Virtual Events - everything you need to know
COVID-19 restrictions have been especially devastating to the event industry. Crowd-drawing live events are now struggling to regain their sacred place. In their search for a much-needed remedy, organizers have been experimenting with digital alternatives - and to immense success. The drawback is it is ‘easy come – easy go’ with virtual events, as viewers need only a single click to refocus their attention someplace else and be offline. So how do you organize an online conference to retain a participant? I’ll share more with you below.
The best virtual events resemble breakfast shows!
Even if a topic doesn’t quite tickle our interest, we’ll know that something good will appear in only a few minutes. Only variety and spontaneity are what’ll keep the viewer focused on the screen. Most importantly, as much activity as possible must happen live. Pre-recorded conferences lack that element of ‘pleasant surprise’ - which explains why viewers desperately seek the feeling that they’re at the event with us.
Virtual events – the better dimension
That's right: we’ve come to a time when on-site events and conference room meetings have moved to our screens. Back in ‘the day’, a six or even eight-hour lecture day could have been a given. In the world of new virtual events, however, that’s asking for a world of trouble. Screens accompany us from morning to evening, so every hour of a viewer’s attention throughout a network broadcast is high-value real estate. It is therefore essential to maintain the audience’s attention, which tends to fluctuate even at standard events. Before leaving the room, we were often held back by a ‘social factor’, that being awareness that our absence will be easily noted by attendees.
Virtual events make for an entirely new world for viewers. It’s also vital that the operator feels comfortable in this environment too.
Fot. Kamil Biegański
Why organize virtual events?
In today's dynamic reality, one couldn’t help but ask: why should virtual events even continue to be organized? Because, we seem to appreciate our current situation. The audience's perspective has changed, and it is very likely that when pandemic restrictions pass, the audience will still be willing to watch virtual events for businesses and other conferences via links – or other types of hybrid meetings.
The organization of virtual events has made it easier for organizers to invite guests from across the world, locally, and from abroad. As a result, costs have plummeted, including for accommodation and travel expenses. Once upon a time, a speaker from another continent would have to spend at least 3 days speaking to make their trip worthwhile. Today, 3 hours is more than enough. The expenses associated with the organization of the venue and participants’ accommodation have also evaporated. However, saying that solutions such as virtual events should be cheap will not give away the entire truth. One cost gave way to others, where you may have to pay for a professional studio, a whole team of employees, sound engineers, camera operators, implementers and producers.
There is another imperative that creates a decisive advantage for virtual events. Once, those who could not reach a conference could not get a second chance to view the main content. Today, when all cameras are rolling, live footage can be recycled and put on YouTube. What’s more, is the extended material will be even more attractive if it is divided into several fragments bearing a catchy title.
My recipe for successful virtual events
The organisation of online conferences brings with it many issues that need to be considered. Here are some of them:
- let's consider the time – both the start time and the duration. Oftentimes, participants in online events are employees who take part in them at an employer's command. In this case, the optimal start time will be the morning time at which the working day begins. If not, let's instead aim for the evening hours, because only at around 18:00 would there be a chance that most of the audience will have free time. Besides, online conferences must not take long. Even TED Talk speakers must fit in 18 minutes to carry out one of its iconic talks. "It's long enough to touch the essence of the problem, and at the same time short enough for the viewer not to be able to lose interest," says founder Chris Anderson;
- slides appearing next to a speaker should complement their words, and not be treated as a prompter, or witty remark machine. That’s because we inadvertently participate in the race, who will first read the content from the screen: the speaker or us. Excessive text or misleading slides can be remedied by emailing as a note before or after a meeting. Remember: it is a person – and their mimics and gestures – that convey the most information;
- if the speaker is invited to speak in the studio, the gathering of cameras and unnaturally strong studio lighting can terrify them. Therefore, when engaging a less experienced person, take care to practice first. However, when the speaker can perform from home or the office, let's make sure that we have tested the tools, streaming platforms, internet access - and their overall quality.
Preparing for an online scenario is a delicate art, but it yields tangible results. It must account for all the provided and unforeseen situations, such as problems with the quality of the link or other unexpected technical breaks. During the online conference, the speaker will see a timer – inform everyone about the time allowed for them - and without any exceptions to this rule. Appoint one person to make all the most important decisions in times of possible chaos. Above all, consider any types of scenarios and ensure an engaging online conference! Q&A sessions are important – but if we’re afraid that the audience will not ask any questions, prepare ‘question-certainties’ together with the team that let each become semi-commentators. Keep close tabs on the lecture times, but also diversify the conference time with other attractions such as online workshops.
There are many ways to keep your viewer captivated. Keep those shorter ‘inserts’ in mind, to keep audiences interested. For example, it would be great to host a short call to the arriving CEO. Skillfully mounted under the dashboard, the smartphone can allow him to talk to the presenter. We can ask the director about their upcoming speech, to which they’ll respond with an explanation of why waiting to the end will be worth it! Thanks to this, we assure our clients that we are carrying out an online meeting a high level of organization and creating a team that truly puts the viewer at the centre of the spectacle. A nice touch can also be a quiz, e.g., in the Mentimeter app, in which you will be able to win a prize prepared by the project organizer.
Let's also try to ‘smuggle some normality’ into these online events. One such example would be by offering a coffee break combined with a quick follow-up. Those who want to can brew coffee, while others can share with the presenter to comment on what has happened so far. You will probably agree that the most interesting discussions, but also top ideas, are often born in the hotel lobby. By enabling online conversations, we provide people with a substitute for those conversations. Whoever provides sufficient comments assimilates knowledge. We learn by talking about the things we have just heard, but also establish new contacts. Attractions for online events are an issue that are unforgettable.
Any event that is expected to produce maximum results requires a respectable Event Manager. So, what is the role of the event manager and what are the responsibilities associated with event management? Here are some of them:
– Planning an event from start to finish
– Generating event ideas
– Managing event budgets
– Sponsorship negotiations
– Management of logistics and event locations
– Management of audio and virtual events companies
– Creating event marketing plans
– Communication, reporting, analysis, and post-event support
– Analyzing feedback and reporting data to measure the event's objectives and executed actions
Large ticket sales have been the best measure of success of offline events, as well as virtual events. But how else can we evaluate the effectiveness of an online event? You need to monitor your social media activity, but also read posted comments to find out what participants are saying. If you want to know what they think about the event, all you need to do is ask them about it. The easiest way to do this is to fill out post-event surveys that help identify weaknesses. It is also a good idea to measure revenue vs. overheads, in that you review projected vs. actual costs, projected revenue and actual revenue, as well as actual cost vs. actual revenue. No less important is the effectiveness of event planning: have we spent much time preparing logistics, updating event websites, sending emails, promoting the event, and more? To save time and money, think about what can be done better next time.
The shift from stationary events deprived organizers of many important aspects, including the opportunity to best represent themselves - which is essential to some industries. In previous years, it was possible to ‘touch & feel’ a given product, otherwise impossible in the online sphere. However, there is a unique way out of every oppressive situation, as exemplified by virtual events. But the point is to organize them well.
To achieve this, take care of your professionals’ involvement. The key is to choose a good studio that has many completed events.
Also, be sure to take care of the platform so that your recipients can comfortably watch the conference, but also actively participate in it – such as through chat and interactive integration sessions.
Lastly, never forget about good leadership. Ideally, this is a person with extensive experience in conducting live TV programs. Such a person will not only dynamically guide viewers through the entire program, but also add true value. I will be very happy to support you in this task. Describe your prospective event now.