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The global lockdown demonstrated with crystal clarity that organisers need to understand how to create the kind of virtual events that keep people engaged. If attendees are engaged, then they will have a more positive experience overall and this will put you on the right track to success. But the definition of ‘online engagement’ is open to interpretation and what might work well on one attendee may easily put another one off all together.
Enter the world of extroverts and introverts.
A Big Percentage of Your Attendees are Introverts
One category of people that often gets ignored is introverts. You may be surprised to learn that between a third and a half of attendees are introverts (though it does depend on location too). Introverts can easily get lost in the crowd, overshadowed by more outgoing personalities.
If we planned an event where half our audience was not engaged, we would not consider it to be a great success. However, planning events that work for everyone is not an easy task because there are so many different personalities and preferences.
Introverts and Extroverts: Understanding the Opposite Ends of the Spectrum
You might think that you know the difference between extroverts and introverts. You understand that extroverts are talkative and outgoing, while introverts are quiet and private. But that just scrapes the surface of the introvert-extrovert dichotomy.
The origins of the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ can be traced back to the 1920s, when Swiss psychologist Carl Jung coined the terms to contrast between two distinct personality types and explain why different people were energised in distinct ways. He found that extroverts gained their energy from their social interactions and eternal environments and tended to feel uncomfortable and anxious when they found themselves alone.
Introverts, on the other hand, replenish their energy levels when they are in quiet environments. Unlike extroverts, they find socialising and busy environments overstimulating and too demanding. These two personality types have very different approaches to recharging too. Introverts gain energy by being alone while extroverts recharge themselves through social interaction.
Introversion and extroversion are not mutually exclusive qualities. They are at the two opposite ends of a spectrum. Each of us falls somewhere between the two extremes, only differing by the extent we are more introvert-like or extrovert-like. There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert.
To complicate things further, everybody moves up and down the spectrum depending on external and internal factors. Many introverts exhibit extroverted behaviours and vice-versa. For example, an introvert is quite capable of delivering a speaking presentation from a big stage. Whilst it’s not an exact science, it is worthwhile for you to have this knowledge to help you understand the personality type differences to enable you to design a virtual event that helps all attendees.
If it wasn’t challenging enough to understand the spectrum, there are additional factors to consider. There are differences in cultures that add another layer of complexity. For example, an extrovert in one culture may be different to an extrovert in a different culture. Different cultures have different ways of being and some cultures are definitely ‘louder’ than others.
Then we have the added complication of gender as there are differences between male and female. For example, what differences could you find between a male and a female introvert and how can you design your event accordingly? There is a lot to consider.
Engaging Your Introvert Attendees
Virtual events can work very well for introverts especially if there is a lot of pre-event communication about what the content will be. In fact, the more you work on this aspect the more interest you should have. Avoid using headlines that are open to interpretation. For example, if sessions are great opportunities for collaboration, explain what is going to happen. Provide details to ensure that you alleviate any anxiety fears. Be clear about the participative elements and how they will add value.
Use virtual event platforms like Eventsforce VCD to make it possible for attendees to connect in advance of the event and then they can network with those people that appeal to them. This is much better than asking them to network on the spot during the event.
Encourage pre-event involvement. This is something which can be done at the attendee’s own pace. Allow them to reflect on the content in the programme. They may want to do some wider reading around the subject and study speaker profiles in advance.
Issue the programme and keep them up to speed with any changes. That way they can be in control of their own experience and make the most of it.
You can use the bullet list below to help keep introverts’ traits top of mind to help your virtual event design.
Common Introvert traits
- Enjoy spending time in solitude
- Prefer not to be the centre of attention
- Value close one-on-one relationships
- Think before they speak
- Need time alone to recharge and reflect
- Prefer working in quiet, independent environments
- Focus deeply and think about specific interests
- Can be seen as reserved
Engaging Your Extrovert Attendees
Virtual events can also work well for extroverts and of course they should! A number of planners are trying to replicate their in-person events online which are biased towards extroverts anyway, so there shouldn’t need to be much in the way of a change in the programming.
But even with this bias of producing ‘extrovert’ events, there are some differences to consider for your virtual event. Extroverts could easily become frustrated by not being able to get involved as they normally would at an in-person event.
You know that they like to mix and mingle and be more vocal than introverts so you need to consider how can they get to network with other delegates? Also take a view on whether you will be running some kind of leader board activity and how you can ensure that extroverts can still speak but not take over? You need to design a virtual experience that
You can use the bullet list below to help keep extroverts’ traits top of mind to help your design.
Common Extrovert Traits
- Have large social networks
- Enjoy being the centre of attention
- Tend to think out loud
- Make quick decisions
- Gain energy from being around other people
- They are outgoing and enthusiastic
- Thrive in team-oriented and open work settings
What are Your Attendee Preferences?
The more you understand your audience, the better able you will be to produce a virtual event that works for them. Hosting a session with a grid layout, for example, where everyone can see each other and encourages individual opinions and participation works well with extroverts. Whereas more polling, quizzes and social chats may be something that attracts the introvert types more.
Use the data that you have (from past events) and ask some your attendees searching questions to understand what they want to see in your event programme.
You could ask a range of questions which include things such as: where are you from, what is your gender, what would you like from this event, what are you seeking to learn, what format of presentations do you prefer, is connecting online important to you and what subjects are you interested in?
There are some questions that you cannot ask outright not least due to data protection regulations (such as date of birth) but if you ask insightful and considered questions, you will be able to understand preferences and topics that are top of their mind.
Creating Event Sessions for Different Personas
As we have mentioned earlier, extroverts and introverts are two extremes on a spectrum of personality types. Extroverts are energised by social situations, never short of something to say and thrive in fast-paced, busy environments. Introverts, by contrast, feel drained by social situations, are overwhelmed by large groups and often dread networking.
Imagine how an introvert would feel logging on to a virtual event to be told by the host, to “turn on your camera and unmute yourself”. That could be the first in a long series of tough hurdles for some people, so care is needed at every stage of your event design.
But using your data on what your attendees want, you can now get down to the business of designing some great virtual sessions that appeal to both introverts and extroverts.
The power of enabling people to vote and ask questions or make comments within your virtual event platform should not be underestimated. This enables the less vocal attendees to be able to have their say and be heard. Plus it also means that you keep control of time as extroverts that would be happy to talk and talk, are restricted by having the same amount of time as everyone else to participate.
One point to bear in mind is that it’s a myth to suggest that introverted audiences don’t value participative formats because they do. Plus one of the main reasons for coming together at virtual events isn’t about pushing information but in sharing ideas, developing new thinking, starting conversations – all things that are best done and benefit by getting introverts and extroverts working together.
Conclusion – Bear in Mind Your Unconscious Bias
Everyone on the planet has an unconscious bias. It’s about the way we look at the world. We tend to design events for extroverts by including lots of networking, stimulating environments and group activities. However, by designing events for extroverts we are immediately ostracizing up to half of our attendees.
Most of the time we are not even aware of our unconscious bias. But it’s there. Therefore it’s critical that you recognise that when making your planning decisions, you are probably making decisions based on your unconscious bias.
Have a good look at your audience data and understand what you want as an outcome from your virtual event. If it all aligns, brilliant. If not, you will need to look again to ensure that you are not thrown off course by your bias.
And don’t forget that you need to share exactly what is required for your event with your speakers and virtual host. They too have their own bias which impacts on how they design and run sessions.
Listen to your audience as it will have a detrimental impact on your attendance and engagement statistics.
Considering virtual events? Eventsforce VCD is a fully integrated virtual event platform that can support you with registration, live content delivery, networking and the ability to build lasting relationships with your attendees online. Book a demo or get in touch with the team to see how we can help with your virtual and hybrid events.