Those organizing (or pivoting to) virtual events during COVID-19 need to know the best way to run these gatherings. It has become much more difficult for people to meet during COVID-19, so virtual events must aim to provide a user-friendly experience that engages participants. Here are some crucial tips for when you need to plan virtual events.
Choose the Best Event Format
While there is no universal way to select the best virtual event format, you will want to select the approach that matches your strategic goals and the needs of your audience. There are good odds that having an event with just you talking to the camera for multiple hours is unlikely to hold the audience’s attention for long.
The most common types of external-facing virtual events are:
- Conferences – Can include keynote speakers, many sessions, and audience participation.
- Trade shows – Often hosted in a 3D environment to resemble an in-person trade show. Sponsors host virtual booths and hold virtual meetings
Internal audience virtual events include:
- Company-wide events (i.e., all-hands meetings, end-of-year celebrations)
- Town halls
- Department meetings
An effective virtual event will involve ways to “mix up” the content without being too gimmicky. The virtual realm still requires some precision in planning, so you will need to devote considerable effort to choosing the schedule of events. You need to find ways to capture and hold your audience.
The most important thing is for your event to be engaging throughout the audience’s experience. This can include audience participation during sessions and Live Q&A (which is not possible with prerecorded sessions). You will want multiple ways for your viewers to interact with both the presenters and each other during the virtual event. To minimize long monotonous blocks be sure to offer multiple tracks if your event format supports it, and offer regular breaks between sessions to allow attendees the chance to get away from their screens.
Just like with a webinar, your event’s sessions should have copious visual aids and well-polished slides to emphasize the delivered messages. Remember to highlight the points that you want your audience to take away multiple times, and to maximize audience engagement with opportunities for contributions or questions.
Secure the Best Equipment
You should use the best possible equipment in order to capture the event in the best light for the participants. Poor equipment will affect the quality of the event, and you may lose your audience quickly.
A virtual event starts with a high-quality internet connection. In 2020, it is very likely that your speakers will be presenting from a home office. This might mean ensuring you have a wired connection if your Wi-Fi can’t offer an HD experience. After that, each speaker will require some key hardware in order to deliver the event in the best possible way. If you are hosting an internal event then you will want to ensure your corporate network is up to the task ahead: many thousands of employees streaming HD video on the same infrastructure could bring IT to a crawl without preparation.
Presenters should ensure they have the following:
- An HD web camera (most laptops do not have a great one built in)
- Microphone (Audio should be high quality and plenty of volume)
- Adequate lighting
- Test the computer’s ability to process all of this in advance of the event
Select a Streaming Platform
The most important thing about your streaming platform is matching it for your audience needs. For example, nearly everyone has access to Facebook Live and can watch a virtual event there. However, if you are a large enterprise looking to host a virtual town hall to 30,000 employees, Facebook or Youtube will not be the right platform for your needs of privacy and security. Furthermore, many all-in-one virtual event platforms are engineered for small and medium sized businesses, and will struggle when they try to deliver live video to thousands of attendees (even if downgraded to standard definition).
Their recommendation to avoid their platform’s capacity problems with live video will be to prerecord your sessions, but at that point you are hosting a glorified webinar and will be missing the essence of what entails a live event. The platform you select should give you the necessary reach to deliver a Netflix-quality live streaming experience to all attendees (without giving your compliance officers a panic attack).
You will also want to think of the value to be had after the event is over: most online event solutions are designed for webinars and not for enterprise knowledge management. Consider how your recorded video will be managed and how people will be able to search from it in a central repository.
Make Online Event Registration Easy
Regardless of who your audience is, chances are they have multiple priorities competing for their attention at any time. They will only want to attempt registering for your event once. If they experience a problem in your online event registration, they may not return for a second attempt.
You need ensure that registration and/or payment is secure, easy, and has a user-friendly experience. You should aim to collect all critical information during the registration process so you can still contact them even if they do not end up attending the event.
Test the registration process before you go live to ensure that the event registration system is working properly. The last thing that you want is to lose your potential audience to frustration, or create headaches the day of the event because information was lost. All-in-one virtual event solutions continuously fall short at the enterprise scale, so chances are you need a dedicated event management system distinct from your enterprise video platform.
Promote Your Event
Word about your virtual event will not make its way out to attendees on its own. You should promote your virtual event through email and have an advertising budget available if it will be external. Social media is a great place to advertise because it can provide you with an engaged audience who can easily link to an invitation to your program. Beyond the critical event details, your promotion should also make it clear to attendees exactly what type of event it is that they will be experiencing.
Without an enterprise-class event management solution, you will need to find the right email-marketing tool that allows you to interact with potential attendees and send them personalized messages. You will also need to have an event website that serves as a central hub of information for your event and syndicate announcements. The website will give potential attendees more of a flavor of what they can expect and should allow them to register (and pay if needed). Allowing a single team with minimal IT support to achieve all these needs is a major reason to consider an event management platform if your company doesn’t already invest in one.
Finalizing the Virtual Event Plan
There are two key aspects left before you can shift towards executing your virtual event. The first aspect involves finalizing your content and event agenda. Every part of the event should be as scripted and rehearsed to avoid awkward pauses or implied disorganization. You should enter the actual event with free of uncertainty as to exactly what will be covered and your speakers should be confident when delivering it.
Your second concern is to ensure that you have all of the logistics covered for the day of the event. This means that you have covered every single detail ahead of time. Have presenters login early and retest their setups (perhaps even have a practice run of key presentations on the technology in advance). You will also want to ensure you have adequate technical support on hand, ensuring you have adequately scaled to the size of your audience. For example, if just 1% of your 10,000-person audience has trouble logging on for your opening keynote, that will make 100 impatient people seeking immediate help.
With the proper plan, hardware, and virtual event streaming solution, your organization will be sure to make the right impression. Just like the plan itself, if your event kicks off with a subpar streaming solution, you should not be surprised when a disaster breaks out. You can read up more on why enterprise companies select Vbrick for streaming seamless HD video live without compromising security.