“Our best thoughts come from others.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Over the last few years, one of the major trends on the Internet has been a move towards user-driven experiences. During this time, crowd-sourcing (outsourcing tasks to a community of specialists) has emerged as a legitimate alternative to the creative agency model, video has become the default way that people consume content and Facebook has grown to challenge Google’s dominance on the web. All of these examples have one thing in common – they all place user-generated content at the very center of the experience. From a virtual events perspective, this phenomenon has the potential to change the way that we look at the attendee-presenter relationship. Instead of expecting attendees to be passive content consumers, we have the opportunity to make visitors active content creators. With user generated content, we have the opportunity to put attendees right at the center of the event experience – exactly where they deserve to be.   

4 ways to leverage user-generated content in your virtual event 

Facilitate attendee video, audio and text responses – At an in-person event, visitor feedback is often limited to pre and post-event evaluations. Within this context, attendee feedback often contributes very little to the event itself, other than to help event planners make adjustments to future experiences. At a virtual event, the situation is different; not only is attendee feedback captured in real-time, but it forms a critical part of the event experience. Here are a few ways to maximize your content generation efforts: First, users should be given a range of response format options (video, audio, text, etc). Second, users should be allowed to post content as themselves or anonymously. Finally, each virtual event should have someone on point to ask questions, provoke discussions, respond to questions and otherwise encourage users to upload their own content. This last point is critical as many users will simply not enter a conversation unless prompted.  


Understand the role of game dynamics in collecting user-generated content – Even if you provide ample options for attendees to upload their own content, driving usage and engagement can be a challenge. One way to address this issue is to leverage game dynamics to give attendees an additional incentive to respond. For example, many Social27 customers decide to leverage a points-based reward system to drive engagement. In other words, customers who upload the most (or highest rated) content gain points that can be redeemed for prizes. Event organizers could also use social reward systems, such as increasing the exposure level provided to active attendees in order to drive engagement. For a more complete discussion on game dynamics check out my previous blog Game Dynamics and Games in Virtual Events 


Include attendees in your presentations and Q&A sessions – One of the most powerful ways to leverage user-generated content is to include attendees (or attendee feedback) directly into your presentations or Q&A sessions. The simplest way to do this would simply be to collect user-generated feedback during the event and use it in future presentations. For example, you might take three of the most interesting video responses and include them in your final keynote presentation. This might require some on-the-spot editing, but the result will be well worth the trouble. Alternatively, with careful planning, you might be able to invite your most vocal community members to participate in your presentations directly. This is just one more reason to learn How to Use Social Media Before, During and After Your Virtual Event. 


Facilitate brainstorming or build an “idea wall” – As I wrote in my recent Virtual Events Psychology blog, virtual events have a number of benefits in terms of facilitating brainstorming and idea generation. For starters, virtual events have a democratizing effect on attendees. Consequently, virtual event attendees often generate more ideas than in-person event visitors and are less likely to look to leaders or authority figures before providing feedback. There are a number of ways for virtual event organizers to take advantage of this. For example, why not establish a dedicated virtual brainstorming room where attendees can respond to questions via video, audio or text message? Alternatively, why not establish an “idea wall” in the main lobby of your event where attendees can post comments, images, or questions for other attendees?  


Are you putting your attendees at the center of your virtual event experiences? 


Over the last few years, user-generated content has become central to many of the most popular services on the Internet. From a virtual events perspective, we have an opportunity to leverage this phenomenon to bring attendees even more to the center of the event experience. In order to do this, event organizers must build response tools into every aspect of their events, leverage game dynamics to drive engagement, include attendees directly in presentations and establish specific areas for brainstorming and idea generation.  



Join the conversation. Agree with me? Good. Disagree? Even Better! Tell me why… 


How else can digital event managers integrate user-generated content into their online experiences? 

Host your own virtual event: 

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