Sometimes the unthinkable happens — a disaster, a cancellation, an instance out of our control. As we’re seeing now, that can have a big impact on what we do as event professionals and how we gather as people to learn, network, and engage.
But with a switch in strategic thinking and the right partners for content and technology, you can pull off a virtual event that is every bit as exciting as your in-person plan.
As you jump into virtual events, know that your virtual event strategy is not going to be 100% the same as your live event strategy. Adjusting your plan for virtual events opens up new possibilities that you must consider before moving forward.
First and foremost, revisit your goals and priorities. How do they need to change with a virtual event? Can they be expanded? Does anything need to switch out? Capture all of this information so that it’s handy to reference as you revisit decisions.
Another thing to consider — going digital can mean getting even more data from your event. More insights means more ways you can show value, so it’s important to align ahead of time on the right metrics for your team to track.
Once your goals are firmly in place, think about your audience — that target is highly likely to change when you’re putting on a virtual event, simply because you have the ability to expand your reach beyond the confines of geography. And that expanded audience isn’t just about reach — it also allows for more targeted, personalized messaging.
Consider adding other personas, industries, or more to your marketing list to expand that net even further. Community is more important than ever before, and yours may be wider than you once thought.
First and foremost, having a great moderator or emcee is critical for translating live events to the virtual space. It can be too easy for things to go off the rails, especially in a new format — let alone having to work around potential connectivity issues, technology glitches, or any other surprises. That’s why having someone calm, engaging, and knowledgeable steering the conversations and providing transitions between elements is so important.
They can be the central guiding voice throughout the event that gives out important information, introduces new speakers, makes announcements, and more. Having the perfect personality in charge helps bring life to your event, helping attendees get more engaged and moving away from a scripted look and feel.
You might think that having a captive virtual audience is the perfect opportunity to dive into a topic for a few hours at a time — but think again. It’s even more vital to break up virtual event content into manageable chunks so that you don’t lose attendee attention and participation.
Ten to 15 minute sections are suggested for ideal content consumption. Between those sections, the content can be broken up by interactive moments, like taking some questions, leveraging a poll, or drawing for a prize. This helps attendees fully digest the content without feeling overwhelmed from a distance. Opportunities for networking can also be added between sessions to keep people engaged with one another as well as the content.
We highly recommend using a mix of pre-recorded videos along with live streaming for all virtual events. This gives you more control over your content before the event, allowing for editing, reshooting, or redesigning. This is a similar approach to successful television broadcasting. Then, you can take advantage of the live platform to generate great conversations and interaction with attendees.
Virtual events can be just as rich with inspiration and education as a face-to-face experience, but when people are working from their own spaces, it can be harder than ever to keep distractions to a minimum.
That’s why adding interactivity to virtual events is an absolute must to foster engagement and keep attention. There are lots of options that you can deploy in a way that makes the most sense for your audience, format, and content:
When events are virtual, it’s that much harder for attendees to network among the group and meet with like-minded individuals. That’s part of what makes live events so special — and something we don’t want to lose.
Personalization and personal connection, wherever we can create it, is a crucial way to keep people engaged and help a virtual event feel as genuine as a live experience.
Some solutions have features that allow you to split a virtual meeting into smaller groups, like breakout sessions. This can be utilized to create focused discussions around different questions, areas of expertise, interests, and more.
Having not just speakers, but attendees share short bios and connect via channels like LinkedIn helps people get a sense of who’s on the other side of the screen. And creating groups on Facebook or Slack channels focused on the event and specific topics is a great way to keep people in touch for post-event communications, discussions, and more.
By keeping these tips in mind, as well as working with a great partner that can help you with technology infrastructure, strategy, marketing, and more, you can successfully transition your live event to a virtual one without missing a beat.