Virtual fatigue

Virtual fatigue

Dr Virtual's latest patient is worried that their potential event attendees may have virtual fatigue. What does our digital medic diagnose?

Dear Dr. Virtual @ Cvent

Help please! I am worried that potential attendees may have virtual fatigue. What can I do to combat this and attract and drive registrations ahead of my virtual event?

Dr Virtual replies:

Virtual fatigue is very real, especially as we continue to spend countless hours behind our screens. Psychologists have even identified the factors which differentiate online and in‐person meetings.

Here comes the science bit: in a virtual setting, our brains need to work much harder because they require higher levels of sustained concentration to consciously process non‐verbal cues like facial expressions and tone‐of‐voice, which results in increased tiredness.

In addition, staring at our appearance (in gallery view) makes us hyper‐aware of our expressions and how they might be interpreted.

Frustration with lagging connections and background noise can also be associated with a heightened sense of fatigue and a knee‐jerk reaction to turning the video off!

That said, great content (whether in‐person or online) will always be in‐demand and consumed – and the massive reach and accessibility of virtual events will ensure they are here to stay.

Let’s take a look at some of the elements you can optimise to create rich, engaging experiences that can keep digital fatigue at bay and attract and drive registrations ahead of your event.

Keep Presentations Concise

To help keep attendees engaged, try to keep online sessions to around 30 minutes. Should they need to be longer, punctuate with small breaks and consider the “Pomodoro technique” to break meetings into 25‐minute focused sessions, followed by a five minute pause.

Alternatively, go the TED Talk route and cap to 18 minutes, which is said to be long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people's attention. When planning, think quality over quantity ‐ succinct, and more on‐demand content lets attendees watch on their own schedule.

Prioritise The Visuals

Don’t skimp on the visuals as they are a critical part of the overall experience. It’s estimated that 50 per cent of the surface of the brain is directly or indirectly devoted to processing visual information.

Studies indicate that at least 65 per cent of people are visual learners. Use this knowledge to your advantage and ensure your digital content includes a mix of images and or graphics, and text to highlight key points.

The audience is twice as likely to remember the message when these elements are combined

Content Is King

Content reigns and is the driving force behind registrations and audience engagement. Whether you’re streaming a single day‐long event or producing a webinar with many presenters, there should be a strong, clear narrative that resonates with attendees.

Utilise engagement tools such as live polling and Q&A (potentially using a mobile event app), to revert the audience’s attention and re‐energise parts of the session.

In addition, the content you provide doesn’t have to be limited to the online setting. Send attendees short video clips, or even podcasts, that they can listen to on their schedule to further enhance the experience and drive home key points.

Also, don’t treat the virtual agenda as an afterthought. Leverage it to create buzz around the event by making it easily accessible and teasing keynote speakers and sessions to attendees pre, during and post event.

Connection Building

After great content comes networking. Onsite attendees have the benefit of experiencing a sense of community first‐hand; it’s much easier for them to network, have organic conversations, and establish connections.

Just because you’re not in the same physical space it doesn’t mean you can’t leverage your virtual event to build connections. With the right technology it’s possible to provide networking opportunities which take place in real‐time in online breakout rooms based on common interests, digital lounges for happy hours, in informal “continue the conversation” sessions with experts on a key topic and pre‐arrange scheduled appointments.

Ensure these options are well promoted so that attendees are aware of what’s available when and most importantly, how they can join.


The thrill, satisfaction and achievement of playing a game triggers the release of endorphins, which lowers stress and anxiety levels. Therefore, gamification is a great option to boost the “feel‐good” factor, all whilst making virtual events more engaging.

You can gamify your online event through a mobile event app and offer sponsored prizes or virtual swag for top performers.

Incentives & Surprises

Create a favourable impression by sending a swag to attendees who register early either in e‐voucher form or a fun customised gift box that speaks to your brand and event theme. You can also offer exclusive downloads of useful resources or access to early trials of your latest products, activity packs, recipe cards and food and beverage delivery.

Offering such incentives builds and strengthens your relationship with prospects and customers throughout the year. It also gives your attendees something tangible that utilises additional senses such as touch, taste and smell which are often missing components of virtual events.

During the event itself consider calling out attendees by name and thank them for attending or highlight something special about them (possibly gathered from a pre‐event survey). People love to be recognised.

Audio / Visual Set Up

The only way for attendees and speakers to interact online is through audio and video. An issue with the AV runs the risk of attendees becoming stressed or irritated and ultimately switching off. The better the sound and video quality, the more engaged attendees will be.

Make sure your equipment is fit for purpose; a simple setup will work for a webinar, but more advanced equipment may be required for a virtual conference that has different speakers and multiple sessions.

Prior to the event, perform checks on the AV quality, screen sharing, chat/messaging functions, audience Q&A, and logins to identify and rectify any issues.

Using your event know‐how, underpinned with a little psychology and science, you can create more engaging virtual events which will drive attendee registration, ensure the audience stays tuned‐in and ward off virtual fatigue.

Good luck!

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