Wherever it is and whoever it’s for, you need your next event to captivate. That’s why it helps to partner with a dedicated team of experts who know the meetings and events landscape inside and out.
Our specialized meetings & events division, cievents, has lived the world of virtual events over the past few months and has picked up a couple of key tips to keep in mind when planning your next virtual gathering:
1. Start your planning early
While virtual events can be planned in a shorter timeline, they are still an intense amount of work. Make sure you set yourself up for success by having an adequate lead time.
Remember that many virtual event platform providers and production companies are getting booked up, so they also have minimum timeline requirements to abide by. Depending on the scope of your event, we generally recommend a minimum lead time of 12-weeks for a virtual event. This can be done in a shorter timeframe for more simple or shorter events. The build time for a virtual platform can generally take around 4 – 6 weeks, but you need to allow yourself time to curate your content, offer speaker coaching, hold rehearsals and editing.
Depending on the type of event you’re planning, you can also launch your virtual platform weeks in advance so attendees can begin networking and accessing resourcing before you are live. All of these critical dates need to be built into your planning timeline.
2. Get the right support
A reduced lead time on virtual events means a condensed project management timeline. It is an intensified type of event planning and you get one chance to ask all the right questions. It’s important to partner with an events team that has expertise and bandwidth to execute these complicated events and guide event stakeholders in the right direction.
3. Explore alternative hosting platforms
Depending on the complexity and objectives of your events, we would recommend a virtual event platform instead or in addition to a webinar tool. Webinar tools have limited engagement features and when you add a high production value many of the standard features of the webinar tool disable. Having "a virtual environment" where attendees can network, keep track of their agenda, share resources and read speaker biographies takes the event to the next level.
4. Utilize your post event reporting
Depending on the brief that you provided the production/platform team before the event, there are endless reports that can be provided for you to track attendee engagement. These reports are so handy for tracking internal attendance and such a great sales tool for client attendance.
You can provide information such as the most watched session, the most downloaded resource, the most asked question. You can pull reports for follow up to see how asked a question that was unanswered and use that for a reason to reach out.
5. Change it up
Different events may require different solutions. Don’t pigeonhole yourself to using the same event configuration you have in the past. For example, depending on your event objectives you might want to try changing up your traditional agenda. Perhaps your event will be more effective being spread out into three half days, over the course of three weeks? Think about your session structures.
Where will it be effective to include panel discussions, fireside chats, one on one appointments, or breakout workshops? Different configurations will encourage different behaviors, so again start with your event objectives to be strategic when building your agenda and session structures.
6. Invest in good content
A benefit to virtual events is that they can be a more cost-effective solution for your budgets. However, we highly recommend that you reinvest these savings into your event content and engagement tools. Content is key in engaging a virtual audience, as we all know attention spans are a fraction of the length compared to an in-person experience. Investing in things like professional MCs, keynote speakers, and live entertainment can help keep your audience connected for the duration of your event.
7. Don’t limit your invitation list
If you nail your event strategy, your attendance does not need to be affected by switching to a virtual event. In fact, with the new virtual format, attendance is something that can be reinvented. You can exhaust your invitation list and invite everyone given that the per person cost in this model is very low.
You can have more attendees virtually than you would have been able to accommodate in person. No need to spend weeks paring down your invitation lists. Take advantage of the fact that your reach can be endless in a virtual format!
8. Say yes to rehearsals
In our current world where everyone has become a video conferencing expert, you may receive pushback from presenters to commit to a rehearsal schedule for your event. Despite how many zoom webinars your speakers have run, rehearsals are imperative for a virtual event to mitigate tech risks and to produce polish content. Rehearsals should aim to run at the same time of day as the live event, so things like lighting and internet bandwidth can be tested as these can change depending on the time of day.