Why is Audience Engagement important in your virtual or hybrid event?

Audience Engagement By Claudia from Sparkup on February 7, 2022

Engagement is not a new concept. It has been recognized by many studies as the main challenge that event organisers must face to ensure the success of the event. Why so? Because it is vital to retain attention and make sure audiences will leave your event feeling informed and inspired.

The challenge increases when you are planning a hybrid or virtual event and you have to deal with remote audiences. Many brands and event organizers fall into the trap of thinking that creating an off-site event is simply about broadcasting the show.

Does this sound familiar? Well, this is a common practice but not enough to generate interest and engagement among attendees. Remote public has its own needs and ways of connecting with your event.

In this blog article, we’ll discuss how engagement tools can help your online or hybrid events achieve better audience interaction, participation, and learning results.

  1. What is Audience Engagement?
  2. Why is Audience Engagement so important for events?
  3. The Main Challenges in Virtual and Hybrid Events
  4. The Formula for Engagement

If you are planning a hybrid event, download our free ultimate guide for engaging hybrid events. It reveals all the secrets every event organiser needs to know to assure engaging insite and offline attendees.

Free Download: Ultimate Guide for engaging hybrid events

What is Audience Engagement?

Today, the term “engagement” is used to describe how involved a user is with a brand, product or service. When we talk about audience engagement, we are referring to the meaningful connection between your attendees and your event content.

So if we had to define engagement in one word, it would be ”unity". It is when there is a "you" and an "I" to create a "we". It can be between people, places, objects, actions. It is a psychological state of unity.

Audience Engagement Is Unity

Source: Scott Gould (2021) - The science of virtual engagement p.7 - www.swapcard.com


Why is Audience Engagement so important for events?

The engagement rate is one of the most important KPI to measure the success of your event. It helps to understand if the content that we are delivering to the audience is relevant or not. The more your public engages with the content, the better they will understand it and remember it.

If we can generate a memorable experience for the audience, we are more likely to increase the team performance, the brand loyalty and the willingness of the customer to buy our products.

How engagement makes different an event

Source: Sparkup, The Ultimate Guide of Engaging Hybrid Events 2021

Event thought, 82% of B2B marketers believe that attendee engagement is vital, more than half (67.7%) find it more difficult to keep engagement strong during sessions at virtual events (Bizzabo, 2020). 

The Main Challenges in Hybrid Events

Source: Event Manager Blog, The virtual Event Tech Guide 2021

The Main Challenges in Virtual and Hybrid Events

The hybrid format makes it possible to bring together both on-site and online participants. The challenge of this format is to offer an engaging experience for both audiences.

Problem: it is hard to build and maintain during an event. For the public, attending an event remotely is like seeing a show from the back of the room. The experience is completely different. That’s why it is one of the biggest challenges we have to face.

Why did the experience change so much from an on-site to an offline event? Let’s explain it in this way.

As humans, we engage as a result of the interactions we experience across our senses (see table below).


What They See

What They Hear

Potential Distractions

On-Site Participants

  • The 3D speakers and actual  size
  • The room in 360°
  • The whole set
  • The lights
  • The other participants around them
  • Sound (music and speaker) in stereo and spatialized
  • The applause of the other participants around them
  • The atmosphere and the emulation of the crowd
  • The phone in your hand
  • Talking to your neighbours: networking guaranteed!
  • Getting lost in your thoughts
  • The phone in your hand
  • Talking to your neighbours: networking guaranteed!
  • Getting lost in your thoughts

Online Participants

  • A miniaturised, 2D version of your speakers
  • A part of the room, depending on the angle of the cameras. 
  • The brightness of the computer screen. 
  • No other participants
  • Mono audio through their computer speakers. Applause in the background echoing on the microphone above the stage.
  • The smartphone next to the computer 
  • 15 more tabs open, apart from the event tab
  • Notifications that “compete” directly with your content
  • The presence of children and/or pets
  • Being able to get up at any time and go do something else and only halfway listen to the event
  •  The proximity of the fridge

These are the inputs that our brain puts together in order to understand the environment and then engage with in response.

There are hundreds of these little pieces of information – engagement cues – that our brains are synthesizing at any moment.

In a face-to-face setting these cues are abundant. We use plenty of non-verbal cues to communicate, can move around a physical space, and will mirror the actions of others as cues for our own actions.

However, within a virtual setting these cues are limited. Our technology limits everything to miniature versions of what we experience in real life. It's like attending a one man show and being at the end of the room. Everything looks smaller, you can't hear very well, it's hard to read the body language, and you can't see much of what anyone else is doing. 

The result is that the absence of these cues makes the brain work harder, and fearlessly rewarded for our efforts… which is why we experience Zoom fatigue.

We have to be far more intentional with virtual engagement. We have to ensure that we supply all the cues that we can virtually, and find substitutions for those that we can’t.

If we aren’t intentional, it will require too much effort from people to engage.

The Engagement Formula

To achieve the togetherness between you and your attendees we talked about before, you should follow this formula. It involves 3 key elements: Attention, Participation and Emotion.

Engagement Formula for your next event

Source: Sparkup, The Ultimate Guide of Engaging Hybrid Events 2021


Let’s talk about each one to explain it better.


This is the first stage in generation engagement. Attendees must be captivated and expectant of what is to be revealed.

TIP: It is important to create an element of mystery or suspense to build interest in what’s going to happen.


Interact with your participants to keep them active and involved, they should act as co-creators of the experience. 

TIP: Empower your audience to get involved by sharing content, asking questions or taking part in polls.


It will be a great incentive to generate engagement. Awaken emotions and form an emotional bond with your audience. To do this, use all your five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell and taste).

TIP: Don’t just broadcast the event. Create an immersive experience where you can immerse the user in your content with all their senses.

Hybrid and virtual events can capture a large audience. More and more brands are finding this type of event to be the ideal way to reach their audience, but are frustrated by the failure to generate meaningful experiences. You need a strategy that overcomes the limitations of online or onsite engagement methods. In the end, audience engagement is the key to building a strong relationship with your community. So before you dive into booking your event venue or just looking ways to broadcast your next event, consider crafting messages powerful for your audience and select a software that will help you connect with your audience.

Your attendees will thank you for it!

Ready to engage with your audience?

Engaging can help you create a real link between your event and your participants! In this ebook you will find specific strategies for each of these elements. Follow the steps and tips we covered above to create engaging hybrid events today.

Download free ebook about engaging hybrid events

Feeling ready to engage?

Let’s talk about how Sparkup can help you build a strong sense of belonging among the attendees in your next event.

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