Online events have dominated since schools across the world adopted COVID-safe event practices. Before we knew it, school events like open days and campus tours were required to be delivered virtually, leading to continued engagement, but the beginning of online event fatigue. 

With so many brands switching to online events there is an oversaturation of digital event offerings, leaving us feeling disinterested and exhausted. Think about it, we’ve all been guilty of signing up for a webinar and then not attending because we were tired, irritable, or just plain forgot to log on. In this post, we’ll look at the main culprits of online event fatigue, and how your school can avoid them.

Why the online event fatigue?

So, just how did online events go from engaging to exhausting? Let’s take at some of the contributing factors that are turning attendees off: 

  • Sitting at a screen for a long period of time causes discomfort, sore eyes, and tiredness.
  • In-person events often involve breaks for refreshments and networking – an element that’s lacking when it comes to online events.
  • It can be difficult to put a new spin on online events, leading them to feel repetitive. 
  • Technical issues can lead to poor delivery, leading to a lack of engagement and increased drop-off rates.

In some capacity, online events are here to stay. So, it’s important to implement the below techniques to help us stay ahead of the fatigue curve and continue to create a positive user experience with online events. 

Acknowledging the drop in attendance

Wondering if your audience is experiencing webinar fatigue? With just a little digging, you can find out for sure. The good news is that if you do have a problem, it should be fairly easy to identify. Typically, you’ll see a drop in online event registrations, attendance, or engagement. To get your hands on this information, your first point of call should be analysing past event data. 

If Zoom is your hosting platform of choice, make sure that you’re downloading the webinar report after each event. This report provides a detailed breakdown of registration numbers, actual attendees, performance, a copy of the Q&A section, and polling. To get an idea of what’s happening, we recommend downloading reports for your past three online events and pay special attention to attendance rate and performance. 

Can you see an obvious drop in engagement and attendance? Are you receiving questions at the end of your webinars? Are attendees participating throughout the webinar or are they hiding behind their screens? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to consider taking a new approach to your digital events.

Reset your event goals

As your school runs more online events it’s important that you don’t lose sight of your event goals. You want to ensure that each event is creating value for viewers – not just overloading them with information. Reassess your event goals and question what your audience actually wants to get out of your event. If they’re wanting to further understand your school’s unique selling points, are you providing this in your online experience? If you’re not reaching your goals sit down with your marketing team and discuss some new goals that you would like to achieve. You need to consistently revisit your event goals to find areas that may require attention or improvements. 

Mixing up your event content

Do all of your webinars cover similar or the same content? It’s likely that you’ll see a drop in attendance if your content is repetitive – remember it’s always about quality over quantity! Similar to in-person events, you should be creating an event calendar for your virtual events. A calendar will provide you with an overview of all of your upcoming events, which will help you to gauge if you have event topics that are overlapping in content. 

One way to ensure that you have a unique mix of online events is to create events that are targeted towards your different school personas. You should be creating a balanced mix of virtual events for current students, parents, alumni, staff, and future prospects. If you’re inviting the same database to every event, the email invite may get ignored or even lost in their inbox. Mixing up your target audience means that you’re aren't targeting the same audience every time. Some event ideas that cater to different personas include:  

  • An alumni student hosting a post-school opportunities Q&A for current year 12 students.
  • A ‘Meet the Faculty’ zoom event for prospective parents that have recently enrolled their child in the school.
  • An online bridge program for current students transitioning from middle school to high school.

Once you've chosen your different event topics, decide how you're going to space them out in your event calendar. We recommend hosting one webinar every one to two months, to create a consistent webinar schedule without oversaturating your events calendar. 

Avoid content cramming

It’s essential that you aren’t cramming too many topics into one event, as attempting to cover several topics can exhaust or confuse your audience. Research shows that cognitive processing is slower when individuals are required to process large amounts of information and switch between tasks. If your attendees can’t stay focused during your event,  there’s a high chance that they won’t see the value in attending and in turn won’t register for your next event. To avoid this, implement a less is more approach. Less structured content allows for more time for attendees to discuss and interact.

Your event content layout should consist of one main topic that is easy to digest and one engaging activity that facilitates this main topic. Remember that the standard online event only runs for 30 - 60 minutes, so too many activities can be overkill. In fact, research from Redback Report shows that the most popular length for webinars is 45 minutes. The main reason is that attendees can be time-poor, so they are often looking to access information in a short and concise format that won’t take up their whole day. So, it’s ideal to find that balance of including content and activities that encourage participation but don’t disengage your audience at the same time.

To do this you can: 

  • Host a panel discussion or Q&A session with guest speakers  
  • Utilise Zoom breakout rooms for 5-10 minute activities. 
  • Create post-it notes in Miro for brainstorming activities. 
  • Use pre-set virtual workshop tables to facilitate group discussions.

Make sure that you’re also setting aside time for small breaks in between activities or guest speakers. This will give attendees time to clear their heads and be ready to process the next round of information.

Review your event communication

With the oversaturated webinar market it can be difficult to get your target audience to sign up for your event. You’re often fighting for inbox space with competing schools, other businesses, and personal emails. If your virtual event registrations have been lower than usual, look at switching up your event messaging. 

An effective event invite should include personalisation with the recipient’s name, the event date and time, an outline of what they can expect from the event, and even some supporting photos or videos from past events. As we know, parents are time-poor so keep this email short but informative to nudge your audience to sign up for your webinar. To help you send these targeted and personalised event communications you can use a CRM, such as Digistorm Funnel. If you’ve exhausted your email database, you should also look to your social media channels, school communication app, or website to promote your online event. 

Consider the time of your online event

The event date and time can majorly influence your attendance rates, so you should consider the event type and audience before scheduling it into your calendar. If you’re hosting a virtual open day that’s targeted towards prospective families, it’s best to host this event on a weekend. This will increase the chance of prospective parents being able to attend, as it’s less likely that they have work commitments.

Likewise, if your event is targeted towards staff or students, we recommend a mid-week event. Hosting an event on a Tuesday or Wednesday is the perfect way to break up the week. In terms of timing, 11:00 am and 2:00 pm are the prime webinar hosting times, as they are before and after lunch when concentration levels are higher. 

We hope that these tips will help you to combat webinar fatigue and continue to deliver engaging online events for your school community.

Published 1 December 2020