The change from a physical to a virtual event can present a range of new and unexpected challenges, and whilst you may not be able to directly create some of the values that face-to-face interaction brings, virtual events are creating the opportunity we need to communicate with our community.
So how do you turn an event, filled with networking opportunities, interactive sessions, and the attendee insights they generate into a virtual event? And once you do, how do you engage and ensure your attendees get the value that they would normally obtain throughout attending a physical event?
Understanding the right platform for you
Hosting a virtual event still requires the same amount of attention to detail and planning as an in-person event. Before searching your way through the different platform options, plan out your event as you normally would and understand what you need the platform to do for you, not the other way around. Understanding how you want to communicate and interact with your audience will ensure you do not get overwhelmed with the design and look of the event and instead remain on track with your messaging and collaboration goals.
Consider what technology and communication software your company already uses and if there is a way to involve and intertwine it with the new virtual software.
Generating interaction and engagement
One of the harder challenges to overcome is an audience that isn’t engaging and is distracted by their surroundings. In a physical setting, an audience instantly feels connected and you have their attention. It is also an environment where attendees feel comfortable to freely think and speak their mind, but take away the face-to-face element and add in distractions such as a phone, emails and other tabs open on a computer, gaining their attention for a day or for a few hours becomes a serious challenge.
This is where your content and speakers are key! By providing high-value content, delivered by highly valued speakers, your attendance and engagement rate will increase dramatically. Keep sessions short and sharp to keep your audience’s attention and to boost attendance to the live session, consider making some exclusive content available only if attendees stream the session live and not watch back the recording.
Remember that not all speakers will feel comfortable talking to a screen as many speakers feed off an audience’s energy, so selecting a speaker that knows how to engage in this new setting is crucial. A good way around this is organising panel discussions, it allows for a more open and insightful conversation and removes the pressure some presenters may feel just talking to camera.
An important part of getting the audience to interact is creating opportunities that allow the audience to be involved. Use a platform that can have live Q&A discussions between your presenters and audience, or create polling and quizzes within the presentations with live feedback from the presenter. The more that your audience understands that their participation has a purpose the more you will see your event succeed.
A significant part of why people attend events is the relationship building and networking opportunities that are offered. Being able to have access to interact with people that you normally wouldn’t. Recreating that in a virtual environment can be challenging, however, virtual events have now progressed into great networking opportunities that can have that personal touch.
Build your event to have breakout and knowledge sharing groups or small workshops. Use a platform that allows attendees to be able to talk to each other. Virtual events no longer have to be one presenter just talking to a screen, the more you allow for participation and interaction the more relationships will be able to be built.
The technology blunders
Do a practice session! The best way to find out if there are going to be issues is to organise a full event run through. Find out if there is a scratchy microphone or camera now rather than trying to fix it when you’re live. On the day, get your presenters to log in 30minutes early, giving yourself plenty of time to fix any technical issues.
Ensure you have someone standing by who is familiar with the technology for troubleshooting through the live event if problems do arise.
During your practice session, map out your customer journey and click through the event as if you were going through their experience. Can the attendee access all the links and sessions and participate in polling or Q&A activities? Make sure the customer journey is an easy one, you want to make it as simple as possible for everyone to be able to participate and be involved.
What is most important is creating a space that allows your audience to interact and feel as though they are a part of a community even though they aren’t physically there.
#SpeakToSleek about planning your virtual event, our #DreamTeam are the experts when it comes to overcoming any event challenges. Contact us here.