Siirry sisältöön
Experience Economy
Participation and engagement in virtual and hybrid events

To ensure efficient and effective implementation, event planners must possess a practical understanding of tools that enhance online or hybrid event audience participation and engagement.


Sanni Aromaa

palvelumuotoilija, palveluliiketoiminnan kehittäminen ja muotoilu
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Violeta Salonen

senior lecturer, service business
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Jouko Loijas

lehtori, palveluliiketoiminnan kehittäminen ja muotoilu
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 20.06.2023

Virtual events present organizers with a formidable challenge of the attention span of the average participant. Zoom fatigue sets in quickly and competing tasks clamour for attention.

Hybrid events compound this challenge, as both the online and onsite audiences must be engaged and connected. To tackle this obstacle, event producers must carefully consider strategies to captivate and involve both sets of attendees in a meaningful way. The key lies in fostering engagement that resonates on a deeper level, tapping into participants’ emotions and values. The focus is on how to produce value and not just satisfy needs. 

Engagement can lead to increased loyalty 

In a survey conducted by Markletic (n=3851) on virtual events, 49 % of respondents identified audience engagement as the crucial factor for event success (Wolff 2022). This percentage may seem surprisingly low considering the significant investment events represent in marketing. However, if the goal of the event is to foster trust and community among the audience, achieving a certain level of engagement becomes paramount, which can elevate the importance to 100 %.

To ensure a successful event experience, it is essential to develop a consistent plan that incorporates meaningful and engaging participatory elements. By fostering a sense of meaningfulness and connection, memorable experiences are created that have a lasting impact beyond the event itself. Successful engagement implementation can cultivate strong loyalty among attendees, influencing their decision-making when choosing between different service providers.

Interaction with other people is the spice of the event 

In the beginning of our Hybrid Ninja project we interviewed event industry specialists (n=15) to build better understanding on the needs and the visions on the industry. How were the interviews utilised in designing the courses is opened in more detail in an earlier blog post about affinity diagram. 

Participants are the most important content of the event

(Hybrid Ninja interviews, 2022)

Interaction and people are the spice of events, and an event cannot be called an event if it does not include interaction in one way or another. Of course, some may come to the event only to listen to a certain expert talk and leave, but this is also very different from the participant passively watching the show streaming from the couch at home. However, the possibility of interaction, perhaps with the speaker, perhaps with other participants, exists. The speaker themself also plays a big role in the realisation of interactivity. 

How to beat the challenges in practice 

Between the informative sections, it would also be good to have some kind of coffee room discussions to create social interaction.  

(Hybrid Ninja interviews, 2022)

Achieving goals on virtual platforms differs from live events, but there are effective strategies to do so. In hybrid and virtual events, maintaining audience engagement remains a challenge. Utilizing virtual participation tools like Mentimeter and SliDo can empower the audience to take a more active role.

According to the Markletic survey, 78 % of businesses using event apps report a positive return on investment (ROI). Event platforms and applications offer valuable participation tools. Integrating these tools within an event app can be advantageous if they align with the event’s purpose. However, it’s important to remember that simply adding tools is not enough; moderation and facilitation play significant roles in driving meaningful change.

You need to understand why and how to make it 

Students were tasked with creating a real hybrid event that utilized both onsite and online spaces. They utilized the Liveto event platform as a bridge and shared space between the two audiences.

Working in smaller groups, the students executed their event plan, which aimed to establish a connection between the audiences through participatory activities. However, the students faced challenges in successfully integrating participatory elements due to their unfamiliarity with essential tools and time constraints.

The value of participant experience is paramount, as bringing together both audiences fosters a sense of community and expands networking opportunities. To ensure efficient and effective implementation, event planners must possess a practical understanding of tools that enhance online or hybrid event audience participation and engagement.

Authors of this text work for the Hybrid Ninja (online and hybrid event producer training) project, which aims to train event planning organisations in organising hybrid and virtual events, with an accent on design thinking. The training is free of charge, executed by Haaga-Helia professionals in cooperation with industry leaders. The project is funded by the European Social Fund (REACT-EU) as part of the European Union’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Salonen, V. & Aromaa, S. 2023. With affinity diagram you can hear the unspoken. eSignals. Haaga-Helia.