While we can’t wait for face-to-face meetings to start again, events still have to go on. This has led many event professionals to move their in-person events online. Before COVID-19, virtual events were discussed as a futuristic idea, but the onset of the coronavirus pushed online events to the present. In a way, event professionals have participated in virtual events without realizing it via webinars and Facebook groups.
While the virtual events you produce will be more sophisticated than a Facebook group, setting up can be the hardest part when organizing a virtual event for the first time. Connect spoke with Endless Events Founder and Chief Event Einstein Will Curran for his tips on hosting a virtual event.
1: Don’t Stress on What Platform and Technology to Use.
Curran has spoken with many planners who are worried about the complexity of technology, the platforms and how it all works. He tells planners to not get bogged down on what platform and technology to use because likely the planners won’t be setting it up. He suggests curating a team of people who can help you, and act as if you’re putting on an in-person event. The easiest way to do that is to delegate your team.
Have a tech-savvy person who understands live streaming, how presenters log in and can check internet connection. You also need someone who has experience managing and entering data. And you need team members who can interact in chat rooms and moderate the Q&A, etc.
“I think far too many people are getting caught up in that virtual events are so different than in-person events,” Curran said. “I think you’re going to see … in-person planners are the ones who are going to produce the best virtual events as well.”
2: What’s the Importance of Your Exhibit Hall?
Why are you using an exhibit hall? Why does it exist? Curran poses these questions to planners who say they need to create an exhibit hall. He says that if planners want to have an exhibit hall in their virtual event, they need to build a strategy of why it exists. Whatever it is, they have to look at the “why” approach the technology with more of the “how” and “what” portion. For example, say the point of the exhibit hall is for exhibitors to have quality conversations with attendees and have a chance to see what attendees are doing. In that case, build a system that allows the attendees and exhibitors to connect with one another, such as one-on-one networking online.
3. Don’t Stress on the Mentality of It Being Completely Synchronized.
Converting your in-person event to a virtual one will require maneuvering and restructuring. But Curran says to not get bogged down on it being in sync. For example, if you have 200 sessions across 20 breakout rooms, you can prerecord half those sessions. You don’t need to worry “how am I going to take 200 presenters and put them online?” Make some of the prerecorded sessions available to attendees as soon as they sign up so they watch it anytime leading up the event. This can be a great way to build excitement and word-of-mouth recommendations. Then save your best sessions for when the event is live, ensure there is bandwidth for high-quality live streaming and drive attendees there.
4. Know Your Attendees’ Expectations.
By now, attendees of virtual and online events are expecting user-friendly systems, modern design and a clean website. Just like attendees—as many consumers do—judge websites on looks, they will do the same for your online event. If it feels old, people are going have a negative attitude before you’ve had a chance to win them over.
Hosts of virtual events also need to be ready to answer tech support questions. Before, planners only had to deal with audiovisual or Wi-Fi technologies. Now, with a virtual event, you need to have a great tech team that can answer questions quickly, such as webcam or audio issues.
More Best Practices
We also spoke with Mark Roberts, CMO, of PGI on his tips and best practices for virtual events.
- Make it clear of what you want to get out of the virtual event. Be clear and concise as you can.
- Use video if you can. This gives you the ability for the visual cues and have high attendee engagement.
- Ensure your virtual event is secure and password protected.