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]

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

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;