Geniecast Blog

Rethinking Duration

3 Insights on Duration in Virtual Events

Virtual events have become an increasingly popular way to engage audiences, but ensuring attendees remain attentive and engaged throughout the session can be a challenge for event planners. While there are various strategies you can employ to boost engagement (see our other post on this), the most commonly overlooked factor is the duration of the event itself. It’s common to assume that events should be as long as necessary to cover all essential content, but how does that affect the attention span of those sitting on the other side of the screen?

At Geniecast, we’ve analyzed virtual events of all sizes, durations, and purposes. Our clients use the data we collect during every show to denote areas of improvement in addition to successes of the show. But we also use this data internally to develop our own best practices. Let’s take a look at the three biggest insights we’ve pulled from our duration data. 

1 – For longer events, breaks can help.

The three timelines to the left depict data pulled from three virtual events for the same client. Each purple line represents audience engagement over a four-hour period. Something we see in all three of these charts is the inevitable slight drop in attendance throughout the duration – this is nearly impossible to avoid. 

You can see that while the attendee count peaks relatively early in the show, it gradually trends downwards as people lose interest over time. However, this loss in attendee count is actually not too dramatic, and in the case of this show that is helped by placing several 10-15 minute breaks throughout the different presentations. These shows were structured similarly, with the same duration of 4 hours with 10-15 minute breaks interspersed in 1-2 hour intervals. The data backs it up, If you’ve got a longer show on your hand, try giving your audience some time to get up and stretch! Otherwise, that downward curve is only getting steeper.

2 – It takes people a while to get into the show.

No matter how much you tell people what time to show up, no matter how many reminder emails you send, people will always take a bit to get situated in the show. Between prior commitments, jammed schedules, and screen fatigue, it takes a while before you have your entire audience in their seats and ready to go.

The timeline to the left is a great representation of this tendency. It’s important to note that this is a much shorter show than the previous example; it only ran for half an hour. You can see how the attendee count doesn’t start leveling out until almost halfway through the show, and it only peaks right before the event actually ends. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that you fib to your attendees about the actual start time of your event, however, we highly recommend that you save the most important content for 10-15 minutes into your show, rather than kicking off the event with breaking news.

3 – Hosting an in-person event? Don’t forget about your virtual audience!

Many planners don’t see the need for hybrid approaches, but this image begs to differ. This graph comes from one of our hybrid shows with an onsite and virtual audience. The livestream maintained a stunningly steady level of engagement, and that area where they ramped up in attendees was filled with a pre-show video that kept them engaged and had almost everyone in their seats by the time the main content began.

However, there is a noticeable dip in attendees right around the middle of the show. What happened there? During this time of the show, there was a very technical demo of new features being introduced to a tool used by the company. While this was important content to cover, on a livestream this is a surefire way to lose engagement from those who don’t work with tools that are this technical. Consider giving other opportunities for engagement during this presentation, or even moving this segment closer to the end where you’re already going to have people leaving early anyways.

Virtual audiences in some ways behave like normal audiences, but since they have anonymity and freedom to come and go as they please, building knowledge of how they act during different kinds of events is a very honest reflection of how engaged they are. At Geniecast, we’re gained extensive experience in navigating the nuances of these audiences and we are equipped to help you keep your audience in their seat, entertained, and engaged.

So what are you waiting for? Get in touch now and leave the rest to us.

Meet the Author

Eric Webster

Eric Webster

Broadcast Specialist

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