a guide to mastering virtual events
2020 has certainly presented us with a wave of challenges. When it comes to events, it has forced us to become more competent at creating immersive experiences. As an Events Executive for several years, I have witnessed how emotionally provoking in person events can be, but as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink and reframe our engagements, the events industry simply must transition to survive. And change, isn’t always a bad thing.
Virtual events are more affordable and cost effective than physical events – there’s no paying for a venue, food and beverage, or accommodation for guest speakers – and you can reach out and invite as many people to attend as you wish without geographical restrictions or venue size constraints. A virtual event is also more accessible. Attendees can save time as they log in from the comfort of their living room or home office, and given that virtual events are recorded, audiences can go back and listen to key points of interest in their own time. There is, however, a major downfall – audiences can walk away from their screen any time they please. There are no chance meetings to keep them entertained, there’s no networking and it is a challenge to create memorable experiences and maintain high engagement levels.
Below are some ways, we at Action Cyprus have been ensuring we continue to excite and engage our client’s target audience in creative ways virtually.
reinvent, do not replicate
If you had planned for an in-person event this year, whether it be for a new product launch or a corporate milestone, don’t look at just how to copy and paste the agenda in to a virtual setting, but rather, seek out ways to rethink the event virtually so it resonates with the audience and has an impact. Before the online conference/meeting kicks off, set up a virtual welcome reception where people get a chance to introduce themselves and connect first on a personal level. Make sure the content you create for the sessions does not come across as robotic, even if some of it is pre-recorded.
In a recent series of webinars conduction by Action Cyprus, we gave the audience the opportunity to interact throughout the event by running polls, asking questions and leaving time at the end for the speakers to address all participant queries. If you’re planning a virtual product launch, think about fun competitions, giveaways and games or even interviews with the product creators. Remember that virtual doesn’t just mean video – it can include pictures, text and live chat.
send something tangible
By sending your attendees something tangible to unbox before your event, it helps you merge the physical and virtual. It also helps set the scene that your brand does not do average. Put some strategic thought into exactly what you will send your giftee. How will it be connected to the content and messaging shared at your virtual event? How will it differ from the average gift of chocolate or wine? How will it be packaged? Is there a way to also somehow encourage them to share their gift experience on social media? You can even send a branded thank you gift post event, showing gratitude to those who attended.
embrace digital tools
If your event is centred on a product launch, consider investing in creating a few realistic simulations on how your product works to really bring your product to life and give attendees that ‘WHOW’ factor. Or experiment with green screen technology, which in simple terms allows you to drop in whatever background images you want behind the presenter(s). Think about how you can differentiate from a ‘wall of same’? Be creatively brave in your approach.
timing is everything
It is difficult to replicate the flow of a physical event as things just don’t happen as naturally in an online setting. To help keep the flow to a high standard, be sure to brief speakers correctly. Host a few rehearsals. Do not assume that people who are great presenters in person are also great presenters virtually. Also make sure things start on time, speakers are prompt, and have perfected their content delivery. Every speaker should be fluent with the tech platform you have decided to use; the first five minutes of an event should not be based on sound checks.
merge the physical with the virtual (if possible)
If smaller scale events are allowed in your country, then you can always take advantage of the virtual world and stream the event online. Live streaming means that individuals who can’t physically attend or those who are hesitant to come or self-isolating, can still participate. You’ll generate a bigger ‘crowd’ and whip up audience interaction. Keep them entertained with a live chat room or giveaways. And don’t forget about analytics tracking – analytic dashboards provided by live streaming services provide insight into viewer numbers, engagement and more. And this means you can assess which parts of your event were successful, and what you may need to change in the future!
If you are thinking about running an upcoming virtual event and need some guidance or creative input, feel free to reach out to Stephanie Theodotou at +357 22 81 87 26 or email [email protected].