As businesses, we are all adapting to the unpalatable truth that most of our industries have changed irrevocably for the short-to medium-term and quite possibly for the foreseeable future.
We have had to make changes to the way we market and communicate with customers, clients or employees. This has been a particularly massive sea-change for those of us in the communications industries usually accustomed to simply meeting to collaborate, connect and share whatever information or message we needed to get out.
Now, we need a new medium and, for a lot of people, the obvious choice of virtual events is proving to be a taxing one.
The obvious choice?
It is the obvious choice; however, it is not necessarily an easy choice. Virtual event platforms are springing up almost, it seems, on a daily basis. Essentially, they are all tools that enable people to communicate remotely. But how do you know which platform is right for your organisation? And what can different platforms offer?
The very basic virtual platform is simply a video call and the more complex ones can recreate a complete virtual conference environment. They can include an auditorium, collaboration spaces, exhibition halls, speed networking, networking lounges and any other space you would see at in in-person event.
What’s the challenge?
The challenge, in reality, is not dissimilar to delivering an in-person event.
- Clear, focussed event objectives
- Measurable goals of success
- Adaptable environment to deliver objectives
- Interesting, relevant and articulate speakers
- Professional production
- Branding to promote and reinforce core messages
- Accessibility for all visitors to the event
- Staff available to solve problems for conference hosts, speakers, delegates, exhibitors and sponsors
But here is the crux of the challenge – there is an assumption that a virtual event is easier, simply because it is delivered digitally. No travelling, no lost luggage, no hotel bedroom mix ups.
However, to stage a successful virtual event requires just as much pre-planning as an in-person event. I recently attended a virtual event where the first speaker didn’t start on time, leading to many attendees thinking they had logged on incorrectly, with a substantial number leaving entirely.
The help desk wasn’t staffed meaning requests for help were not promptly addressed and there was no communication for the reason for the delay. The first speaker appeared unprepared, was incorrectly framed and lacked specific direction in his talk. Obviously, people who are sat at their laptops in their home office are not going to concentrate for that long with all the other distractions they have.
A well planned, virtual event will have the correct platform selected with the event running to time. If it can’t run to time then attendees need to be informed, attendees requesting assistance from the helpdesk must be responded to immediately.
Speakers often require guidance to transition to delivering a message to a virtual audience; to get orientated and understand the functionality of the platform; to juggle presenting with pushing out live polls, organising questions or using a white board.
In this new digital era, it is far better to use the ‘Ted’ talk model, keeping speakers to shorter, punchier presentations and then utilising collaborative spaces for interactive discussions to dive deeper into the subject. And it is so important for presentations to be delivered to a professional standard.
Thought should be given to interspersing the business content with ‘gamification’ or social activities, whether to introduce a fun element, encourage networking or foster team collaboration. Specific networking time can be included to encourage your audience to engage with content, sponsors and branding.
It is important to convey your branding and messaging throughout the virtual environment, to reinforce your professionalism and values. This is often underestimated for both in-person events and virtual events.
As with most aspects of business life, an industry professional can effectively tackle what seems an insurmountable situation. They can anticipate problems and remove the stress of the unknown.
Just as you would use a professional event management team, whether in-house, or outsourced it is important to do the same for a virtual event.
Your production partner will guide you through the vast range of available platforms from webinars to virtual reality, recommend the most suitable platform for your event and support you through the entire process., They will work with you to craft a compelling, diverse agenda to maximise delegate interaction and engagement. Assist with practical guidance for speakers, sponsors and exhibitors and help delegates navigate the platform and interactive functionality to ensure they receive a fulfilling an beneficial experience.
After all, the aim is to give everyone concerned the correct impression that you have a professional and inclusive organisation.
If you are ‘out of your comfort zone’ and need help in this new virtual world, get in touch and let’s discuss how we can create an amazing virtual experience.
Until next time,
Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd
07515 664 368