Virtual events have made a tremendous rebound in 2020 for obvious reasons, and guess what? They’re not going anywhere. Faced with no other option for the last 7 months, organizations have been forced to take their events online (or cancel them altogether) and are clearly seeing the benefits that virtual event providers have touted all along – they’re more cost effective; they can drive more traffic; they’re more measurable and allow for better post-event follow-up; and in this day and age, they’re a heck of a lot safer. With that said, virtual event success doesn’t come easy. Certain items must be in place and steps have to be followed to realize the event ROI you’re looking for. Now let’s dig into the 5 Keys to Virtual Event Success.
- Plan, Plan, Plan – for whatever reason, there’s a tendency for folks to think that just because an event is online it doesn’t need a proper project plan. That couldn’t be further from the truth. At minimum, we believe there should be an 8-week project plan for virtual events, but that can change based on the size of your event. If you have a larger scale event with more rooms/spaces and more content, you should look at 10-12 weeks. We’re coming off of a sizeable virtual event a few weeks ago that had a 14-week project plan against it. At the end of the day, virtual events are events and need to be treated as such.
- Determine the experience, and vendor, that fit your needs – I know this sounds incredibly obvious, but it’s a very large piece of the equation. Do you want a truly immersive experience that offers a ton of different ways for your audience to engage and connect? Or are you looking for a series of Zoom meetings over the course of 4-5 hours? In our opinion, a virtual event is not a series of Zoom meetings or GoToMeeting sessions. It IS an environment where your attendees can experience different event spaces, watch sessions, download content, engage with experts and network with their peers. Also, think about the support you want the day(s) of your event. Do you want your internal team to manage all of the technical details, or do you want your vendor to handle the technical aspects of your event to ensure everybody is able to attend and view the event with no issues? These are very important decisions that will have a direct impact on your attendee experience.
- When possible, pre-record your sessions – pre-recorded and simu-live webinars are becoming the new norm…and that’s just for one-off presentations. When you look at a virtual event that could have a lot of sessions, you want to limit the amount of 100% live webinars. Pre-recording your sessions limits the amount of live day streaming, which in turn decreases live day stress. It also gives you peace of mind that your presentations will be perfectly executed and gives your attendees the value they signed up for. Of course, there are instances where live sessions are completely unavoidable and that’s okay. We’re not saying your sessions can’t have live components – we want them to be as engaging/interactive as they can be and some form of live element (see live Q&A, polls, surveys, chat) will increase audience engagement. We’re just saying pre-recording whenever possible is going to give you a better end result.
- Think outside-the-box – virtual events are the perfect forum to get creative. They are the ultimate content marketing tool. Think about how you want to make your content available – through webinars, booths, resource centers, networking café’s, product showcases, etc. Additionally, think about how you want to enable peer-to-peer networking. Can they network within booths, within sessions or anywhere within your virtual event? The right virtual event provider will not only provide you with a lot of these options, but also be willing to customize event spaces and functionality to fit your needs.
- Have an on-demand plan – yes, you want to drive large numbers to your live virtual event. You want live day engagement and interaction. However, unlike in-person/physical events, you can extend the shelf-life of your virtual event through on-demand archiving. It’s very important to have an on-demand plan ahead of time. Do NOT wait until the event is on-demand to put your plan together. If you promote it and position it the right way, your event can become an on-demand virtual resource center that will continue to educate and engage your audience, while increasing your overall event ROI. This is something that you simply can’t do effectively with in-person events, so be sure to take advantage of it.
Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ firstname.lastname@example.org