While many people are eagerly looking forward to attending in-person events in the near future, there are many businesses and event organizers who have a new-found appreciation for digital and virtual events. What started out as vital necessity during the pandemic delivered a variety of unexpected benefits like increased attendance and better reach, lower travel costs, and better digital engagement and lead conversion. Because of this, virtual events are likely to stick around for a while and will continue to be well received by audiences who appreciate the convenience and accessibility that these events offer.
At VIBE, we spent a great deal of 2020 and early 2021 helping groups pivot to digital and hybrid events, and we already have requests for new virtual events for the rest of this year and in to 2022. So, we thought it would be helpful to share some of our top recommendations for making sure your next virtual event is the best it can possibly be.
1. Embrace the Technology
If you’re going to have an all-virtual event, don’t complicate things with paper invitations and phone-in registrations. Instead, make sure you have an easy-to-navigate online sign up/registration that works equally well on laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Think about things like simple URLs and QR codes for providing quick access to attendees.
Likewise, think about what presentation formats you will be using and take the time to rehearse with them. A lag for “technical difficulties” may be understandable, but it does distract from the overall experience. Make sure teams and presenters know how to transition between live camera, video, screen sharing, games, and pass off to other speakers well in advance of your event.
2. Get Social
Across all industries, social media continues to be one of the top ways in which customers, clients, and prospects interact with brands. Make sure you’re promoting your event across your various social media channels to reach your intended audience. Don’t forget – you can segment your audience by geographic location and other demographics if you need to communicate to some, but not all of your audience. Don’t forget to also post recaps and highlights to social media channels following your event so you can leverage your gathering to earn more followers and grow your audience.
3. Lights. Camera. Action.
By now, most audiences have spent at least some time in a Zoom or similar video conference environment. That means they’re not easily impressed by a built-in laptop camera, standard lighting, and a virtual background of the beach. Make sure you treat your digital events with the same level of production value you’d want to see when attending in person. Presenters should have make-up and wardrobe suitable for the occasion. Lighting and sound should be studio quality. Backgrounds and visuals should be professionally produced (and even customized for the event or brand as appropriate). These may seem like small details, but they’re exactly what makes one event memorable and the other simply unimpressive.
4. Be a Superstar Host
We all know what the biggest annoyances of virtual events are these days – cross talk, interruptions, difficulty transitioning between main rooms and breakout rooms, and the like. Thankfully, these can almost all be resolved or eliminated by designating an event host or master of ceremonies to lead the audience through the event. Besides keeping the run of show moving, your host can also help increase engagement by calling upon certain attendees and can offer some guidance so attendees know what to expect next. You can also consider having a support team available via event chat or phone to help with specific technical issues, follow-up questions, and other similar questions.
If it makes sense for your host to be someone from your brand leadership, rehearse and utilize their expertise. You may also find it works better to have a hired announcer, a recognized industry expert, or celebrity talent to lead your audience. In all of these cases, make sure you deliver a comprehensive experience by utilizing that host as your messenger for follow-up emails, social media, thank you messages, and more after your event has concluded.
5. Give Me a Break
Think about a live, in-person event. People mingle, take their seats, participate in some entertainment, take their seats again, walk outside for a bit of fresh air, some back inside for announcements, enjoy some food and drink, and then mingle some more on the way out. This same kind of spacing needs to be available in virtual events also. Try to keep presentations and segments to between 15 and 20 minutes at most, with 5 to 7-minute breaks between each segment. Do not, however, make breaks “dead air.” For those who want to head to the restroom, grab a glass of water, or stretch their legs, your break time shouldn’t be can’t-miss activity. But for those who are comfortable to stick around during a break, make sure there is music, trivia, a game, or even a slideshow to keep them involved and engaged.
6. Make Your Content Count
After all the time you’ve put in to organizing a virtual event, it would be a shame to not get as much mileage out of it as possible. Plan ahead to make sure various sessions and presentations are recorded so you can use them later in marketing or social media campaigns. You never know, your live event Q&A could become an amazing video FAQ on your website, or a downloadable webinar that you can use to attract new clients or contacts. Consider also that video material gets the highest engagement rates on social media and other digital platforms, and your event programming fits right into this category.
As for things like extra interactive experiences, tech infrastructure needs, venue selection, and more – an experienced event professional (like VIBE, for instance), can help you fine tune your event to perfection. With each virtual event you host, your team will become more and more comfortable at delivering and adapting to the needs and expectations of your audience – all while expanding your brand presence with worldwide digital reach.
About the VIBE Agency: The VIBE Agency is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in the creation and orchestration of live and virtual experiences for the corporate industry. The agency is forward-thinking and was recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019 and 2020. Most recently, Valerie Bihet, founder of the VIBE was named a Smart Women in Meetings 2021 Hall of Fame honoree by Smartmeetings, for her consistent work advancing the industry. If it can’t be live, make it VIBE!