How do you host a memorable event when your audience, speakers, and staff, are all at home, watching, presenting, and organising in front of their computers? It seems like a tall order, but keep in mind that attendees want the same things from virtual and hybrid events as in-person ones. They want informative content, a chance to connect with others, and to feel like they’re part of a broader community. The team at Purple Patch Group, a London-based event management company, have eight ways you can deliver on these counts, to produce better virtual events.
1) Define Your Strategy
Virtual and hybrid events (hybrid incorporates both in-person and remote elements) need meticulous planning just like traditional events. You can’t expect to plan a traditional event and set up a camera or two and make it virtual. You need a good understanding of your audience and what kind of structure they’d be looking for. Consider if you’ll stream it live or pre-record, if it’s free or paid, if you’ll need sponsors, and how you’ll measure performance success. Remote events come in several formats – webinars, workshops, webchats, and conferences are just a few you can choose from.
2) Film for an At-Home Audience
If you opt for a live virtual event, you’ll have some staging considerations to take. When setting up for filming your presenters, remember that your audience isn’t in the room, but at home, watching on a computer screen. So don’t film it like it’s a conference, film it like it’s a television broadcast. Do fewer views of the stage or the venue and film your presenters news-anchor style instead. When people aren’t at the event in person, they care less about the ambiance and more about the content of the event.
3) Reimagine Your Format
With a virtual event, you need to hit just the right pitch to entice your audience. It’s harder for people to stay engaged during an hour-long panel when they’re watching at home, where there are countless distractions. As the event planner, your job is to keep your audience tuned in. Include less of what you want to say and add more of what your audience wants to hear. People will be more willing to tune into compressed time slots, which you can space out over several days if you have a lot of content to deliver.
4) Bring People Backstage
Nothing helps your event attendees feel more connected than an “inside look.” Give them sneak peeks or recruit special guests to feature in your event sessions. People love learning the secrets of their favourite products, so a behind-the-scenes look at companies or individuals in the industry will delight them.
5) Have Tech Support Ready
If you don’t have a strong technical background, you have some further considerations to deliver a successful event. First, do your homework when it comes to picking a video conferencing platform, as they’re all not made equally. Identify which features will be most useful to you – live chat, polling, etc. – and look for platforms that meet those needs. Next, make sure your audience understands how to use the technology. Walk them through it before the event starts and explain how you’ll handle audience questions or feedback. Finally, keep a tech support person or team on standby to resolve any glitches that come up. The last thing you want is people tuning out because of technical problems.
6) Foster Social Connectivity
Events are about networking, and people are still looking for those connections with virtual events. Create opportunities for engagement by asking your audience to submit questions, by posing questions to them through polls and quizzes, or encouraging them to live Tweet the event.
7) Be Creative
Adapting to virtual events requires some innovation. With remote events and conferences becoming the norm now, more online events are popping up. What makes yours stand out? A popular guest speaker like an industry expert, celebrity, or influencer is a simple way to make your event unique. You can also add quirks like storytelling, challenges, or games.
8) Add Value
At the end of your virtual event, viewers need to feel like they’ve taken something away. Delivering great content is one way to bring value, another is providing incentives. Have a pre-event contest, asking people to post on social media promoting the event for a chance to win free merchandise. Or you could keep it completely virtual and offer coupons or discounts at online stores. Incentives like these will draw attendees in and make them more likely to return to future events.
Virtual events are becoming a permanent fixture of the industry. With Covid-19 and social distancing not going away any time soon, event managers will have to learn how to deliver top-notch virtual and hybrid events. Experiment a little with remote events and find what works best for you.