections of interest and attendees are free to hop to any section and start their own discussion thread.

Keep Virtual Communities Open Year-round

After spending all that time trying to host a spectacular virtual event, why let all your work go to waste after a single day? One way to run a better virtual event is to keep the platform active so that interactions continue long after your event is over. Encourage attendees to come back to view event sessions, review on-demand resources, and even continue using attendee directories and forums.

Plus, you can keep your attendee communities active by enabling email or mobile push notifications when someone receives a message or meeting invitation, or when a comment appears on a thread they follow.

Virtual events may pose a new or difficult challenge for your organization, but rest assured that you’ve got plenty of support at Wild Apricot to ensure your next event is as engaging as possible. From dedicated event software to tips and guides like this one, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re looking for additional insights about virtual events and how to conduct the most effective one possible, download Wild Apricot’s research report on the topic! Learn from other organizations’ experiences to optimize your event for success.

Christina Tomlinson is the VP of Marketing & Events at Pathable.

Christina Tomlinson is the VP of Marketing & Events at Pathable. With over 8 years of experience in the event industry, Christina prides herself on her creativity, passion for people, and ability to create memorable experiences. Before joining the Pathable team, some of Christina’s experience includes directing a team as the Associate Director of Events for a DMC in Austin, TX and marketing, planning, and executing brand events as the Regional Event Manager at a corporate experiential agency. Through her years of experience, Christina strives to remain a thought leader in her industry, and places a high value on evolution and growth in the events space.



The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!