The need for virtual events has reached a new high, thanks to the global pandemic changing how people feel about in-person events. It is expected that the industry will exceed $400 billion come 2027, a massive increase from only $78 billion in 2019.
Although things are slowly returning to normal now that vaccines are a reality, virtual events aren’t going anywhere.
Many businesses will still use this form of event in the years to come, but it’s essential to do it right to avoid frustration and disappointment.
Engagement can be challenging with virtual events, and creating memorable moments is as important as it is for face-to-face events. To ensure that your next virtual event is a success, here is some expert advice on how to get the most out of the occasion.
What is a Virtual Event?
Virtual events — also referred to as digital or online events — enable those invited to attend, to do so in the comfort of their home, through the internet. Attendees don’t have to travel to event destinations.
These events can vary in purpose; there are virtual networking events, virtual trade shows, online meetings, webinars, virtual conferences, and more. They can have unique features like live streams and live polls to make them more engaging.
Virtual events like meetings have become the backbone of communication for many companies that have had to shift to remote work.
Types of Virtual Events
The kind of virtual event that you host will depend on what you want to achieve with them. Not all events have the same atmosphere, so how you approach them varies from one to the next.
The costs and planning involved will also be a bit different for each of them. Here’s a look at the most popular virtual events, and what they entail.
One of the most popular virtual events has to be webinars, and they have been around since before digital meetings became essential. A combo of ‘web’ and ‘seminar,’ these virtual seminars are common in many industries.
With that said, software and technology is the industry with the most hosted webinars, followed by financial services and consulting.
You can enhance webinars with professional speakers who can provide the audience with expert opinions and insights or do-it-yourself adventures to inspire them.
There are even webinars specifically tailored to children, and webinars can be great for product demonstrations.
You need the right software, related gear, and a stable internet connection when hosting a webinar. Your audience only needs to have good internet and a device to view the webinar on, such as a computer, tablet, or phone.
Source: Daniel Waas
2. Virtual Conferences
With virtual conferences, participants can be part of discussion forums without meeting up at a conference center. Conferences of this kind can still offer similar networking opportunities to their in-person counterparts.
They are also ideal for remote training of new and current employees who need to learn new skills.
There are conferencing tools made specifically to make it easy to host meetings and generate experiences online.
You can host a video conference or a teleconference, depending on what you and your participants prefer. Video conferences are more personal but require that everyone involved have good cameras and strong internet connections.
Teleconferences are hosted through phone lines, and many people can be part of the event from different locations.
3. Internal Hybrid Events
Internal hybrid events are part virtual and part in-person, and they’re ideal for organizations or companies with employees that are physically dispersed. Department meetings are an example of internal hybrid events.
These events can help the whole company meet up without actually meeting in-person, enabling them to discuss matters that are important to everyone involved.
It’s also a good way for the company employees to ‘hang out’ without any physical contact. Virtual team-building activities can be fun, and allow employees to bond even if they’re miles apart.
Hybrid events can be hosted from the company’s premises or venues that offer good facilities.
4. External Hybrid Events
In contrast to internal hybrid events, external hybrid events involve people from outside of a company or organization. It could be necessary for hosts to have higher video production levels to offer a quality experience.
This kind of virtual event is an option for companies that may have planned to have a public affair, but found that many attendees could not be there in person, maybe for an event such as a product launch.
Hosting an external hybrid event can be challenging because entertainment and engagement won’t feel as personal anymore. However, with some creative thinking, you should be able to wow your virtual guests as much as if they had been there in person.
Reasons to Host a Virtual Event?
Virtual events have the same basic end goal as normal events: for example, building loyalty, connecting with your audience and forming lasting relationships.
There is much to gain from hosting a virtual event, and here are some of the primary motivations for taking this route:
Convenience and Accessibility
Virtual events make it much easier for people to attend, regardless of the weather or how far away they live. You can accommodate attendees who otherwise would not have been able to participate in the event.
Most virtual events cost nowhere near as much as an in-person one can. There will be no expenses like traveling costs, catering, or venue hire. Companies can save a lot of money if they host virtual events rather than in-person affairs.
Sometimes, a company will have no other choice but to host a virtual event. The weather could negatively impact the occasion, or as was the case in recent years, a pandemic can result in travel bans. You don’t have to cancel your planned event entirely, simply turn it into something virtual.
A virtual event is often easier for some people to attend, such as those with disabilities, financial constraints, or busy schedules. When you’re hosting an event that costs much less to participate in and can be attended from wherever the attendees are comfortable, you’ll be able to include more people.
Components of a Virtual Event
As mentioned earlier, there is a lot of planning that goes into hosting successful virtual events. Everything from the platform you use to the kind of entertainment you’re going to offer will have to be planned in detail.
1. The Event Website / Platform
The platform or event website that you’re using will determine the quality of your attendees’ experience.
Different types of platforms have various features, some of which you’ll never even use. Consider what your event is all about, and then find a platform that will meet your needs.
You have to ensure that the platform or website you choose provides the services and resources you’ll need, before you start planning your event. You don’t want to plan your activities only to find that the platform doesn’t allow you to put them into practice.
If you’re hosting a hybrid event, ensure that the venue has the facilities you’ll need to share the affair with those who are not attending in person.
Source: Clarity Experiences
2. Event Registration
You’ll need to have a tool that will make it easy for attendees to register for your event. Typically, they need to provide their details, and you’ll give them the option to buy tickets if you’re charging a fee.
The registration process should also make it easy for them to pay for their tickets and have proof of payment. Confirmation emails (and maybe reminder emails) are also a good feature that will improve the quality of the registration.
Some virtual event platforms will make this whole process effortless and easy, and have integrated software that records all the data you’ll need.
A vital element of any corporate event is the possibility to network with peers and industry leaders. If your event doesn’t have networking as part of its planning, you should definitely add it.
Fortunately, many virtual event tools and platforms can help with networking, with functions such as team-building activities and even AI-powered networking. For example, a tool like Wonder lets hosts create a natural way of networking and offers the option to share content between groups.
4. Live Presentation Content
Live content will likely form a big part of your event, especially if you plan to have keynote speakers or industry experts sharing their knowledge. Even if it’s only an internal business event, the CEO or other leaders may want to speak to everyone attending live.
Live content, such as a Q&A session that remote participants can be part of, can also go a long way towards keeping everyone engaged and entertained.
A big chunk of your budget will likely be dedicated to live presentation content if you’re hoping to offer some form of entertainment like a concert.
5. Pre-Recorded Content
There is a place for pre-recorded content during virtual events as well. You can prepare content well in advance if you’re wary of live-content-related mistakes such as loss of internet signal and other mishaps.
You can consider adding sponsored content to your event to promote your sponsors. You can also add pre-made content by industry leaders or knowledgeable people to the agenda of your event.
Don’t put your attendees through boring content such as advertisements; it will make them want to do something else faster than you can say ‘entertaining virtual event.’
6. Audience Interaction
Audience interaction can come in many forms and mainly depends on who your audience is. You have to understand who your audience is and what they would want to do and hear at the event, or you’ll risk losing their interest. That’s why you need to do ample research and plan your virtual event very well.
If you want to make an event memorable, find ways to encourage interaction, such as live chat and live polls.
Remember to keep in mind what your event is and how appropriate interactions will be, though. Big conferences won’t make polling easy, whilst that would be great for a smaller event.
7. Attendee Feedback
It’s important that you know exactly how successful your virtual event was, after all the planning you’ve put into it.
One of the best ways to know if the approach you took was a good one is by asking for feedback from everyone who attended. Find out what they enjoyed about the event and what they didn’t like. Ask them how you could have improved their experience.
By getting this kind of feedback, you’re showing your attendees that their opinion matters, which will make it more likely that they’ll attend any future events you plan. It’s also an excellent way to measure the success of your strategies.
However, not everyone enjoys filling in those feedback forms, so you may have to offer some incentives to get the response you want. Give people who provide feedback the chance to win something for their trouble — it would be best if the prize is related to the event they just attended.
8. Entertainment and Activities
Virtual event fatigue is just as real as Zoom and Skype fatigue. Since there were so many virtual events in the last year or so, some people have become bored by just the idea of them.
You’ll have to attract people by promising them a good time, and the best way of doing that is by offering them activities and entertainment. For example, you can create an event highlights video to increase the sense of engagement and fun.
For the best results, think outside the box. It’s good to consider the entertainment solutions that virtual event platforms offer but add something special to the event. Something unique like online merchandise such as T-shirts could add a refreshing element to your event.
Also, have regular breaks scheduled if your event is longer than half an hour to forty minutes.
Transforming a Live Event into a Virtual Event
It’s not impossible to take a planned live event and turn it into a virtual event for a broader audience to attend. There are a few basic ‘rules’ you’ll have to follow, though, to ensure that it’s a success.
1. Create a Schedule
Your audience won’t appreciate sitting around and waiting for something to happen. Ensure that everything is planned and scheduled. It’s a good idea to provide your attendees with a copy of the agenda when they register for the event.
2. Send Out a Notice in Advance
You’d hate for people to miss your event because they forgot about the date or planned something else on the same day. Ensure everyone you invited and who agreed to attend is sent a notice about the event so they don’t miss it.
3. Ensure Participants Have the Right Equipment
The right equipment can take a virtual event to the next level, and inadequate equipment can completely ruin the experience. When giving out information about your event, make sure that you list everything participants need for the best results.
If you’re hosting a live concert, your participants need to have good audio equipment for the best experience. If the event has a live Q&A session, proper microphones and a good webcam are essential.
4. Use Attractive Visuals
Visuals will always play a significant role in getting people interested in events, and the same principle is true for virtual events. Make sure that the visuals you’re using are attractive and of the highest possible quality. Don’t neglect anything related to visuals just because it’s not an in-person event.
If possible, find a way to use the visuals you would have used for the live event in your virtual event.
Virtual Event Data Collection
Regular events are monitored and measured to determine if they’re successful, and you should do the same for virtual events. You should collect data that will paint a clear picture of which elements were good and which ideas should be adjusted before hosting your next event.
You can use the information you gather from your virtual event in your lead generation planning as well. The data can be invaluable for learning what gets your audience interested in your industry, products, and services.
Here are a few examples of data you should be collecting:
- Number of registrations
The demographic of your attendees
Social media engagement
Invitation email opens and clicks
Website or platform visits
Doing Virtual Events the Right Way
Virtual events are a necessity in this day and age, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring and predictable. Find ways to make your events unique and exciting, and use what you’ve learned here to achieve your event goals.
Hire a professional and experienced speaker to attend your virtual event — they can bring a lot to the table to entertain and educate everyone attending. SpeakerHub is an agency with a community of independent expert public speakers and trainers who might be just what your event needs.
Although there’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction and connection, virtual events can still feel personal and help build relationships. Plan your virtual event well, follow the basic rules for doing it right, and remember to entertain your attendees.