The world of events is always changing. In 2020, virtual and hybrid events were the newest thing. These events are still growing in popularity, but now there’s a new twist you should consider adding to your toolkit: the virtual event audio-only attendance option.
Why Offer an Audio-Only Option at Virtual Events?
It seems counterintuitive to offer audio-only. Wouldn’t an attendee want to experience a digital environment in every way possible? Here are a few reasons providing an audio-only option can be a benefit to your virtual event:
1. Combat Zoom Fatigue
With more people working remotely and attending events the same way, a new concept has emerged in relation to the effect it sometimes has on attendees: Zoom fatigue. It refers to the fact that, increasingly, work-related meetings and virtual events often involve video conferencing platforms. Video conferencing is wonderfully convenient, but there are some things that contribute to Zoom fatigue:
There’s more eye contact than usual: On video conferencing calls, attendees are continuously looking into their monitors or at their cameras. This makes it look like everyone is looking at everyone else, all the time. Extended eye contact tends to make people feel uncomfortable, especially over long periods of time.
It feels unnatural to watch yourself in real time: On most video conference platforms, the viewing screen includes a square with your own real-time image inside it. As with the continuous eye contact, this is something that doesn’t happen in the real world. We’re not used to seeing ourselves close up in this way, especially for extended periods. For most people, it’s an uncomfortable feeling.
It’s more mentally taxing: People naturally send and receive nonverbal communication signals all the time, mostly without realizing it. But in a video chat, it’s more difficult to interpret nonverbal cues. That makes it harder for people to communicate effectively, so it requires more mental effort.
Physical movement is limited: When attending a video conference or virtual event, attendees must sit and watch the screen in order to participate. If they get up and walk around, they risk missing out on some of what’s going on.
What’s the danger of Zoom fatigue? Your virtual audience may find it increasingly difficult to stay focused the longer they have to sit without a break. Zoom fatigue can decrease attendee engagement, making your content and your marketing messages less effective. And for people who are suffering from Zoom fatigue—even if they don’t know it—attending virtual events may not seem like an attractive prospect.
Offering event audio as a stand-alone option could help you keep these people in your audience pool. It also offers attendees the option to consume your content away from their desks. They could be walking the dog or doing the dishes, expanding the opportunities for them to hear from you and enjoy it.
2. Reach a New Audience Segment
There’s another excellent reason to consider developing an audio-only version of your next virtual event: It gives you the opportunity to expand your audience reach. There may be people in your potential audience pool who can’t quite afford the price of a virtual ticket or who just haven’t heard of your event yet. All of those are people you might potentially reach by offering your event content in an audio-only version, for a discounted price.
3. Reuse Audio Content
You don’t have to stop at selling audio-only tickets. If your event audio is suitable for repurposing as a series of podcasts, you can continue expanding your audience reach, while getting even more value out of the event. Podcasts are hugely popular for a wide range of listeners, in all kinds of industries. People listen to podcasts for professional as well as personal value, with podcasts on everything from career development to management and industry news.
How to Develop an Audio-Only Event Experience—and Make It Work
Audio-only programming is hardly new. Podcasts have been around for almost 20 years and radio for over a century. But media made using these formats is created with the format in mind, and virtual events are highly visual. How can you design an engaging audio-only event experience if the event’s native format includes both sound and vision?
1. Plan for an Event Audio-Only Option
The most important thing you can do to make an audio-only option work for your virtual event is to plan for it. Instead of adding the option as an afterthought, design your content from the ground up so that it’s appealing to people who are listening, as well as those watching. This might mean, for instance, asking speakers to avoid heavy use of visual aids such as slide decks and PowerPoint presentations.
2. Take the Podcast Approach
One thing that makes podcasts so popular is their bite-size approach to content development. By creating your event content with this approach in mind, you can make it extremely easy to convert your virtual event into a podcast series at a later date.
This approach has another advantage, as it also means that each “bite” of event content is a comfortable length for both listening and viewing. The most popular and effective duration for a podcast is 20 to 40 minutes. And 40 to 45 minutes is about as long as you’d want to go for a virtual speaker, discussion, or webinar. If you try to stretch it beyond this point, people who are watching in real-time may be losing focus and needing a break. Stay in the 20- to 40-minute range, and it’s just right for everyone.
3. Add Audio-Only Event Spaces
Many virtual events include text chat as a communication option, but not all offer audio chat. Those that do tend to limit audio chat to Q&A sessions and other interactive elements. But what if you also included audio chat rooms, open for the duration of the entire event? Audio chat can be highly engaging and help keep people interested—and logged in—while waiting for the next speaker or session to start. You can even use audio chat rooms to beef up your content schedule, with moderated group discussions.
4. Offer a True Event Audio-Only Option
Finally, if you’re going to offer an audio-only option for your virtual event, make sure it is truly audio-only and that it offers a real event experience. Ideally, your audio-only attendees should have access to streaming audio of the event in real time, rather than being limited to only on-demand content or podcast episodes after the event is over.
With real-time video, real-time audio, and on-demand options too, you can offer your attendees so much flexibility in terms of how they can access your event content—and they’ll appreciate it!
Audio-Only Can Offer a Full Event Experience and Make Your Event More Flexible
With issues such as Zoom fatigue coming to the fore as virtual events gain popularity, there are plenty of good reasons to consider offering audio-only at your next event. Designing event content with this audience in mind can help you create a more engaging and flexible event and expand your audience reach too.