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Virtual Events – Top Ten Tips & Trends

 

For months now the events and communications industry has been pivoting to the virtual world. Some of us are just getting our feet wet while others have become pros.  It’s new territory and the learning curve has been steep but for many organizations it is also an exciting new opportunity with some unexpected business advantages. Like anything, the more we do and see, the better (and more comfortable) we’re becoming in this new space.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting a popular virtual event with my colleague, Jennifer Glickman of Proof Strategies. We specifically looked at where virtual events and communications are today and we shared what we’ve learned, best practices and some leading examples from our own experiences and others in the industry. Watch the full recording below!

Here’s a recap of our Top 10 Virtual Event Tips & Trends:

1. Put forward your best virtual presence. We started with the basics…from positioning your computer at eye level to selecting a professional background!

2. Technology is not the starting point. Clarify your event objectives before choosing from the myriad of technology platforms. Consult an event expert to help you understand and strategize which one is best for your business needs.

3. Create shared experiences. Virtual events need to work harder to create a sense of “togetherness”.

4. Provide access to experiences otherwise out of reach. Virtual offers the opportunity for wildly creative new event elements and surprises…like Matthew McConaughey calling bingo at a senior’s centre!

5. Interactivity is key. From polls to Q&A to chat, it is a must.

6. Breakthrough technology. Explore the new tech options – but know your audience, budget and timing limitations.

7. Unique health care considerations – from knowing your “pitch” to virtual visits with health care providers.

8. Get creative: Sponsor integration. Work with your sponsors to co-create win-win online opportunities. Embrace the new lead generation tools and measure both engagement and results.

9. Networking is NOW. Online is not a one-way conversation – leverage the medium to create conversation and connections.

10. Be entertaining! Great content is a given. Incorporate good virtual event elements to engage, interact and entertain your audiences.

 

Thank you to all who joined us, but we know some of you may have missed the event. You can access the recording of the session below as well as answers to questions we could not get to during the live event.

 

 

Your Questions Answered!

We had almost 300 people tune in for the live event. With so much interest in this hot topic, there were more questions than we could answer in the time allotted. Below are answers to the five most requested questions through our Q&A feature:

 

Q: How do you engage or plan for a North American-based virtual event that is global in nature?

A: We have all had to get good at time zones! Start by booking your event at a time that is convenient for all participants – maybe a morning event for some attendees, an evening event for others? Consider time zones for your suppliers too, as many of the event platforms are based outside Canada and you will need to meet regularly. Lastly, consider reallocating the money you saved on travel costs into booking higher quality speakers and entertainers from around the world, options that might not otherwise have been available to you. The more appealing your event, the more global interest you will generate!

 

Q: Do you think virtual conferences and/or events will be the new normal moving forward?

A: Yes. In the short term, virtual is pretty much the only option. Those that are cancelling events and waiting for the world to go “back to normal” will have a lot of catch-up to do later this year. If you have not done so already, start to explore the opportunities in the virtual space – help your leadership get comfortable with virtual.

And, while COVID-19 does not appear to be going away anytime soon, on the plus side, virtual events have opened the door to inviting attendees from around the world. So, next year, assuming COVID is not an issue, will you no longer be inviting these global guests to your annual event? Of course, you will. We expect people’s expectations will change and there will be a blend of the physical and virtual audience experiences in the years to come.

 

Q: How can we ensure high level engagement remotely through digital events and experiences?

A: This was the most asked question. It is not enough to simply transfer your former live content onto a virtual platform. The challenge today is to reimagine your event: mix up the content and the speakers; create shorter segments; invite people to participate with questions and polls; break up larger groups into smaller networking rooms; create interesting places for people to visit like booths where you can interact one-on-one via chat or video; add gamification tools to incentivize people to move around; no shortage of options when designing a memorable and highly engaging virtual event!

 

Q: How do you get senior leadership on board with a virtual event if they want to cancel the traditional live event?

A: Good question. We see a range of enthusiasm for virtual. Some clients were already doing hybrid events pre-COVID-19 so their transition was almost seamless. Some clients are not doing anything virtual and hoping “normal” will be back soon. And, while they sit on the sidelines, the bar goes up and up in terms of what people expect from virtual events as attendees get more savvy and Zoom-weary.

If the virtual space is still very new, we recommend you start small. Host an informal employee town hall or celebration to get senior leadership incrementally comfortable with the on-screen medium. Gradually increase your exposure – help your organization get comfortable in the virtual world.

 

Q: What are the cost savings you are seeing from other clients?

A: Sorry to tell you this, but virtual events do not cost less than live events. What you would pay for a venue, is usually required to cover the event platform (and then some!). We are not seeing any reduction in speaker fees or musical guests. And, you will need to spend more up-front time “re-imagining” your live event for the virtual space – figuring out “what” the new event looks like and how you will engage your virtual audience.

 

 

Vice President, Client Service|July 22, 2020

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