When the pandemic prohibited fans from attending Major League Baseball games, several teams earned some revenue by selling cut-outs of fans to be placed in the stands instead. If the ball hit your cardboard likeness, then you would receive a ball or other such prize.
For the recent Westminster Dog Show, they put a twist on this practice and included cut-outs of dogs instead of people. I wonder if it made the “contestants” more comfortable seeing a stadium full of their canine brethren instead of human heads! Regardless, it was a nod to acknowledge the character of their event and audience and likely generated more interest in the fundraiser to benefit the AKC Pet Disaster Relief Fund.
If you find yourself needing to create a pseudo-audience, take a lead from the Dog Show and inject some levity into your efforts. Set parameters on your submissions to reflect the environment you want to curate, whether that be light (e.g.: all wearing a hat), youthful (kids only), serious (must be in an austere pose), humorous (poses as mug shots with numbers), colorful (all wearing a pre-determined color) or any other such theme that aligns with your two-dimensional spectators. You can make your non-event into an event by creating a contest or highlighting the especially creative submissions and turn all of the entries into a photo gallery of fans. You don’t have to be in-person to demonstrate spirit!