Our worlds have been turned upside down: how to turn virtual events the right way round

Events and Exhibitions

November 6, 2020

The health and safety of our families, friends, and communities is top of mind, but most of us are also wondering, “Where do we go from here?” For marketers, that’s a multifaceted question. As ambassadors to the public, we must ask ourselves how to best reposition our brands. As partners to the business, we must ask ourselves how to best collaborate with our colleagues in sales, customer service, and beyond as we seek a return to growth.

Virtual events are ‘the new normal’…
for now

The use of virtual events has risen dramatically in recent months, and we are seeing various modern ways to make successful, inspiring, and audience-centred events. The challenges of this global pandemic have made virtual events an essential part of business, enabling the industry to continue operating at this uncertain time.  Recently, we have seen several interesting articles across industry sites on what events may look in the “new normal” and some of the things we need to think about for their future planning.

How do you plan an entirely virtual event with relevant content? How do you plan a virtual event looking professional and on brand? How do you make a virtual event easier to navigate? How do you make sure a virtual event is engaging and interesting? What makes a virtual event successful?

1. Understand your audience

We all know how important is to know your audience but now more than ever it is essential to have a strong awareness of your audience’s needs and expectations. There needs to be a human connection for the audience who may be isolated in their homes, tired of joining Zoom and MS Teams calls.

It is critical to remember that the biggest difference between a live event and a virtual event is that the audience can simply log out of the event at any time, so you need to provide reasons for the attendees to stay engaged and participate.

2. Understand your event goals

Taking into consideration who your attendees are, what they are having problems with, and what they want to achieve from the virtual event will ensure a successful session. You know what you want to achieve by hosting this virtual event and you are using those goals to convey this message to your audience.  Visualising what an event will look like is a skill that event planners already have. And it’s this skill which then needs to be used for your virtual production. If you do this, you will be a long way ahead of your competition.

3. TV production mindset

The planner has become a producer, making a programme – not running an event.  This approach highlights some key differences that need to be addressed. For example, at a live event, delegates may not worry too much if the schedule slips and runs late. After all, there are other delegates they can talk to. However, that is not the case with virtual productions. When things don’t run on time, you risk the chance of delegates leaving.

4. Choose your platform and format

This is probably one of the most important decisions you will make when planning your virtual event. The format and platform you choose will be dependent on your content and target audience.

While we all may be much more familiar with platforms such as Zoom, Teams, or Webex since these have become the new boardroom meeting or coffee catch-up, these aren’t fit-for-purpose if you’re planning your virtual event.  These tools are designed to be collaborative discussions, lacking on key capabilities for your virtual event such as registration page, agenda, speakers’ profiles, branding, and analytics. At the end of the day, you want to put your brand out there at the fore, while showcasing insights and thought leadership, and collecting data.

Once you have decided on your platform, you need to drill into content and define each specific session and design appropriately. For example, you have a 30-minute slot for a session. The session needs to include: an introduction from your host, time for the speaker(s) to deliver their presentation(s), time for questions and polling, and time for the host to close. Suddenly that 30-minute slot looks quite tight. This is when you need to decide whether to expand the time or re-design the session.

5. Market your event

Effective and efficient marketing is crucial for any event, especially for virtual ones. It is important to make sure that your virtual event has been marketed successfully to ensure optimal audience participation and enjoyment.

One of the big challenges on virtual events is to encourage people to register and, for this reason, social media platforms are vital for event marketing to make sure you drive traffic to your event. A couple of posts on LinkedIn won’t make it. Think about how you can target your audience and give them a reason to attend your event.

Planning your own virtual event and looking for more support? I’d be more than happy to see how we can help – get in touch via [email protected].