What a year! We’ve all become very proficient in using Webex and Teams (other platforms are available) to keep engaged with our teams as we’ve adapted to remote working. But what about engaging with a larger audience, in a more engaging way? Have you thought about planning virtual events?
At the moment, we’re unable to run events larger than 30 delegates. But that doesn’t mean your events programme has to come to a halt. Have you considered what’s involved in running a successful virtual or hybrid event that ensures your business message doesn’t get lost in translation?
Will Dalzell, Head of Events Proposition and Innovation, shares top tips for planning virtual events to ensure you don’t miss a trick when it comes to delivering your events programme.
Despite being a virtual event, it still needs the same level of planning as a live event. More than ever you need to understand your objectives and what you want to achieve from the event?
We are currently allowed to organise meetings for up to 30 delegates in COVID safe venues. You could consider running a hybrid event to incorporate some live elements of an event with a physical audience.
Do you intend to have the same audience as you normally would? Or will you be increasing delegate numbers? You will already have costed for the technology to deliver the event, why not take advantage of not having to pay travel and/or accommodation expenses and increase your delegate numbers.
The nature of your event will determine your location. If it’s hybrid, you’ll be looking for a COVID safe venue to host the live element of the event. Alternatively, if it’s purely virtual, you may want to consider hiring a studio for a more professional look and feel of the delivery of your event.
Get your audiences buy-in from the get-go and send out the agenda in advance. Encourage them to download any event materials or apps beforehand – this all helps build anticipation. Post-event ensure you send out a survey to your attendees as feedback is crucial to understand what they have taken from the event and key learnings to help you plan future events.
A virtual/hybrid event has a very different flow to a live event as you don’t have the networking opportunities where you’d normally grab a coffee to break the agenda up. With that in mind, consider the length of your presentations and the scheduling of the agenda. If you’ve got a full conference agenda to go through, consider splitting it into bitesize chunks with plenty of breaks, break-out sessions and different formats.
Just because the event is virtual, doesn’t mean your delegates can’t still network with one another. You can build in the networking opportunities by creating a virtual networking space for discussions, chats and engagement.
Holding people’s attention virtually can be a challenging task. Take them on a journey as you would a live event. Think about the pre-event and how you can engage delegates from the outset. Gamification also adds a fun element to the event and increases your audiences’ attention.
Depending on the messaging of the event, you may want to send supporting materials/gifts ahead of the event to build the excitement and anticipation. You’d do this for a live event, so why not a virtual – it adds that real element back in that you’re missing.
Your objectives will determine how interactive you want your virtual audience to be with the event. Adding live video Q&A, breakout spaces or other complex audience interactions are possible, but adds significant complexity and cost. Could the questions be gathered before and during the event? Do all the presentations need to be live? Do award winners have to be live on screen? These different elements will require extra time for planning, testing and rehearsals. Take this into consideration when planning your budgets.
You’d rehearse for a live event, so ensure you rehearse for a virtual event. Your presenters need to ensure they feel comfortable with the environment and the technology to deliver a seamless event.
Without the ability to display event branding around a venue, you need to ensure the virtual event still reflects your brand in some way. Whether this is built into the studio or your technicians display it through the streaming service – ensure it does your company justification.
If you’re ready to plan a virtual event, but not sure where to start, get in touch with our event ninjas for some of their innovative ideas.