What is a virtual event?
Admittedly, the days of expensive hotel bookings and carbon-heavy travel have been numbered for a while. Now with the arrival of COVID-19, conventional face-to-face events are fast becoming a thing of the past. Virtual events are the natural alternative, but if you're new to the virtual world, the thought of providing a seamless experience for your guests can be intimidating.
It will likely come as no surprise that hosting a virtual event requires the same levels of planning and delivery as a physical in-person one.
Among other things, promotion, engagement and networking are all key to achieving success for your event.
There is a strong chance that by now, you will have attended a virtual event, in some capacity or another, whether it was a webinar, an on-demand class or you have joined a video conferencing meeting (who hasn’t by this point?).
You may have even attended a virtual conference from the comfort of your own home!
These are all virtual events.
Wish to make your virtual event a roaring success? Take a look at the Virtual Events services that we have for you!
Why Host a Virtual Event?
At the moment, we suppose the argument is less why would you host a virtual event and more why wouldn’t you?
Virtual events are held for the same reasons as physical, in-person events; to drive leads, build brand awareness, further business value and foster loyalty with clients. All of this can still happen, simply in a virtual setting.
There are a few key benefits from hosting a virtual event.
Want to know more?
Essentia, a global producer of animal protein solutions for the food and beverage industry planned to hold a 3-day face-to-face event. Until the pandemic hit and face-to-face was no longer an option…
A virtual event allows you to accommodate participants who would be unable to attend the conference physically, due to time, travel or personal constraints.
No matter how you look at it, running a virtual event can be much more cost effective than a physical, in-person event.
There’s no venue to book, no transport or accommodation to schedule and no catering needs to be met.
Not quite bullet-proof, but close!
No dangers of travel bans, extreme weathers, even, for example, a global pandemic interrupting your virtual event from going ahead.
Want to know more? Here are our 5 learnings from running our own virtual conference.
What does a Virtual Event include?
Typically a virtual event is constructed around the content that you wish to convey, including attendee engagement and the collecting of data, such as email addresses and business information for potential clientele.
Video quality, audio connectivity and broadband capability carry increased importance, as well as the platform that is chosen to host the event. There are a number of platforms that could effectively host a virtual event, taking into consideration the size of the audience, the subject matter at hand, the content you want to convey and the ultimate goal that you are trying to achieve with the virtual event in the first place.
Here are some of the main elements a virtual event could feature:
- Dedicated event registration
- Dedicated event website page
- Live presentations
- Live one-way audio or video
- Question and answer sessions
- Networking opportunities
- External sponsor availability
- Live polls or voting
- Pre-recorded content
- Feedback surveys
All of these elements are key in running a successful virtual event and should be considered carefully when planning how the event will come together. Much like planning a virtual workshop, starting with the end in mind is crucial, so that the desired outcome of the virtual event is at the forefront of your mind.
Which of these elements do you want to take priority? Which is the most important in conjunction with the ultimate goal of your event?
Working backwards from this, while considering the needs and desire of your attendees will help you to create a successful and engaging virtual event.
Don’t take our word for it. In this testimonial, Richard Parnell, Vice President for Business Innovation and New Business Development at Essentia Proteins International, shares his experience of a virtual innovation event. This virtual innovation collaboration that the Virtual Training Team ran for his company was 100% virtual instead of physically co-located as it was previously scheduled to take place this summer.
Turning a Live Event into a Virtual Event
Though the above scenario was a more likely occurrence when COVID-19 first made its appearance in early 2020, there still may be times when a quick shift is required of a live, physical event. The options are usually simple; cancel it or shift it into a virtual space. Here’re 4 virtual alternatives.
In reality, making this shift into virtual isn’t as difficult as some may imagine, provided the right approach and infrastructure is in place.
That being said, it is important to get your content right for the virtual environment. As we say so often, it is never as simple as taking your physical event slides and simply uploading them to a virtual platform.
If you need help converting your physical event content into that suitable for a virtual event, contact us.
Questions to ask before converting to a virtual event
Here are some important points to consider before planning your in-person event conversion:
- Could your agenda work in a virtual setting, or does the event need to be physically attended?
- Does your organization have a virtual meeting platform preference?
- How will you track attendance?
- Do you have the staff capacity to support and manage the tech around the event?
- Can your organization handle the bandwidth requirements?
- Is there any additional material that your attendees require? How will you get it to them?
How to Host a Virtual Event
Alright, so you’ve decided that you want or need to plan a virtual event. So what’s next?
In truth, the planning process is very similar to that of any event; you put yourself in your attendees’ shoes, facilitate their need to ‘walk around’ and network, and use a variety of other tricks to create and execute a successful event.
How do I prepare my attendees for the virtual event?
So, by now, we know that where technology is involved, there is bound to be some user error. And despite their many similarities, virtual event platforms are not all the same.
Don’t assume that your attendees have had experience of your chosen virtual meeting platforms. Before the event, it can be useful to create a walkthrough guide for attendees, explaining how to access the event, how to move around the virtual space, instigate conversations etc.
Giving them the tools and the ability to ask questions will help to decrease attendee stress and hopefully, limit the number of questions to staff upon launch.
The guide doesn’t have to be a Word document or PowerPoint either. Record a welcome video that shows the tone of your event, as well as helping attendees to understand the platform they will be navigating.
What about attendee engagement at virtual events?
One of the greatest barriers when it comes to virtual event planning is participant engagement. The key to getting this right, is keeping your attendees involved rather than having them sit for hours listening to content, as if in a lecture.
This isn’t to say that you can’t have a keynote speaker, but making full use of live polling, chat boxes, live Q&A sessions; the engagement tools available across most virtual event
What about networking at virtual events?
It is a common misconception that just because people are not physically in the same room as one another that they can’t network. A virtual event can connect attendees and give them the platform to forge new relationships and conversations.
Even as a starting point, once attendees have initially connected in this way, they can go on to make further appointments with one another, or sponsors and exhibitors.
So, it can be key to consider putting in some dedicated virtual networking time into your virtual event, to encourage attendees to meet and communicate with one another.
Life Science Associates had been running an annual conference for years, but when COVID-19 hit, suddenly it was impossible to hold this conference face-to-face. They needed to deliver the conference virtually, but their skill set for online conference hosting wasn’t fully developed…
How do I prove the virtual event was a success?
Defining if the virtual event was a success depends on identifying what your key performance indicators are, before the event. This can help you to analyze the data and determine whether the costs and benefits paint a picture of success.
By gathering the data required to answer these questions, you will be able to weigh up the costs of the event, financial and time, versus the benefits to your business.
It is important to take the time to understand if the event was successful against these metrics and how the virtual event could be improved in the future.
How can The Virtual Training Team help you?
By now, we think that the benefits of a Virtual Event has been clearly outlined. We know the why and the benefits, but now we look at the how.
We are here to help you plan and delivery a magnificent virtual event. Whether you need help with the planning, the technical support or the delivery itself, we are here for you.
Virtual events shouldn't be stale affairs. We've got powerful technologies at our disposal. In the right hands, you can experience all of the energy of a face-to-face event from the comfort of your living room.
So, additionally to our bespoke support, we also offer five one-hour, high-energy mini events that will fit perfectly into your virtual gatherings. Use these to liven up your event and create powerful knowledge sharing and networking moments.
- Wellbeing in the virtual world - Team wellbeing
- Assertiveness for everyone - Assertiveness
- Bullet-proof resilience - Resilience
- Change happens, let's deal with it – Managing Change
- Time management for when you're time poor – Time management for remote workers
If you would like to know more about any of the above events, please get in touch with us by heading to our website and contacting us.