“Victory in the Virtual Space: Engaging Online Strategies for Event Success”
This post is part of a series, “Pivot, Plan & Remain Poised,” where The Event Group team explores how to manage events currently and post-COVID-19.
While we excitedly await the return of safe and stylish in-person events, many have transitioned to virtual events or will eventually be executed as a hybrid of both in-person and virtual events, including live-streaming, pre-recorded video, and unique, innovative opportunities for attendee engagement. We will share how, while very little to no face-to-face interaction is permitted and/or socially acceptable, virtual events are being seamlessly executed and what tactics, tools, and things should be considered when planning a virtual event.
If your event was set to be in-person, we suggest first considering which event goals you still plan to achieve online. Are there new goals? These re-imagined goals will help to drive the virtual event plans and decision-making. Below are a few questions to ask when considering a virtual event:
- Would this event have taken place in-person if possible? If so, what are the benefits of moving online versus postponing the event?
- What is the budget for a virtual event?
- Who will attend this event and will they be receptive to a virtual event?
- How will we engage our guests and measure success of the event?
- Will this virtual event be live, pre-recorded, or a combination?
Defining your new goals and working towards meeting them with the help of experienced planners and partners will allow you to still execute a seamless, successful online event.
Communication and Registration:
Similar to an in-person event, virtual events must include streamlined, effective and consistent communication with potential guests, sponsors, and VIPs. Be transparent in your plans to move online – we are all experiencing this new normal, after all! – and provide a user-friendly way to collect RSVPs and/or registration information from guests. At a minimum, you should request a guest’s first and last name, company (if applicable), and email address. Following a guest’s registration, ensure prompt email communications and follow-up, including clear instructions for joining the virtual event with a link and a unique password to join when the event begins. (Guest communications are also great spots to promote event sponsors!) Our team is more than happy to discuss our suggestions for platforms for professional virtual events, as well as registration applications and strategies – we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves!
Live-Streaming versus Pre-Recorded Videos:
Depending on the anticipated number of guests that will participate in your virtual event, as well as the length and comfort level of your keynote speakers and/or presenters, you should consider whether your content is more effectively delivered via live-streaming or pre-recorded videos, as well as your speakers’ preferences.
Live-streaming allows immediate interaction and is more similar to an in-person presentation but should be rehearsed and planned to ensure smooth execution and recption by the attendees. Kellie Mayrides, one of our trusted partners at CORT Events, suggests utilizing studio sets for a television broadcast style look on screen. By using a national rental company, these looks can even be replicated at various speakers’ or presenters’ homes or locations (pending inventory and locations, of course!). This will provide for a “polished and professional presentation for executives and speakers engaging a virtual audience.”
Alternatively, fantastic pre-recorded videos can be arranged, rehearsed, and shot. This strategy is effective for speakers or presenters who are less comfortable using live technology and/or the chosen platform, or those who are not available at the given event time but would still like to deliver a message. Similarly, your previously produced content can be played as part of your virtual event, too! (Tip: You could also provide the opportunity for event sponsors to submit a short video to play during the event – a great perk!)
Guest Engagement and Entertainment
By replicating several aspects of in-person events virtually, such as high-quality entertainment, special guests, and break-out sessions, guests will also feel a heightened sense of engagement and connection. Lots of top talent, from A-list musicians to comedians to local-to-you entertainers, are willing to appear live or in a pre-recorded segment. Booking these types of guests is similar to an in-person engagement with a few considerations that are handled by the individual’s agency or representative. You may also consider surprising your guests or VIP attendees with an amazing entertainer and “meet and greet” to not only elevate your event but also add joy and positivity to your guests’ days!
In addition, many virtual platforms offer the opportunity to automatically and seamlessly place guests into smaller groups for a more intimate or VIP experience or a specialized break out room, similar to those at an in-person conference or meeting. Besides offering an intimate VIP experience, these smaller groups could also facilitate opportunities for engagement through live feedback via surveys, virtual word clouds, trivia, or question and answer sessions. The interaction adds value to your event, and having the ability to easily connect attendees from across the country and world is a positive result of the virtual space!
In future posts in this series, we will explore how to bring aspects such as food and beverage to your guests, meeting them where they are. (Virtual craft cocktail demonstrations, anyone?!)
Options for virtual events are growing as we continue to move through this new world. While several aspects of the event plans may look similar to an in-person event, much of the planning is different and new. We look forward to seeing how creativity, innovation, and genuine connections grow as a result of the success of virtual events. With preparation and flexibility, we know that virtual events will become an effective way to reach more people and engage in new ways – we’re excited to help you!