Sometimes the unthinkable happens ? a disaster, a cancellation, an instance out of our control. As we?re seeing now, that can have a big impact on what we do as event professionals and how we gather as people to learn, network, and engage.

But with a switch in strategic thinking and the right partners for content and technology, you can pull off a virtual event that is every bit as exciting as your in-person plan.

Embrace the new opportunities

As you jump into virtual events, know that your virtual event strategy is not going to be 100% the same as your live event strategy. Adjusting your plan for virtual events opens up new possibilities that you must consider before moving forward.

First and foremost, revisit your goals and priorities. How do they need to change with a virtual event? Can they be expanded? Does anything need to switch out? Capture all of this information so that it?s handy to reference as you revisit decisions.

Another thing to consider ? going digital can mean getting even more data from your event. More insights means more ways you can show value, so it?s important to align ahead of time on the right metrics for your team to track.

Add to your audience

Once your goals are firmly in place, think about your audience ? that target is highly likely to change when you?re putting on a virtual event, simply because you have the ability to expand your reach beyond the confines of geography. And that expanded audience isn?t just about reach ? it also allows for more targeted, personalized messaging.

Consider adding other personas, industries, or more to your marketing list to expand that net even farther. Community is more important than ever before, and yours may be wider than you once thought.

Inject some personality

First and foremost, having a great moderator or emcee is critical for translating live events to the virtual space. It can be too easy for things to go off the rails, especially in a new format ? let alone having to work around potential connectivity issues, technology glitches, or any other surprises. That?s why having someone calm, engaging, and knowledgeable steering the conversations and providing transitions between elements is so important.

They can be the central guiding voice throughout the event that gives out important information, introduces new speakers, makes announcements, and more. Having the perfect personality in charge helps bring life to your event, helping attendees get more engaged and moving away from a scripted look and feel.

Break things up

You might think that having a captive virtual audience is the perfect opportunity to dive into a topic for a few hours at a time ? but think again. It?s even more vital to break up virtual event content into manageable chunks so that you don?t lose attendee attention and participation.

Ten to 15 minute sections are suggested for ideal content consumption. Between those sections, the content can be broken up by interactive moments, like taking some questions, leveraging a poll, or drawing for a prize. This helps attendees fully digest the content without feeling overwhelmed from a distance. Opportunities for networking can also be added between sessions to keep people engaged with one another as well as the content.

We highly recommend using a mix of pre-recorded videos along with live streaming for all virtual events. This gives you more control over your content before the event, allowing for editing, reshooting, or redesigning. This is a similar approach to successful television broadcasting. Then, you can take advantage of the live platform to generate great conversations and interaction with attendees.

Get engaged

Virtual events can be just as rich with inspiration and education as a face-to-face experience, but when people are working from their own spaces, it can be harder than ever to keep distractions to a minimum.

That?s why adding interactivity to virtual events is an absolute must to foster engagement and keep attention. There are lots of options that you can deploy in a way that makes the most sense for your audience, format, and content:

  • Conversational formats instead of rote webinar standards can help attendees feel more relaxed and engaged during sessions, especially when you have a great moderator to keep things moving along and guests who add not just expertise, but energy to the event.
  • Virtual lobbies not only help you with crowd control while you make last-minute adjustments, but they give attendees a valuable moment to chat and introduce themselves.
  • Virtual product showcases can take the place of some of what attendees are used to seeing on the show floor. Think outside the box while also thinking about what tech attendees typically have at home. This can work for things like product walkthroughs, augmented reality experiences, and more.
  • Feedback and Q&A sessions are the better way to handle audience interaction during a virtual event. Having these features built into your platform helps you manage the information flow, and you can pivot if necessary based on the feedback you receive. This also boosts engagement and helps ensure that conversations are a two-way street. The more attendees interact and engage, the more value they find in your event.
  • Polls and surveys help break up your content flow and provide a moment of breathing room for presenters while also getting valuable feedback straight from the audience. That data can provide interesting insights during and after presentations, as well as a read on the room to see who?s actually engaging.
  • Contest or raffle elements built into your event add some fun and excitement while working as an additional incentive to keep people engaged with your content. They could even be a part of a virtual sponsorship opportunity!

Connect and curate

When events are virtual, it?s that much harder for attendees to network among the group and meet with like-minded individuals. That?s part of what makes live events so special ? and something we don?t want to lose.

Personalization and personal connection, wherever we can create it, is a crucial way to keep people engaged and help a virtual event feel as genuine as a live experience.

Some solutions have features that allow you to split a virtual meeting into smaller groups, like breakout sessions. This can be utilized to create focused discussions around different questions, areas of expertise, interests, and more.

Having not just speakers, but attendees share short bios and connect via channels like LinkedIn helps people get a sense of who?s on the other side of the screen. And creating groups on Facebook or Slack channels focused on the event and specific topics is a great way to keep people in touch for post-event communications, discussions, and more.

By keeping these tips in mind, as well as working with a great partner that can help you with technology infrastructure, strategy, marketing, and more, you can successfully transition your live event to a virtual one without missing a beat.


Source: Freeman