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Matt Hnatojko explains what engagement means in the context of virtual events
Many of our customers seek ‘engagement’ as an outcome of their events. In particular there’s a desire to understand how our software can deliver engagement. But engagement is a somewhat nebulous concept.
We spoke with Jomablue’s Chief Technology Officer Matt Hnatojko to get some clarity about what engagement means in a virtual context and the best way to define and measure it. A key aspect of Matt’s leadership role at Jomablue is to understand customer’s goals and use that information to drive product strategy.
Q: Matt, tell us why thinking about engagement in more detail is important?
We find customers asking about engagement as they would other virtual event features. As though it’s some physical output we can turn on or off.
My question is usually, ‘what does engagement mean to you?’ However, because doing events online is entirely different to in-person events, our customers don’t always know. You don’t have physical rooms, or the atmosphere, visuals and sounds you would at a live event—it’s a very different space in which to capture people’s attention.
It’s understandable that as our customers are trying to adapt to this new approach and new technologies, they are looking to us to find a way to drive engagement. However, I think it’s important to step back and rethink what that actually means.
Q: How would you define engagement?
We have a lot of research we can turn to to help us be clear about it. Engagement is a collection of observable and measurable behaviours, defined bythree categories:
- Emotional: How people feel. Do they have a sense of belonging? As an example, an attendee might feel good about making a valuable contribution by being able to ask a question and getting a positive response.
- Behavioural: How attentive and active people are. Within a virtual event you could follow attendees’ click patterns, but this also extends to their browsing behaviour external to the event such as their involvement with a brand’s other channels, e.g., social media.
- Cognitive: How people intrinsically process and adopt knowledge. Are they motivated to take ownership of the content being presented, have they gained knowledge, and will they apply it beyond the event?
Jomablue aims to help event and marketing professionals to observe and measure interactions of the audience in line with these categories, to help determine if what they did was truly engaging.
Q: Why is the way people interact with content in a virtual event different from in-person?
Your audience must have some level of inherent interest in order to be engaged. For in-person events, people express their interest by registering and turning up. Their emotional and behavioural engagement is already high when they arrive, and then you’ve got them in a distraction-free environment. You’ll have planned where their attention should go throughout the entire day, and you can use tactics like breakout sessions by themes, changing speakers, stings, music, and high production values to reinvigorate the crowd.
It’s very difficult to pick up an in-person event and take it online as-is. Keeping people interested for one to two hours straight is harder because they’re in an environment you don’t have control of as the organiser and that’s likely full of distractions. The result is they’re more likely to multi-task while they consume event content.
On the plus side, because online attendees interact through software interfaces, we can use every tap, mouse click and more to help measure engagement.
Q: So, what does engagement mean in the context of a virtual event?.
Ideally we would work alongside a customer to understand why they are running an event and help tease out what kind of engagement is important—and therefore what outcomes to measure and analyse.
For instance, a post-event report can tell you how many people watched a specific video during a virtual event. You might think on the surface that if 60% of the audience watched the video it was engaging—but it’s just a single data point that doesn’t tell the whole story.
We might collect up to a million data points for an event of around 1,000 people. So to be able to turn that raw data into something insightful, it’s helpful if customers have a clear picture of how they want attendees to feel, act or process the content.
Our live dashboard reporting gives you real-time access to metrics around popular sessions, leads captured, content consumed and more—but we can tailor the dashboard to show almost any metric.
Our automations builder allows you to take instant action based on how someone is interacting with specific parts of your event. Deliver personalised and contextual campaigns triggered for example by entering a session, or participating in a particular product demo.
Another way we convert data into insights is attendee engagement scoring. We create segments within your total audience and attribute different scoring models to different activities, giving you a richer understanding of how attendees engaged.
For instance, during registration an attendee might tick a box to choose topics of interests, but attendee engagement scoring uses data about which sessions the person actually interacted with, what they watched or sponsors they interacted with to provide more accurate and in-depth information about specific topics of interest. With that level of detail you can better target future interactions to an individual—such as tailoring the topic of a follow-up eDM to keep the relationship warm.
Q: How else does Jomablue help people define and measure desired engagement online?
Done well, virtual and hybrid events offer an opportunity to add significant value over the long-term in relation to your customer acquisition, retention and loyalty.
For instance, what kind of engagement insights will augment the data you already have about customers sitting within a CRM? What observable and measurable behaviours can improve the segmentation you’re using to underpin your marketing plan?
Fortunately we’ve been innovating in this space for years.
Jomablue carved out a reputation for ourselves by helping companies fill a void in the available software tool sets when it comes to making in-person events more measurable. Now that events are hybrid or virtual, the features of our Community product give organizations that run events an even larger toolset to draw from.
Jomablue’s tools and flexible approach to page design lets you create unique and memorable online experiences. You can apply the software in multiple ways to drive engagement.
We’re experts in partnering with customers to help them understand how to model engagement, what data will help them, and how to run reports that surface relevant outcomes.