Top 6 Tips for Adding Value

Call it a blessing in disguise but, meeting and event planners have gotten to use their creative side when hosting virtual programs. This has mainly come in the form of video conference systems like Zoom, Microsoft Meetings, Skype, and more. While a virtual event seems pretty straight forward, transferring a sponsor’s or attendee’s benefits to a virtual platform is maybe not-so-straight forward. In this article, we are going to give you our best tips for adding value to your stakeholders, a lot of which are from our very own Virtual Planner Master Class. This Master Class brought together some of the brightest minds in meeting and event planning to help discuss these issues and come up with some amazing solutions. 

  1. Classes and tutorials: Online classes and tutorials offer great sponsorship opportunities and real value to event attendees. Things like cocktail mixing classes, cooking classes, or craft classes will allow your event to be more relaxed and provide real benefits to participants. 
  2. Digital sponsor ad placement: While banners and physical sponsorship apparel may seem longer lasting attendees’ minds, online banners can still make a huge impression during webinars and virtual events. Staying as a static or changing montage of banners, these can bring in more value to sponsors and your event. 
  3. Sponsor entertainment breaks: Many more online meetings and events have begun to utilize breaks in order to give attendees a chance to stretch their legs and grab another cup of coffee. During the break, you could host a small concert or another unique form of entertainment that could feature sponsors’ products and services. Or, simply have a screen with sponsor logo exposure that is displayed during the break with background music. This is an easy and fun way to build value around virtual events. 
  4. Educational opportunities: A great way to retain sponsorship value in an event is simply by educating attendees through quick company overviews and how they relate to the topic at hand. Tying in a sponsor to your event’s overall theme or mission would allow them to stay even more relevant in the minds of your audience.
  5. Integrated chat features: Specialized chat room features during, in between, or after presentations can allow your event attendees to get more involved and actively participate with other members. This doesn’t only make meetings more fun, but it also builds a level of trust and participation among people who may be more apprehensive to network from behind a computer screen. Sponsors could also be added to this feature to bring in more value. 
  6. Online games centered around rewards : Another great way to spend an online break or happy hour is to host games like trivia or team-building exercises. These will be sure to get everyone to relax more and increase participation among attendees. Sponsors could send out prizes to winners or create questions that are centered around their brands. 

Written By: Colin Jay

Make Your Virtual Meeting or Event More Desirable

By now, anyone would be shocked to hear that someone has never attended a virtual meeting or event. But, we might not be so shocked to hear that “it was just ok” or “that could’ve been said in an email”. We are finding that after months of moving events online, some are struggling to find ways to keep their content fresh and provide decent value to the attendees. It may require some out-of-the-norm thinking, but with proper use of technology and incorporation of quality education, a desirable and successful outcome is possible. 

Technology is more important now than ever for hosting engaging meetings and events. However, we are finding that even the best of the best blue light blocking glasses can’t prevent “screen exhaustion” and “zoom fatigue”. It can be challenging to even know where to start when beginning to plan, so start with an informative and user-friendly event website. The event website should be a resource for potential attendees to learn about the event and register. The website can include the event itinerary and communicate to potential participants the value in attending the virtual event. 

Pro tip for standing out: Be concise with the information on your website registration page. Someone should be able to figure out if this is a virtual meeting or event they want to attend within the first 60 seconds on your page. If your website is top notch, people will associate that with how your event will go.

Gaining participant interest and registration is an important first step, but keeping participants engaged with the use of technology once the event starts is even more important. So, sure the event team knows how to effectively use the technology. And if they don’t, hire someone! Nobody wants to join a virtual event and have to deal with the infamous “technical difficulties”. 

Pro tip for standing out: Make sure that there is powerful WiFi wherever the meeting, event, or presenter is streaming from. Although it would be nice in our personal lives to have a mute button, you don’t want a presenter’s mouth moving with the words lagging 2 seconds behind.

There are many new tools to provide a more “real” virtual experience. One of these being virtual reality. While this concept seems new to many of us, taking advantage of VR is not as difficult as it may seem. Give your attendees a tour of a museum or gamify a trade show floor using software. Take VR to another level by having event attendees create an avatar for themself that can walk around an event venue virtually to network or choose different breakout sessions they may be interested in.

Pro tip for standing out: Research new softwares or ways of live streaming. A screen share, although effective, is not always exciting anymore.

Since moving meetings and events online, it is a lot easier for an attendee to get up and walk away, or start working on something else. The point of your virtual meeting or event should not be to provide background noise to someone’s lunch hour. If that was true, our industry would be trending on Spotify Podcasts. Ultimately, you want engaged attendees that are learning something. If they feel as if they didn’t gain valuable knowledge, they will likely not be interested in attending future events with you. Try partnering with an educational institution or a highly valuable principal in the industry to add credibility to the event. 

Pro tip for standing out: Not only does your educational speaker affect the quality of the event, but also the uniqueness of the content they share. People want solutions without having to read between the lines. Find someone who is able to speak on a different angle than attendees have maybe heard before.

Written By: Kelly Pawlak

Three Ways to Host Safe Events Now

The events world has been shaken up for quite a bit now. As the industry progresses through the phases of reopening, there has been one common denominator: safety first...and that will likely be the new standard. Through remaining connected with our industry peers, we found that what almost everyone wants to know is “Of all the work-arounds due to COVID-19, which ones are here to stay forever?”. Until the future of events unravels, here are three ways you can host an event now without compromising the safety of your stakeholders.

1. Try out a hybrid event

While virtual events aren’t going away anytime soon, a hybrid event might be the next stepping stone to ease people back into in-person events. Cannonballing into the pool of pre-COVID events might not set you up for success. Instead, you may find that doing a hybrid event, partially live and partially virtual, is a great way to dip your toes in. For instance, try having your presenter(s) broadcast live at a venue, yet keep attendee participation virtual.

At Virtual Planner Master Class, broadcasted live from The Old Post Office, the Ateema team hosted their event at a venue, just as one would for an in-person event. The main difference was that the presenters were speaking to the attendees through a room equipped with A/V broadcasting capabilities and their outfits included a mask as the finishing touch instead of a name badge. What didn’t change was the wow factor. Jamie Sowski, Marketing & Events Manager for The Old Post Office, was able to have a video production team pre-record their gorgeous and historic event space, play that video during the broadcast, and do a live voice-over just as if she was actually walking potential clients through the venue. 

2. Think unconventionally when working with vendors

Okay, so you may not want to have a medieval-times-feast-style meal for safety reasons. However, that doesn’t mean you have to rule out catering. Whether your event is hybrid or strictly online, catering companies have plenty of creative ways for your attendees to indulge while also keeping them safe.

For virtual events, consider having boxed meals or DIY cooking kits delivered to attendees’ homes. This way, you are bringing the “IRL” factor while eliminating the potential for others (not equipped with PPE and lawfully required to meet sanitization standards) to come in contact with the food. To turn it into a hybrid event, consider broadcasting from a kitchen or bar with a live demo for the attendees to follow along with their goodie boxes delivered prior to the event.

Blue Plate Catering hosted a happy hour after Virtual Planner Master Class where they showcased their deliverable, seasonal offerings, and encouraged attendees to GYOB (grab your own beverage) while watching a mixologist demo their “sealed-with-safety” margaritas.

3. Design strategically for maximum comfort

In addition to the type of hybrid event we mentioned earlier, there are other ways to host a hybrid event. One of those ways is to allow a limited number of attendees to experience the event live with the event host and presenter(s). But before you go crazy with sending out these VIP invites, you need to envision the event design and event flow for maximum safety and respectively, maximum comfort. 

So, how can you grab a venue that permits the ability to socially distance with ease? An answer to this question is outdoor events...bring your guests outside to the openness and fresh air. Or, opt for a large venue. Long gone are the days when a venue says “we've squeezed 100 people in a 500-square-foot room before”. Rooms with spacious floor plans are going to be better received by skeptical guests. It creates a feeling that their personal space is not threatened.

Also, give every guest a way to display their level of comfortability without the awkward do-we-hug-or-do-I-just-wave-hello moment. Support a local printer and create stickers with comical sayings like “Can’t Touch This” or “Free High Fives”. When you create stickers for your attendees, don’t forget stickers for the floor...yes, you read that correctly. Having reminders on the floor that show people which way to walk and how far apart to stand is a great way to plan safe event flow and spatial comfort. 

Written By: Emma McVady