The word ‘Virtual’ always had a futuristic connotation to it but until now, when almost every other business has turned to the internet, in terms of marketing, researching, communication, and much more. While most of us have attended webinars and conferences from the comfort of our homes, not many have hosted one.
The virtual event requires the same attention and brainstorming as an in-person event does; just not in terms of venue. Any event be it in-person or virtual needs to have a personalized experience to create an impact that stays even after exiting the event. While organizing virtual events could be challenging for anyone let alone a newbie in this digital-driven world, choosing the best online event platform can alleviate and solve half of your problems. As it can seamlessly organize an interactive and impactful virtual event, is less time-consuming, and also helps generate high ROI.
Why Virtual Event?
Before you jump to ‘why Virtual Event?’ let’s first define what it is. While the current situation must have familiarised you all with at least one type of virtual event, it could be a little intangible when it comes to getting started with a virtual event. A virtual event by definition is an event that requires people (Attendees) to interact in a virtual environment using the web rather than meeting in-person. Any virtual meeting, conference, webinar, or catch-up could be considered as a virtual event.
Although nothing can replace the in-person or Live events, much capital, resources, and energy can be saved while conducting a virtual event. Virtual events have become the ‘new normal’, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s here to stay for as long as we. With rising costs, health safety, global audience, virtual events is a must-have to make your event go digital.
Without spending an exorbitant amount businesses can now approach a global audience using virtual platforms. A pre-recorded presentation or a quick online conference can enable you to pitch brands, businesses, and audiences that are otherwise impossible to meet in-person sometimes due to proximity and time constraints. Plus, we can turn an in-person event into a virtual event but it’s next to impossible to turn the latter into the former at the end moment. This makes virtual events more reliable.
Different Types of Virtual Event
The three motives behind conducting a virtual event are either to sell something or educate about something or to discuss something. If you ever found yourself wondering which type of virtual event you should go for then here a guide to different types of virtual events that organizers can opt from.
Virtual conferences just like in-person conferences are formal and include multi-session content and community engagement tools. Though it is built around a complex agenda that includes keynotes, sessions, and breakouts; it is effective in terms of lead capture and networking. Most of the big businesses have been using virtual conferences to communicate with their clients and attendees. The best part is it’s not limited by any physical accommodations which makes it infinitely scalable.
Today the buzz is majorly about hosting a webinar. In simple words, a webinar is an online presentation held in real-time which can be recorded and shared even after. It’s like a one-off workshop or class. Participants of a webinar can ask questions and involve in discussions through chat feeds if the host allows.
External Hybrid Event
These can be user conferences or industry conferences. It generally happens for those outside the business or organization fraternity. It’s in all ways the best practice to bring everyone related to the discussion together on a virtual event platform and make an announcement rather than traveling to different parts of the world to communicate the same thing. It saves time and money.
Online Training/ Classes/ Social Hours
These are online lectures, department meetings, corporate training, company-wide events, and more. Companies that have a far fetched network use this as a medium to communicate a certain message to their employees divided by proximity. Time calls for modernization with evolving technologies, it has so far stimulated and connected people from all over the country. We have witnessed during this time, how our favorite stand-up comedy, musical concerts, and other socializing events turned virtual.
Determining Factors of Virtual Event
Every event be it in-person or over the web is centered around the attendee’s engagement, data collection, and content. While these three could be largely the determining factors, a virtual event is made of other essential elements too.
- Event website
- Event registration
- Live presentation content
- Live, one-way audio/video
- Question and answer
- Interactive video conferencing
- Note-taking / favorite slides
- Recorded content
- Live Polls
- Feedback surveys
How to conduct a Virtual Event?
While one may argue that with a virtual event face-to-face engagement could suffer, it’s unless you plan a strategy that can compensate for both the missing destination and in-personal experience in a virtual world. On the need to understand that moving online isn’t just an alternative place to damage control but it has benefits of its own that can accelerate high ROI with mere spending.
Every event comes down to the fundamentals. These are
Content is the key. Powerful and engaging content can turn any boring virtual event into a show-stealer. Make your attendees want to listen to you. Your content can single-handedly market your thoughts to your target attendees without you having to spend money.
Marketing and Promotion
Promote your virtual event on every virtual platform possible but social media platforms must be the priority as it boosts your online presence and has a larger and wider approach.
How do you get investors for your event. Show don’t tell. Show the previous event success data, it’s the only way to prove ROI and impress everyone.
Before Starting a Virtual Event Ask…
It’s always suggested to treat your virtual event as an in-person event. Keeping in mind that the attendees can’t remain seated in front of their screen for hours, a plan should be put in place that involves attendees’ engagement with the host and others as well, depending on the type of virtual event it is. Before you plan to do a virtual event, always ask the below-mentioned question first and try to provide a solution.
- What’s the motive behind this event? Categorize it according to the type.
- How long would the session last?
- What tools will attendees have to network and register?
- Is it going to be a free-session or you want to charge a fee?
- Do you have effective connectivity and a backup plan just in case?
- Have you drafted a guide for attendees to navigate through registration and how they can use the virtual event platform tool to interact?
- How do you plan to keep your attendees engaged?
- Who’s your target audience and do they have the right means to access your session?
- How will you track the attendees?
- Do you have a technical support team to manage any technical glitch during a virtual event?
Attendees Engagement at Virtual Event
Keeping the attendees engaged, entertained, and informed is one of the most challenging tasks for a host. After you create a guide through emails or video-demonstration on how to access the session or log into a virtual event, it’s time to let the attendees engage in the event. While it’s always a good practice to clear all the queries before the event starts but if someone raises their issue then give them a space to do so through a chat box or comment session. Currently, there’s no doubt about the number of leads, reaction, and other engagement – social media can generate in a comparatively short time. Leverage social media tools to engage people through sharing pictures and videos of virtual events and takeaways, and comments sessions. This will give them a personalized experience whereas help you expand your reach on that platform. It’s suggested to not underestimate the tech-ability of your target audience, so to play safe, always add a Q&A session because it never goes out of trend. Last, but literally, the most important, don’t follow a structured approach while appealing to the attendees, make it as non-conventional and conversational as possible.
Networking and Connecting is the Key
It wouldn’t be astonishing to doubt the ability of virtual events in terms of networking and connecting with the attendees as against in-person events where a host/speaker can physically add a whole new element to their presentation with their gestures. Considering the fact that attendees’ attention span is very less virtually, organizers have to come up with engaging ideas and creative content to keep their attendees hooked and also provide them a worthy experience. Using social media, one can create a community base and expand their reach beyond the boundaries. There’s no doubt that technology has helped everyone go beyond the physical borders and meet people virtually. In order to properly facilitate networking, you need to choose an event platform that has all the right features. With features like live-chat, reaction, virtual groups, virtual breakout sessions, virtual events have tried their best to keep attendees engaged. Consider providing dedicated networking time to encourage attendees to meet on the mobile event app.
Appropriate Event Technology and Platform to Host Virtual Events
At the heart of every virtual event there lies event technology. From online-classes, conferences, webinars, live-streamed performances–utilizing advanced technology makes it way easier. Listed are a few commonly used event tools:
Your event website is your first impression of you on your attendees. It provides a ‘home base’ for your event. As it’s your key promotional tool you would want to make it as smooth and easy to navigate as anything to encourage your target audience to participate. High-quality videos and images, event schedules, FAQs, speakers are a must on any virtual event website.
It’s the most critical tool for data collection. Having a robust registration page will ensure fewer technical errors, fast registration, and quicker response time. Planners and organizers can then utilize this data to structure and improvise their content for the event.
Email marketing is one of the oldest yet effective forms of marketing. Although it requires patience, it also helps the organizers to show their creativity while requesting the attendees for registration. No matter how boring it may seem, but people read emails for their own compulsion. You can keep your followers updated through newsletters, emails, feedback surveys, etc. A smarter approach would be to use automated emails to save time.
Event guides and apps are the cornerstones for events. And people like to access information that comes in handy through mobile phones. It’s the most valuable tool as it fosters professional networking, sustained interest through gamification and live Q&As, and helps source multiple data collection. It’s where attendees pick and choose what sessions to add to their agenda.
Live-streaming Software / Platform
Choosing the right webinar software or live-streaming software is made easy with a deluge of online platforms coming up every now and then. Some video streaming platforms are better suited to business meetings and conferences, training while others equip the host with an interactive, more informal way of communicating.
In a formal setting, the organizers are sometimes not able to gauge reactions by the attendees’ expressions or verbal feedback, in that case, a post-event survey helps gain an insightful understanding of their attendees.
Evaluating Success of your Virtual Event
You were able to host a virtual event without any obstacles. Now what? Just as you evaluate the success of an in-person event by determining certain factors of marketing, you’ve to measure the virtual event success using certain metrics. For organizations to improvise on their methods of conducting an event, engagement approach, tools, budget, and investments; it’s necessary to obtain event data and analyze for a better strategy to put in place next time.
Determining the success of a virtual event needs reviewing data post-event. It’s important to identify key performance indicators. Based on your metric analyze the benefits like revenue generated, sales made, brand equity, and knowledge exchanged, attendees registered, and many more.
The next and foremost crucial step after running a virtual event is to collect data from various attendees. But this process is something that a host or organization has to collect during pre-event, during the event, and post-event to make effective changes to qualify leads.
Here’s a list of data you need to keep an eye on:
- Number of Registrations
- Email Open and click-through Rates
- Engagement Rate
- Session Rating
- Post and Pre-Event Survey Results
- Social Media Engagement and Reach
- Usage of #Hashtags
- Lead Generated
- Attendees Turned Out
How to Optimise a Virtual Event
To run a wildly successful virtual event it’s crucial to keep a number of things in mind while planning out an event online. This handy checklist will help you create a successful virtual event.
Apart from using the best camera and audio recording devices and ensuring high-quality visual presentation, there are a number of other things to consider for an impactful virtual experience.
It’s recommended to select an appropriate virtual event platform that makes your work easy in terms of collecting post-event data like feedback, engagement, and ROI. Your top priority should be to go for the best technology provider that offers the desired integration and cybersecurity.
Invest time in your content to make it more interactive. One-way communication, a deluge of statistics and facts, multiple one kinds of contents can saturate your attendees. To overcome this virtual event organizers can design interactions that keep their audience engaged while helping them gain an insight into the information being provided as well as connect with others. Add a little humor to your content only if you know how to deliver it otherwise get ready for an awkward silence.
Leverage the technology and virtual event platforms to the fullest extent to ensure creativity in your work. Modify your presentation decks to include polls, videos, GIFs, animations and drive home the point which seems to be a little impossible via a digital medium.
Always stay connected to your attendees via emails or messages. Update the event website and communicate with them the changes, if any. Make sure your website is optimized so that it doesn’t take much of your attendees’ time to register.
Give your attendees a hands-on idea about working virtually. A guide on how to attend the event virtually, how to engage and chat with others, must always be on the checklist of a host. It’s recommended to have a short Q&A session just like the one after an in-person event.
Takeaways work like a cherry-on-top of a cake and nobody would mind a small technical glitch in the middle of your presentation if you compensate it with a free or discount voucher.