Virtual Events: A Comprehensive Guide
How can you turn multi-day conferences that are filled with education sessions and networking opportunities into virtual ones? How can attendee insights be virtualized? How can you go about making sure attendees remain engaged from start to finish?
Virtual events warrant the same attention and care as in-person ones do. Both events require effective promotion, attendee engagement, and the creation of memorable moments. The only things virtual events don’t include that in-person ones do are on-site attendees and a venue. However, by seeing virtual events as engagement-driven, value-add experiences (as opposed to small, one-time presentations), you can produce effective events that extend past a computer screen.
Four Virtual Event Types
Virtual events have the same fundamental components in-person events do. They are capable of covering a variety of topics and producing various outcomes. The method of selecting speakers, timing the event, figuring out how long it’ll last, planning its frequency, and choosing an audience to target can optimize your company’s desired results. Virtual events do not replace all events — rather, they can be used in conjunction with your existing events.
There are a quartet of different virtual events. Although many of them involve usage of the same fundamental components, they are capable of covering a broad scope and producing different results in the process.
On average, webinars last between 45 and 80 minutes. Webinars let attendees listen to or watch a speaker present content, no matter where they are. Companies can charge an admission fee for audiences who want to attend a webinar, though many of them are available for free. All webinars involve the use of videoconferencing software, which allows the presenter to hold Q&A sessions, make a presentation live or through taped video, and best of all, the content can be viewed after the event ends on-demand. Webinars can also involve external and internal training sessions. Because their educational nature is usually a one-off, webinars have historically thrived with attendances that are 100% virtual.
As with conferences that take place in-person, virtual conferences involve complex, live agendas. They are usually comprised of breakouts, sessions, keynotes, and more. Some virtual conferences feature content that involves multiple sessions and may utilize tools for community engagement. Although their networking and lead capture effectiveness isn’t on the level of in-person events, virtual conferences let attendees view real-time keynotes, interact with other attendees, view content on-demand, and build relevant agendas of their own.
Hybrid Events (Internal)
These types of events come in the form of department meetings, training sessions, company-wide happenings, product launches, and town halls. For companies that conduct business internationally, hybrid events like these allow companies to convey messages to their whole organization if staff are dispersed across multiple settings. As convenient as flying employees to your company’s headquarters would be, the cost of doing so would be extraordinary, and scheduling conflicts would be a nightmare. The alternative is to hold an event that is partially virtual and partially in-person.
Hybrid Events (External)
These types of events accommodate people outside your company. They may take the form of conferences, industry meetings, or user events. External events warrant video production levels of a higher quality so that all attendees experience things the same way. These types of hybrid events let people who can’t physically come to an event learn and participate without leaving their homes. It can be troublesome to offer the same type of value to attendees at these kinds of events, as those actually in attendance can freely network and engage with others better.
Why Virtual Events Are Worthwhile to Host
In-person events and virtual events transpire for similar reasons: to present your organization’s message of creating lifetime value, building loyalty, driving adoption, boosting revenue, and stimulating leads. Event and meeting planners regularly decide to hold an event either virtually or in-person — or a hybrid of the two — and do so knowing that each option comes with its own fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Webinars benefit from their virtual aspect, as they are purposely built to deliver training, thought leadership, and other content. Conversely, regional training or user conference programs are purposely built to produce one-on-one interactions. If you are wondering if going virtual is worthwhile for you, think about what you intend to achieve from such an event. Can you achieve those goals virtually, or just in-person?
Reasons hosting a virtual event is worthwhile:
Accessibility — although an event can still take place in-person, showcasing it virtually allows out-of-area attendees to see what’s happening too.
Budget — your company might be cutting costs. In such instances, making your events smaller and hosting webinars helps trim expenses. Hybrid or virtual options are helpful when attendees out of a certain area are unable to physically travel to an event.
Lack of options — you might have to cancel your event due to acts of God, terrible weather, or travel bans. In such cases, you can the event going by having people attend virtually rather than in-person.
7 Considerations When Deciding on a Space to Host Your Event
1. Size of space - How much space is needed. Make sure you add in the space for on-camera activity, equipment, crew, and talent.
2. Lighting - What kind of lighting is already present in the space? How do windows and natural lighting effect the space? What kind of lighting is needed to light your talent, to light the set, and to light the scenic elements?
3.Ambient Noise - How quiet is the space? Are there items that could interfere that could be turned off while streaming? Also, what does the space sound like naturally? Do you need to bring in carpet and drapes to help dampen the noise?
4. Internet Bandwidth - Generally, you will need a min of 10Mbs of both upload/download speed to do 1 HD video stream. That’s the absolute bare minimum. Keep in mind that your talent and crew will probably be on the network and using up bandwidth, so factor that in.
5. Number of Presenters - This is important to determine the size of the space needed, but you’ll also use this information to determine your technical needs like number of cameras and microphones needed.
6. Overall Look - Does the space lend itself for a nice visual backdrop or will you need to build a set to hide parts of the space?
7. Length of program and number of anticipated viewers - That gives some idea of the needed reach which will help decide which streaming platform to use.