This spring and summer is normally the time when enterprise corporations hold countless large-scale events to connect with their employees, vendors, or customers. However, due to COVID-19 and physical distancing, these are no longer normal times.
Live events are being canceled across the country. So, what’s the alternative? Hosting virtual events.
With video streaming services, you can still deliver branded, digital event experiences to your audience online while providing them with solid, productive, and entertaining content.
Even outside of COVID-19, the popularity of virtual events is on the rise. 47% of consumers globally say they have increased their live-streaming since last year. Live virtual events provide an opportunity to tap into new or previously unobtainable audiences with a live, in-person event.
In this article, we’ll outline how best to engage your audience, as well as layout the necessary steps for holding a virtual event. It all starts with a game plan.
How to Plan a Virtual Event
To pull off a successful virtual event, you need to go in with a sound plan of attack; know precisely what you need to accomplish and when.
Here are a few things you will need to address (in no particular order):
1. What’s the Purpose of Your Virtual Event?
Determine your key messages and prioritize them. What are you trying to teach your audience? What do you want them to do after your event? How do you want to change them?
2. Choose Your Event Dates
Ideally, you’ll want 3 to 4 months to plan the content, speakers, audience interaction, etc., but depending on the size of your event, you can be up and running sooner than that.
3. How Will You Market the Event?
You need to get the word out – be it through emails, texting, calling, private messages, or sharing on social media platforms – all directing people to your event website.
You should start a soft promotion – a non-aggressive technique or person-to-person promotion where you can offer money-back guarantees or early-bird pricing – several months out. Then, you can move into a hard promotion – a stronger sense of urgency to “sign up now” providing a direct path to convert a sale – where you’ll spend the majority of your marketing budget, two weeks before the event.
4. How Will People Register?
Make it easy for attendees to sign up and make it obvious where they can do so on your event website page. There are multiple registration systems out there to simplify the process. Regpack, Configio Events, CourseStorm, Amilia, and Eventsquid are just a few in a very wide field of options.
5. How Many Speakers/Sessions Will You Have?
Identify the pillar topic each session/speaker will cover and how the audience will consume that content. With live-streaming and interactive audience tools such as Q&A chats and polls, you can still have keynote presentations and breakout sessions.
6. Will it be Live or Pre-Recorded?
The good news here is it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Maybe you have your keynote speaker pre-record their high-tech 3D projection mapping presentation to ensure everything goes off without a hitch, and then have a live Q&A session to dive deeper into the topic with the audience. There are pros and cons for both pre-recorded content and live-streaming.
7. Will You Need a Team to Help Pull Off the Event?
Many hands make light work. For larger events, you may need one person for securing guest speakers, another for the technical aspects, troubleshooters, camera operators, audio technicians, and a marketing person. Identify the areas that require additional assistance and expertise.
8. What’s Your Budget?
The cost of virtual events obviously varies. You could spend as little as $5,000 or as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on marketing costs, production values, and speaker fees. It’s important to outline your budget upfront.
9. What Equipment Will You Need?
Again, this depends on the size of your event, but you will definitely need at the very least a good computer, fast Internet speed, and audio/video equipment (cameras, microphones).
10. Which Streaming Platform Should You Use?
There are countless streaming platforms to choose from.
Addressing these 10 points will help organize your event and highlight areas that need to be prioritized in the planning process.
Where to Host Your Virtual Event
Securing a video streaming platform is one of your most important decisions. Your streaming platform is your event’s foundation. If it fails, your event fails.
There are many companies that provide streaming platforms, such as Vimeo Livestream, BigMarker, or WebinarJam.
The services vary from company to company. Some offer basic streaming capabilities while others offer full-service options ranging from finding studio space to helping with registration to live polling, Q&A, and even networking and business matchmaking - all the things you would have at a live in-person event presented through apps.
Produce Compelling Content
Your event will only be as successful as your speakers are compelling. Presenting on a computer screen or mobile device means your speakers are already working at a disadvantage.
Public speakers feed off the audience; they react to them; the audience acts as a sounding board, bouncing back feedback and providing energy. When they’re in front of a cold, unfeeling video camera lens, there is limited feedback, other than from the director or moderator. Your speakers have to up their game a bit and amp up the energy to compensate for the lack of audience response.
If a speaker is live-streaming, there will most likely be little in the way of high-end production values. That’s why you will want, whenever possible, to have your speakers pre-recorded, which can allow for more polished, engaging content. This is critical because unlike live events the viewer can simply turn off the video if they start to lose interest. How can a speaker make their presentation more dynamic?
It’s cliché but you get what you pay for.
While you may not be able to reach the same emotional engagement of a live on-stage presentation, it’s still possible to produce pre-recorded content that can knock socks off.
With today’s technology, you can present rock concert-level visuals that will not only engage your audience but perhaps grow it. In other words, it’s so compelling that it becomes sharable.
Mixed or extended reality (XR) and 3D projection modeling can provide you with astonishing production values that will leave your audience slack-jawed, but it can run you into the mid-six figures and take weeks of pre-production.
Content Substance or Style
Does your presentation have to be filled with the latest eye-candy to captivate your audience? Not necessarily.
TED Talks are generally minimalistic in nature but almost always have high engagement. The reason, of course, is because TED Talks cover exceptionally interesting subject matter by some of the best public speakers in the business.
If your content doesn’t rate at a TED Talk level of interest, adding a little extra visual flair may be necessary.
As mentioned earlier, virtual events allow the viewer to skip through or click off a presentation if you don’t keep them engaged. One of the easiest ways to address this is by simply producing shorter content.
Instead of a one-hour keynote address, present a more TED Talk friendly length of fifteen or twenty minutes. Shorter content is also less expensive to produce, which can allow you to improve your production value.
Another way to engage your viewer is by sprinkling in interstitial elements like polls or games. Anything that forces the viewer to move from being a passive viewer to an active one.
Hosting a Virtual Event
Holding a virtual event is a way to stay connected to your audience while bringing them value.
How big your event will be comes down to time and money— and how much you have of either. In the end, it’s all going to be a question of cost-benefit. Do you think you will get the requisite bang for your buck by holding your event virtually or instead, will you postpone until you can do the event live?
VMG Studios can help you in regard to determining production costs as well as in the staging, shooting, and producing of any content. We can remove a lot of the guesswork so that you can make educated decisions on whether going virtual for your next event is in your best interest.
When all is said and done, you may find that a virtual event makes more sense to you moving forward, in cost, time, and energy spent. Even after the world has settled into a new normal.
Looking to get started hosting virtual events? Click the image below to download our free creative brief to help organize your upcoming event!