Digital Occasions Are The Future, We All Know It
Virtual events are the future, we all know it
Countless events have changed their event experience from personal to virtual with the increasing number of COVID infections, bans and country rules. The not entirely new trend of hosting events online is finally in action and will stay at the forefront for the future to come. And the most important aspect for any organizer to stand out from the others is not to follow the game book.
While attendees and even organizers are not letting go of the preconceived notion of how to run online events, it is important that we are open and ready to test and test.
Ben Chodor, President of Intrado Digital Media, the company that owns INXPO, says, “Planners need to let go of the idea that they can run their virtual event with the same agenda and formats as in-person.”
Tiffany Jachja, Harness technical evangelist, says:
Previously, most conferences had a well-defined way of providing attendees with an interactive and engaging experience. You can browse the exhibition stands, attend networking events, or chat in the hallway. Physical space and other people made many of these micro- and organic interactions possible. Today we have to ask ourselves what happens when you are not physically there to share a message.
With so much to offer and something exciting to bring to the table, it’s important that the organizers follow some ground rules and tweak the event system to deliver an unbeatable experience. This article lists 6 best practices that will affect the future of virtual events even when face-to-face meetings return.
1. Human experience in the virtual world
People tend to lose interest in events that are robotic and lame. In-person events were very exciting for all attendees due to many factors – the obvious ones are the ability to interact with other attendees, communicate with the speakers, explore opportunities, and more. However, with the advent of virtual events, there are many restrictions on accessing these benefits and attendees are now expecting a more human touch at the events.
The MIT Sloan CIO Symposium switched to the virtual MIT Sloan CIO Digital Learning Series for 2020. The event’s chairman Allen Tate wasn’t sure the audience would spin with them. Rather than having a day of in-person events, the series was broken down into five episodes that would be available to viewers over a period of several months. This method kept viewers busy and intrigued to return to the series at the time of its release. Says Tate, “For a virtual format, I prefer smaller panels to give each speaker more time to engage with each other and dig deeper into their responses.”
With smaller groups of speakers, the audience observes an engaging conversation, enjoys a meaningful experience, and increases awareness.
2. Keep an eye on your technology
No matter how great your content is, if the platform goes down during the event, all your efforts will go back. This technical flaw not only results in participant dropouts, it also affects the flow of your speakers and upset the balance. And the case of your event will not be considered by either the content or the speakers, but attendees will only remember the technical flaw.
To avoid an undesirable situation, it is best to try multiple virtual event platforms, solutions, or partners. If you use multiple technology solutions, you can implement multiple ways to get in touch with your attendees and give them an exceptional experience.
If you work with a solution or partner for registrations, ticket sales, etc. for the event registration process, you risk the entire process. If the solution fails, you might just be wasting your attendees’ time. It is best to have multiple partners for different areas of event functionality to have better control of the flow and create interesting elements.
Jess Bahr, Senior Director of Growth and Cait Law, Senior Manager of Field and Event Marketing at NS1, say:
When we started to find providers to host our virtual events, we were looking for a platform that would handle everything – from registration to ticket sales to hosting the videos to reruns and everything in between. We found that there are many great platforms out there that can handle certain components and integrate with others. Just as there is no single provider that handles all the components of an in-person conference, there is no perfect one-stop-shop technology for running a virtual event.
3. Focus on the production quality
Time is valuable and no participant will trade their time for a virtual event experience that is not up to the standard. While it is important that you give all of your attendees the flexibility to interact with one another, they also look forward to getting in touch with the speakers or organizers. But again it is important that you listen to the participants and answer their questions correctly and quickly. If you are not interested in hearing about their concerns or doubts, you may lose confidence and create a void.
It is extremely important that you create engaging event topics, involve top-notch speakers, engage the audience, conduct numerous surveys, seek feedback, and provide an exceptional experience.
Allen Tate, executive chair of the 2020 MIT Sloan CIO Digital Learning Series event, said, “Everyone is trying to go virtual so that there is an abundance of content. People stay busy during the pandemic so make the most of everyone’s time. “
4. Improvise ways to connect your participants
Many virtual event attendees believe in-person events are the best because they allow people to meet, shake hands, talk over a cup of coffee, and interact with anyone they want and like. However, the virtual events do not give them the flexibility to interact with other participants and to open up.
It is important that the organizers provide such opportunities for attendees to increase engagement. Organizers can use breakout rooms, one-to-one meetings, and interactive speaker sessions, and create fun activities to encourage engagement.
Ben Chodor says: “At the moment, organizers have the opportunity to make contact with people who have worked from home and are longing for inspiration, motivation and the opportunity to talk to colleagues in the industry.”
5. Reach out to your audience before, during, and after the event
Successful event best practices include interacting with your audience at every stage of interacting with your event. Reach out to your audience and maintain open communication. Answer their questions, take feedback, and conduct surveys to learn more about their experience at your event.
Make it easy for attendees to attend, attend, and interact with the event. Send them follow-up emails and reminders to keep the audience travel going smoothly. Be with your audience during the event and help them find answers to their questions.
Don’t leave your audience unattended after the event. When the audience was happy with the virtual event you ran, you can reach out to the audience for an upcoming event. That way, you can sell your events to the same audience, creating a branding image.
6. Evolve with your metrics
The way organizers define success can vary. How they defined their success metrics in the past is different from the metrics in use today. When an entire event goes from in-person to virtual, it is the responsibility of the host to develop the metrics that can be used to verify the results.
As Tiffany Jachja says
Sometimes we define success by the number of participants or registrants. These can be very different for each conference. A new virtual industry event may not have the same reach as a conference with three or four years of physical event. It is more worthwhile to focus on the specific results of the event than to force the numbers. Results to consider include increased brand awareness, booked new business meetings, and expanding your community.
Virtual events are new to most organizations and attendees. While audiences are struggling to adapt to the new norm, organizations are working hard to grab eyeballs and mesmerize listeners. While the methods listed above are new to industry leaders, it is time to test the possibilities to verify their authenticity.