How to Combat “Zoom Fatigue” at Your Virtual Event
Zoom fatigue – or virtual fatigue – is the exhaustion that follows video calls and meetings. It plagues virtual event attendees, online students, and remote workers. This fatigue stems from the difference in how we process information over video calls compared to during in-person interactions.
93% of communication is nonverbal and video calls remove a large portion of these nonverbal cues present in traditional interpersonal communications. Attendees at a virtual event have to focus more heavily on what is being said, and work harder to emote while speaking to others. The sustained visual focus and self consciousness over how we are perceived during a video call can intensify the exhaustion.
Organizers must be aware that the mental load of virtual events can be much heavier than in-person events. A full day of virtual engagements will be more mentally taxing than a full day conference, so organizers need to build in breaks and vary their content strategy to avoid attendee burnout.
Attendees reported that they were only engaged 53% of the time during virtual events in 2020. This means that attendees may be missing out on almost half of your content. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With the right strategy and event tools you can combat virtual fatigue.
There are several steps you can take to prevent zoom fatigue and keep participants engaged during your next virtual event:
Provide Quality Content
Great content is one of the core pillars of any good event. Sessions, keynotes, panels, sponsored content, and networking opportunities must all be high-quality to hold the attention of your audience.
The heart of the event should be educational, thought-provoking content. 80% of people join virtual events for educational purposes.
Be selective when choosing your speakers. If a speaker isn’t delivering the material in an exciting and engaging manner, viewers will lose interest. It’s easier to leave early or tune out during a remote meeting or event.
Be sure to utilize different types of content. Sessions are great. They are one of the main draws for attendees. However, viewers mentally check out after watching sessions for too long. Even if you do your best to make them interactive, zoom fatigue will eventually set in. Build in social and entertainment focused activities and to break up the day.
Appealing to the Senses
Neuroscientists have estimated that 30-50% of the surface of the brain is devoted to processing visual information. Create visually engaging content in order to engage your audience.
Research has shown that people are twice as likely to remember your message if you include both text and images while presenting information. The brain processes pictures and words separately, so use both when trying to highlight key points or concepts in your session content to engage attendees.
Graph it out
Use visual aids such as graphs, charts, and short videos to highlight the main points of your presentation. Many people can digest information more clearly in this format.
Avoid lengthy text blocks
It’s more difficult for our brains to remember information presented in lengthy complex blocks. It’s also harder for viewers to follow along – and once they get lost, they tend to lose interest rather than catching up. Utilize bullet pointed lists where possible and organize text into short concise paragraphs.
Once you have the visual component, get even more creative and integrate auditory content. Visual content is engaging, but consuming too much of it can lead to eye strain and fatigue. Give your attendees a break by incorporating some of these fun, non-visual content ideas:
Hire a DJ to do short sets between activities. Music can help attendees get excited, destress, and even encourage them to get up and dance! In-person events often have music playing in the lobby or at the end of a session, so bring the same energy to your virtual experience.
Take the live music approach even further and throw a virtual concert for attendees! Many large conferences like Dreamforce are known for their star-studded music performances. No matter your budget, you can get in on the excitement by hiring a band to live stream a concert to your guests. This can be a great option to close out the day or give people a fun break around lunchtime.
A sound bath can be a great way to help attendees refocus and drive off fatigue. Sound baths guide attendees through a meditative experience using sounds. It is believed to improve cognitive function and reduce stress and tension – which is exactly what we need after sitting on the computer for several hours!
Get creative in finding ways to engage your attendees. Get them moving, meditating, and more to help avoid the onset of virtual fatigue. For more ideas on finding fun and unique ways to engage your attendees, check out our friends at Happily.
Be strategic in your scheduling approach so that attendees don’t leave early.
Spread Out the Content
Physical events require you to pack content as tightly as possible into the span of a few days. Long events can get expensive for guests and organizers. Hotel rooms, catering, and venue rental costs add up quickly with each additional day.
Virtual events remove this obstacle. You can spread out content over a wider timespan and get more creative with your scheduling. Currently, 45% of event organizers opt for shorter multi-day events to help reduce virtual event fatigue.
Schedule shorter days and more breaks than you would at an in-person event. Remember, at an onsite conference or large event, attendees generally have to walk around to visit booths and get up in between sessions to walk to the next one. Give 15-30 minutes in between activities and encourage viewers to get up and move, eat a snack, or rest their eyes.
Be Mindful of Session Lengths
The average large virtual event includes about 20 sessions. Attendees will likely not attend or watch all of these, but it provides a lot of information to take in. To reduce virtual fatigue and allow participants to engage in as many sessions as possible, be mindful of how long your sessions run.
Different types of sessions require different lengths. For example, 63% of event marketers believe that the ideal run time for a virtual roundtable is 60 to 90 minutes. Audiences prefer webinars to run for 30-45 minutes.
Find the ideal timeframe for each activity that you plan so that you allow enough time for valuable content to be presented while not making it go on too long. That way, attendees won’t lose interest. Setting aside the last fifteen minutes for questions and interactive activities can help encourage attendees to stick around.
Allow On Demand Viewing
Making your virtual content available for on demand viewing is a great option for avoiding Zoom fatigue. Even primarily in-person events can enhance the attendee experience and prevent fatigue by taking a hybrid route and making some content for viewing after the event.
On demand viewing allows participants to prioritize what they want to attend live and step away from their screens to rest if needed without having to miss out on any sessions that they are interested in watching. 25% of attendees of virtual events choose to view content on demand after the event. These are people that would normally be missing out on event content and sponsor information due to scheduling conflicts or virtual fatigue.
Let’s face it, holding the audience’s attention is tougher through a computer screen. How often do you find yourself losing interest during online meetings? Scrolling through your phone, folding laundry, or eating your lunch with your computer off while a Zoom meeting drags on in the background.
The best way to keep people engaged is to get them involved. Find as many opportunities as you can to create interactive experiences for attendees.
Attendees love Q&A sessions! Integrating Q&As into sessions boosts engagement and helps speakers tailor their content to the interests of the group. Live polling can also be a great option to gather real time feedback.
Appeal to your audiences’ friendly competitive nature by incorporating some games or challenges. Event gamification incentivizes engagement by turning engagement into opportunities for points or prizes.
Here are a couple ways to integrate games, challenges, or prize opportunities into your virtual event:
Give attendees opportunities to earn points by participating in sessions, breakouts, and experiences when interacting with content on-platform.
Add creative or silly challenges or award points for clicking on or engaging with content at the event. The top contenders on the leaderboard at the end of the event can win digital rewards like e-gift cards. Social27 Virtual Event Platform has a unique feature called Points and Badges that can allow users to accumulate points and track their status on the event Leaderboard. Attendees can also earn Badges for their Point achievements to proudly display on their in-platform profile.
Raffles and prize giveaways are a great way to incorporate sponsors. Visit virtual booths or microsites to be entered to win a prize from a sponsor or exhibitor.
Take networking to a whole new level. These experiences can be tailored to the industry that the conference or event is targeted towards. They can also just be fun casual activities like virtual trivia nights or virtual scavenger hunts.
Vary Your Interactive Approach
Messaging in a chat box can be less intimidating than speaking or appearing on video to interact for some attendees. The chat function is an easy way to encourage conversation and interaction in a manner that is approachable rather than fatiguing for attendees. Moderated or unmoderated chats allow participants to feel involved in the event. They facilitate a flow of information and idea sharing while providing real-time feedback and input to the speaker.
On the other hand, video meetings provide a greater sense of connection. Having people turn on their cameras and interact for networking focused activities with peers or while asking a question during a Q&A segment with a sponsor or exhibitor can be beneficial for attendees.
Attendees shouldn’t have their cameras on the whole time though – that has been shown to lead to faster burnout. Stanford researchers have stated that the cognitive load of video calls is higher than that of in-person meetings, leading to increased feelings of fatigue and exhaustion. Seeing yourself on video is distracting. Having to think about how you look to others and manage your body language can be anxiety-inducing to many.
Thus, you should plan a mix of activities and segments for each day that allow for face-to-face interaction, and muted video-off portions where a chat feature or polling is used to integrate attendee interaction. This also ensures that there are options available to meet the communication preferences of different segments of your target demographic.
Gen Z and Millennials tend to prefer electronic communication, while older generations often prefer a more personal face-to-face option.
Choose the Right Platform
Choosing the right platform can make or break your virtual event. You dedicate time, effort, and a large portion of your budget to securing the right venue for your in-person events. Don’t forget to secure the right virtual venue for your digital events!
Social27 Event Platform can help you deliver clear and compelling content and curate unique virtual experiences that your attendees will remember. Book a demo today to learn how you can build a virtual event that won’t fall victim to Zoom fatigue.