The Journey of Mastering a Virtual Event Platform

How to become an expert on virtual event platforms
How to master a virtual event platform

The journey of mastering a platform

My journey navigating the virtual world started several months ago. Like everyone else in the events industry, I was suddenly forced to adapt my line of work to resist the shock of – what we now call – in-person events being cancelled.

I had finally reached a stage in my job where I felt comfortable in my abilities to organise an event to a high standard. I am in no way claiming to be the best event planner to grace the event agency world, but I was pretty happy with how far I had come since the newly graduated assistant who started three years ago.

This new-found confidence took a serious knock when my team and I had to leave behind our safe haven of planning international corporate events, to completely embrace the virtual event scene. There were moments where we all felt like we had started a brand-new job. We went from planning overseas site visits to building our own virtual auditoriums practically overnight.  

‘A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.’

Dynamic Events are virtual experts with 25 years of event management experience

To be honest, the second half of this blog’s title is rather misleading. To proclaim you have mastered a virtual event platform is a bold statement and something I can’t imagine anyone has yet been able to accomplish in such a fast-paced, dynamic environment.

There are endless virtual solutions on the market making it almost impossible to remain loyal to one platform only. You search “virtual event platform” on Google and around 674,000,000 results are presented to you. But the question is, when we talk about virtual platforms, what do we actually mean?

‘Virtual event platform’ is an umbrella term covering a comprehensive selection of online products and services all packaged as the perfect solution to successfully pivot your cancelled in-person event to virtual.

Cancelled trade show? We can build your exhibitors’ virtual booths!

Postponed drinks reception? We can send you the wine and set up a Zoom call!

Missed your child’s 8th birthday party? We have the best virtual magician for you!  

As an agency we are fortunate to have the resources which make us “platform omniscient.” Every client we work with has varying event formats and prioritise different features for their audience. The consequence of this means not every client will want the same platform, meaning we have to master them all.

‘Not all those who wander are lost’

After meticulously running through your client’s requirements, you have finally agreed on the perfect platform to host their virtual event. This is when the journey to mastering that platform begins – when you have found “the one.”

But just like humans, these platforms are also constantly growing and evolving. With new features being released each week and updated road maps being constantly published, it can be rather daunting trying to keep up.

So, my advice to you is this. Don’t be fooled in thinking there is an end to this journey because there isn’t. ‘Mastering’ a virtual platform is a never-ending journey and one I expect to be on for as long as I am in this industry.  

Five tips on mastering a platform

  1. Learn to accept their “flaws”

With any relationship comes compromise. By accepting the other person’s flaws, you surrender your personal values to maintain a harmonious relationship. Your relationship with platforms is no different.

Not every platform can provide you with exactly what you want. Sometimes you have to make do with what you have which can seem annoying at first, but ultimately highly rewarding when you have dug deep into your creative side to find the perfect solution.

2. “What is done cannot be undone, but at least one can keep it from happening again”

It goes without saying but you only truly overcome obstacles through trial and error. Ask your account manager for your very own demo platform to use as the perfect base for making those mistakes.

3. “There is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory”

Do as many “dummy runs” of your virtual event on the platform until you feel 100% confident with its features. Not only does this massively benefit you for the actual event, but it will also eliminate the initial time wasted figuring out the platform’s settings for your next project.

Another (more enjoyable) way of practicing is by signing up to events open to the public hosted on that platform. By seeing it from an attendees’ perspective you soon learn what works well, and what doesn’t. It also helps with inspiration for those days where you are seriously lacking.

4. “You can’t hire someone to practice for you”

But in this case, you already have! In our team we have allocated one person to a platform we regularly work with to monitor any new features which have been released, as well as keeping track of general tips and tricks for managing an event on there.

If you are a smaller team, or a one-woman show, then perhaps allocate one platform per week to check in with. Try not to overwhelm yourself with staying updated all the time, most significant changes are usually rolled out per quarter.

5. “Eat that frog”

Take on the job and do the event. You are already a fully-fledged event professional. If you can handle the pressures of on-site events, you can do anything.

How to overcome the pain points of virtual events

The Pain Points of Virtual Events

The pain points of virtual events and virtual event platforms

Planning a virtual event and running an event on a virtual platform is not as simple as one may hope, in fact it is highly likely that you will need some virtual event expertise…

It’s been a journey, a virtual one, but a journey none the less. On this journey we have identified the key pain points of the virtual realm, and emphatically urge the importance of overcoming these! If you’re organising an upcoming event – and being a member of the human race, I understand this is going to be virtual for various reasons – these are objectives you should consider…


Strangers

Everything you know about your attendees has changed. It is a new world, not to regurgitate the constant headlines and Government press conferences… We need to relearn everything that we have learnt, because what worked before, doesn’t fly anymore.

Understanding your audience is key and understanding them in a virtual world is a whole new paradigm that takes experience and knowledge of virtual events.

Attendee engagement is the goal, and this takes; immersion – the more immersive the experience the better the message is delivered, structure – the more structured the event is, the more successful contrasting with in-person events (which may actually require less people management, allowing coffee breaks and networking to take place naturally).

You can’t shove people into a virtual room and expect them to behave as they would in an in-person event, they need a topic, they need a purpose, and they need to be made to feel comfortable in an unnatural environment.

Fatigue

We’ve seen it happen, the four-day agenda consisting of four million sessions condensed in to a one day-er with no breaks, a bit of (that made up word) gamification, attendees ushered to sponsor stands who can’t access their qualified leads, in a cloud of virtual names.

It takes consideration to work out what is best hosted online, and while keeping engagement is the highest priority, or should be if not, overwhelming attendees with content may not be the answer.

To create an engaging event, interactive elements must be there, the chats, the facilitated topical breakouts with relevant discussions, the main plenary with time between sessions to run away and make a tea, or dive into a workshop, the branded environment where you feel part of your organisation, and the ability for sponsors to reach a relevant audience.

Screen and content fatigue is real, and the longer remote working continues (which isn’t likely to change soon) the more creative you need to be in putting your virtual event together to benefit it’s attendees.

Data analysis

Did you know that you can have a 100% increase on attendance of virtual events compared with live in-person events? The obvious point is that it makes events more accessible and so your anticipated numbers could be massively increased. However, we see a 40% drop off from registrations to actual attendance. This is still a large increase, regardless of the high drop off. But, to put this into context, the drop off for a live event can be as little as 10%.

Whether the event is free or paid has a large influence on these statistics. Paying for an event, however minimal, is an incentive to show up.

Disjointedness

Making attendees feel valued is paramount for any event. This means prioritising a strategy that will make attendees feel part of the organisation, part of the topic, relevant to the event and giving them a real experience.

This means – surprisingly – the total opposite of being talked at by someone behind a screen. This is static, stale and uninspiring. For the sharing of information this is a necessary segment of any event, but emphasis on “segment”.

Think about the importance of connection and community, something we are all missing, being in *ding ding ding* Lock Down Round 3.

You may be surrounded by people at a virtual event, but you need to feel and see this. As an attendee it should be easy to communicate with others and lose the feeling of sitting in your room behind your screen, isolated.

Yifan Wu

Platform failure

With an overwhelming number of virtual event platforms on the market, it makes research on finding the best platform for your businesses needs and objectives incredibly time consuming and challenging.

The pandemic has brought a need for businesses to adapt or to stop.

Companies that once focused on in-person events, or relied on events for their product, have had to focus on a virtual environment, forcing a huge number of platforms on to the market. Most of these won’t last long, however with this saturation it’s made it incredibly difficult for clients to know what will work best and which are telling the truth when it comes to capabilities.

It’s a huge learning curve and takes trial and error to find the most appropriate platform. Gone are the days you shove your content on to zoom and hope for engagement, interaction, and inspiration…

As an event agency we put our client objectives at the forefront of the work that we do, and having (very luckily) been so busy with our virtual events this year, we understand what works and what doesn’t. In this case the time we have spent working on virtual, we know which platforms will work and which will not.

Conclusion? Well, there are some amazing platforms to host events online. They can really showcase content and brand, wow attendees and provide exceptional experiences. Finding these, utilising them to their capabilities and knowing confidently that they won’t fail you is the difficulty. This and understanding how to successfully deliver an event that people are excited to attend online, is a real challenge that companies like Dynamic Events have carefully mapped out strategy, partnerships and plans for.

Contact us to set up a call and see how we can help you with your event:

Georgie: [email protected]

Jo: [email protected]nts.co.uk

Or fill out our contact form here and we will get in touch with you!

The COVID Series: What could possibly go wrong?

Malcolm Wallace Virtual Conferences

What could possibly go wrong?

We had a team meeting with our event managers yesterday and I happened to ask whether there were some recurring themes around the challenges our customers have switching to virtual events and hybrid events.

Our EMs jumped on this with alacrity as it seems to have been a big topic with them. I figured that if these issues are so prevalent with our customers it must also be true for a wider audience. Do you identify with any of the challenges below?

  • Fear of tech failure. The platform not coping or issues with delegates accessing the platform (old browsers, only using mobile devices, not used to it etc etc., you’ve heard it all before, no doubt!)
  • Not being able to replicate networking or the social aspects of an in-person event (Apparently no-one is going to join a Zoom call with others to have a glass of wine, although I admit to being very guilty of this, albeit with friends not work contacts!)
  • Audience won’t engage. Many think their target audience are dinosaurs.
  • Not understanding how to translate an established in-person event to virtual. How do you turn a 3-day physical event into a 5-day programme with shorter days?
  • A lack of understanding of how content can be delivered (webcast, webinar, roundtable. Who’s on camera, who’s not and what the audience can or can’t do)
  • Thinking everything should be like Zoom where everyone can be on camera and not understanding why it is not always appropriate.

The majority of these issues are rooted in the fear of the unknown and can easily be solved by good planning and rehearsals. Our event managers are very used to solving problems, and these are just the tip of the iceberg, so if you want a life without stress, give us a call.

The COVID Series: Are you ice-cream adventurous?

Virtual Platform fears

We all do it! Faced with a bewildering choice we initially panic and bury our heads in the sand. My lovely wife will find the perfect dress in shop 1 but insist on visiting another 20 before returning to shop 1 to buy the perfect dress.

I even panic when buying ice-cream, there are so many flavours to choose from how will I know which one will give me the best taste experience for my money? Sadly, I end up choosing the tried and trusted flavour and never venture into the realms of ice-cream adventures.

As you can imagine, we talk to a lot of people about all things virtual and hybrid and I have seen a definite change over the past month or so from ‘how do I replace my live event’ to ‘which virtual platform shall I use’. There are a lot to choose from and all have different offerings.

It is not dissimilar to choosing a conference venue; you still need to consider a whole raft of options:

  • Capacity What are the limits for visitor numbers, how many can be on video? How many exhibitors can it accept?
  • Availability Do they have enough tech support on your event dates? Is there a limit to the number of events they can hold in one day?
  • Functionality How can your visitors interact, are there areas for networking or for your sponsors to attract visitors?
  • Suitability Does the quality of the offering fit your objectives? Can you customise the platform to make the event look and feel like your brand?
  • Price How does it fit with your budget? Should I charge delegates? What fee should I set for sponsor booths?

Over the years we became a source of venue expertise for our clients on most of the major conference cities in the world. We are now in the same position for virtual conference platforms with an in-depth and practical knowledge of the virtual platform landscape.

We have built partnerships with multiple platforms providers, selected for their ability to deliver excellent engagement and networking opportunities putting us in a unique position to match our clients with the right virtual platform dependant on their event objectives.

So, if you are struggling to choose the right ice-cream from all the flavours available and want the best available experience for your money, talk to us and let us have an ice-cream adventure together.

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

Hybrid events are the future

Hybrid Event Agenda

Everyone is hoping and praying that live events will be back as soon as possible. The government has made this possible from 1st October, but does this mean the events industry will instantly return back to how it was?

I’m afraid the simple answer is NO. Although live events will be ‘back’ they will look very different from pre-COVID times; with social distancing, temperature checks, hand sanitising, one-way systems and many more procedures to be in place in order to keep our delegates safe.

Even with all these measures in place, numbers for events are likely to be significantly lower. People are less inclined to travel; they have got used to ‘working from home’, having a Zoom meeting and are generally wary about meeting in large numbers. On top of this, having officially gone into recession in the UK, companies simply do not have the budget to enable employees to attend events. The reality is that with accommodation and travel costs attending live events is an expensive option.

Many of the events we are planning for next year will be hybrid events. Our clients still want and need to gather member firms / clients / employees, but the scale of the live event has significantly reduced. We are seeing clients whose numbers were 250 now estimate groups of 100. 

This is not all bad news though, as companies are predicting larger numbers for virtual events. With the technology available delegates can login to a live stream, participate and interact, ask questions and be part of the event all whilst sitting in their living room. In actual fact, we are predicted higher number of participation overall with 100 live delegates and over 300 signing up online and for on demand access.

We have partnered with multiple virtual platforms so we can offer the right solution to fit our client’s needs. Hybrid events are the future and are here to stay.

How are service works?

We are an event management company and whether your event is live, virtual or hybrid we can help you deliver the best event possible. You will have a dedicated event manager assigned to your event to support you throughout the whole process, on top of that you will have access to our marketing team to help with your event strategy and set your objectives.

Our team will run your event from concept to conception, taking away all the stress while keeping you in the driving seat and informed of the progress throughout.  We are problem solvers and will offer you solutions at each stage to ensure your event is running to schedule and ensure you achieve your event goals and objectives.

We can communicate with delegates, arrange filming of speakers, create marketing plans, build an event website, and ensure your brand is centre stage throughout the whole delegate’s journey. With over 100 years of experience within the team, we know what we’re doing and love what we do.

If you need help moving your event from live to hybrid, get in touch we would love to help.

Contact us here

Navigating the virtual highway

virtual event strategy
Virtual events, event strategy, Claire Wallace

Have a read of our latest article by Claire Bowley published on PA Life Magazine explaining the three pillars to have in mind when creating your virtual event strategy; Content, Connections and Community.

We are all too familiar with the buzzwords and phrases that have dominated communications in recent months – ‘unprecedented times’, ‘pivot to virtual’, ‘the new normal’ and ‘platform agnostic’.

Whilst we are starting to tire from the overuse of such language, the truth is these HAVE been extraordinary times and every single person has been on their own journey. In-person events will re-emerge, probably more compact and better focused – but in the meantime we will continue exploring the digital world.

To continue reading, click on the link below;

The COVID Series: Leading the team while coping with Covid

COVID Series, Malcolm Wallace
The COVID Series - Malcolm Wallace

The exciting news, for us anyway, is that we have begun a phased return to the office. I know that we all had mixed feelings after so long working from home, but it does feel good to be talking (a socially distanced) face to face and bouncing ideas around without sound delays, dialogue gaps and barking dogs.

We have been able, amicably enough, to sort out how we use the kitchen, clean the toilets and spread ourselves out among the desks, I guess after a week or two it will feel normal and then we will think about bringing the rest of the team back and adjusting to yet another new normal.

So, as a business, how do we view this next new phase and the challenges it is going to throw up?

The most important thing?

After some 35 years of running businesses, surviving Foot and Mouth, volcanoes, various recessions, SARS, strikes, 9/11 and, I am sure, some other crises I have forgotten about, my mantra is Marketing, Marketing, Marketing. I am not sure we do it particularly well compared to some of the creative items I see, but even at our lowly level it is, again, paying dividends.

The reality is that marketing relies on the hard work, self-belief and perseverance that being successful at anything requires. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no easy solution, no guarantee of success. You just have to keep trying new things in different ways and be thick-skinned enough to take failure on the chin until you find the solution that works for you. Just remember to keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for the successes.

The second most important thing?

Has got to be budgeting, it is of course important normally, but it is critical in a crisis. As soon as we realised how seriously we would be affected by the Coronavirus, our management team sat down and re-worked our budget for the next 24 months.

The important thing though is sticking to it. I check at least weekly that we are not overspending in any areas and want to know why we are if that happens. I ensure we have plenty of contingency as invariably something unexpected crops up.

Cash is King in a crisis, so credit control must take priority, get your invoices paid on time but remember we are all in the same boat, so pay suppliers on time as well!

And finally

Have we learnt anything new during this new crisis? For me, it has reminded me that having a strong and cohesive team is paramount. It has been difficult with lockdown and having to slim the business down to maintain positivity and focus. Like a lot of companies, we have done our best with regular ‘Teams’ and Zoom meetings, quizzes, virtual cocktail making and the rest of the virtual menu.

I have been massively impressed with the ideas and suggestions that have flowed from everyone in the team. It is easy to think that at my end of the spectrum, with too many years under my belt, experience is all that matters. The reality is that the youngest members of the team have been able to come up with fresh and original thinking. Time for the old boy to move over.

Until next time,

Malcolm

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

[email protected]

07515 664 368

The COVID Series: How far outside our comfort zone are we?

Business Management Covid-19
Business Management Covid-19

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.

The solution

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

Malcolm Wallace, Managing Director at Dynamic Conferences & Events Ltd

[email protected]

07515 664 368

www.dynamic-events.co.uk