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Industry : Events
The uncertainty of live events in 2020 is completely up in the air as it’s impossible to speculate when this pandemic will be over, as well as, when people will feel comfortable attending an event with a large group of people.
Virtual events can alleviate that uncertainty.
I’m a firm believer in live events, however, virtual events with some creativity and planning can be just as engaging as a live event.
The below blog post provides information for you to gauge on whether a virtual event could work as a temporary replacement for a live event (or keep it virtual or make it a hybrid).
*Don’t just string together a bunch of webinars and call it a day. That will not provide the engagement your attendees seek.
Virtual Events can be jaw-dropping. Full buildouts of what looks like a convention center with trade booths lining the walls and people walking around. It’s amazing what developers have done.
Below are some options available, keep in mind the more intricate the more it may cost.
Set Goals. When companies set goals, they achieve far more than when they don’t. First you need to decide your overall vision for the event (including programming) and what the User Experience (UX) will be from the moment they register to post event communication. Then mesh that vision with goals and metrics that help to maximize the exposure your virtual event will have on the target attendee. Below are some examples (don’t chose multiple goals, decide on one and make it happen).
Create a Budget. Setting a budget is crucial to the financial success of an event. By just stating a number (whether that’s gross revenue or net profit) doesn’t mean you will achieve it if you don’t define all of the line items involved.
Expenses (** denotes expenses for creating the stage setup yourself):
IMPORTANT: Do not base your decision to hire a vendor purely on price, get references and check online ratings. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “you get what you pay for” it’s not something you want to learn during a stressful event, especially if it’s the first time you’re doing it.
Finding the Right Vendors. Thankfully you will not need as many vendors as a live event, it mainly comes down to just a handful (not too many balls to juggle).
Audio Visual (A/V) equipment companies can help with the audio equipment, lighting, camera/computer and staging. Please ask their advice on what equipment would work best for your event vision AND give them the budget upfront. For the most part A/V companies can work with most budgets. However, if your budget is $200 for a full setup, they probably won’t be able to work with that.
Online Platforms (the companies referenced below are for your convenience and not an endorsement)
Marketing for a Virtual Event. The same platforms to promote a live event direct emails to your list, social media posts, posting on online calendars and advertising with digital ads on relevant sites work well.
But the most important part is what content you should share. The goal is to entice ticket sales and/or social media sharing. Below is a good list of content to post:
Create a hashtag for your event, it serves two purposes to push the word out as well as a location for attendees to submit questions before or during a talk from a speaker.
Event Preparations. There is a lot of preparation that goes into a successful virtual event. It would be great if you just hired the online platform and they handled it all from there, but that’s not reality. Below are some tips to get ready for day of event.
Event Website. A virtual conference website, depending on the complexities, could take 1-2 weeks to set up. This means writing the copy, creating the graphics, setting up the branding, designing booths (if applicable), uploading content and scheduling webinars. Major customizations can take more time.
Presenter’s A/V. Once securing each presenter, find out their audio and visual capabilities, as well as, the strength of their wi-fi connection. Ideally, they will have a similar setup to keep a consistent look for the event AND you don’t want them dropping the connection during their presentation due to weak wi-fi.
Presenter Prep. Even with live events, it’s necessary to have a conversation with presenters on their talking points to make sure that they are touching on the important topics your attendees are expecting to hear. Also, ask them how you can support them in the event to make their presentation more engaging.
Rehearsals. Schedule a rehearsal with each of your presenters and test attendees. Work on the polling and chat sessions to make sure your presenter is comfortable with the screen controls and function of the presentation.
Presenter Problems. Create a plan (and rehearse it) for any problems that may arise if a presenter loses connection, is running late, or cancels last minute.
Attendee Tutorial. Create a tutorial on the event website and send via email, explaining how to join webinars, ask questions, join networking and breakout sessions. The tutorial could be a quick video showing screenshots or simple text with imagery.
Customer Support During Event. It’s important to have a person designated to provide support/help to attendees during the event. This can be via email, phone or web chat. If you don’t have a staff person or it’s not available with the online platform you choose, consider outsourcing a staff member from an agency or online staffing platform.
Reminders. Reminders are incredibly important for virtual events, it’s very easy to receive a reminder and forget to login because something comes up. Send out reminders the day before, 1-hour before, and 10-minutes before the event starts.
Post Event Action Items. Now that the event has concluded, it’s time to thank the appropriate people and get the data.
Thank You’s. Send out a thank you email within a day of event closing. Make sure to include sponsor logos (with hyperlinks if possible), presenter decks (if approved) and event survey.
Run the Reports. The best thing about virtual events, is the online platform is extracting data during the whole process. Measuring the ROI is simplified and sending that data to sponsors is so much easier.
* If possible, encourage attendees to keep the conversation alive in the social media groups. This can help with furthering your attendee engagement and possibly help to recruit attendees for future events.
Hopefully this post has provided you the information to move forward (if appropriate) with a virtual conference.
Also, over the past 6-8 years many events have moved and stayed online, something to consider for the future. Another option is a hybrid event – virtual and live (i.e. pre-event and post event stays virtual to start and keep the conversation going with a live event).Share This Page: