It is only when we’re faced with a pandemic such as the latest COVID-19 outbreak that we can truly assess if our organizations are flexible.
All sorts of events have been cancelled worldwide. From local events and workshops, to major sports leagues and business conferences, there is no longer a way to physically meet with your partners.
But while it may be impossible to meet in person, there’s no reason to cancel your event completely.
There is another option: use a virtual event platform as a temporary solution and host your event online.
Many companies are switching to virtual events
Ever since the outbreak in Europe and the US started, a lot of organizations, teams, and even educational institutions have switched to virtual events.
Consensus, Coindesk’s event that focuses on blockchain, announced that they wouldn’t be staging an event in New York. Instead, they will use virtual reality to facilitate meaningful connections in May.
Additionally, the virtual conference will be completely free.
Now, it makes sense that tech companies would easily switch to virtual events. After all, they’re already familiar with the necessary infrastructure. But what about other companies?
Well, many non-IT companies are now considering virtual solutions.
After all, the global events industry was valued at over $1,100 billion in 2018. The switch is necessary to not only prevent massive financial loss, but transform and adapt to uncertain times.
This is why we can see that even the Northeast Astronomy Forum 2020 decided to host a virtual event in place of a physical conference. They adjusted their offering to fit the virtual space, using content like:
- Speaker live streams
- Virtual product demonstrations
- Even raffles and giveaways
This situation now begs the question...
Should you shift from physical to virtual events?
During these extraordinary times, it's worth shifting to virtual events to generate revenue and keep your organization going, even if the shift will be temporary.
And even if you have never hosted a virtual event before, you can easily adapt and make the most of the current situation.
Virtual events are just as powerful as physical events. You can still:
- Focus on the most important areas & knowledge
- Facilitate connection with valuable partners and potential clients
- Generate revenue, and transform your business
Here’s how to do it.
How to create a successful virtual event
Step 1: Review your event and goals
First, review your event idea. Ask yourself questions like:
- How is it structured? Which content types did you plan to use?
- Who is your target audience?
- What is the main goal of your event? For example, lead generation, direct sales, etc.
The goal is to understand the foundation of your event, and the real reason why participants attend it.
If you’ve organized similar events previously, or you can get data about other similar events, try to understand:
- What content types do your participants respond well to?
- Which programs are most popular with participants?
- Which programs generate the best results?
It's difficult to incorporate every program into your virtual event, especially if this is the first time you’re doing such a transformation.
So, focus on programs your participants respond best to. It’s much better to focus on one great content type than 5 poorly executed programs.
For example, your usual participants may come to your event because they love fairs with many different products. You can use this information to create augmented reality (AR) fairs, where they can see and interact with products online.
Conversely, your participants might love panel discussions. A livestream to provide them with the content they care about, and a virtual space for them to chat, would work best.
Your target audience is incredibly important, as well.
And remember: your target audience’s technological expertise will dictate the amount of instruction and/or training you will need to provide to host a successful event, so take that into account.
Step 2: Choose a virtual event platform
This is where technology comes in. Normally, you’d use an entire tech stack with multiple tools. However, this can get confusing and costly.
You can streamline the process by investing into a virtual event platform. These are virtual platforms that play the ‘venue’ role online: your attendees go there to watch your livestreams, network and interact with sponsors.
These platforms allow you to focus on making your virtual event even more successful than your physical event. Forget about struggling with technological obstacles.
For example, you can use a virtual event platform like Brella to host your:
- Event livestreams
- Virtual networking
- Virtual sponsors
- Schedule and agenda
Step 3: Keep your attendees in the know
Since virtual events are still a bit groundbreaking for industries other than IT, it’s important to keep your attendees informed.
Virtual event platforms can help keep attendees informed with announcements, push notifications and multitrack agendas. But they first need to join to stay up-to-date.
That’s why a solid communications plan is essential. It’s much easier to forget to join a virtual event than a real one, so keep a great communication loop going with your attendees.
Use email, social media, your website and more to let them know of the new opportunity and that they can still expect quality connections and content.
Your customer experience should be your first priority, and that starts by keeping your attendees informed of all the incredible content your event has for them.
Step 4: Select the right content types for your virtual event
Normally, virtual events rely on content like:
- Video conferences
- Live chats
You can’t go wrong with a livestream, as it’s a versatile content type.
Your keynote speakers can address your attendees, present case studies, conduct a brainstorming session, and much more.
As well, if you sync your livestream into a virtual event platform, your participants can:
- Attend individual sessions
- Adjust their schedule to their time zones
- Watch the main livestreams right in the platform
No matter the area or individual agenda, your participants will enjoy valuable discussions just as they’d enjoy them if they were in the room.
However, it’s important to stay professional.
While most of your participants, and perhaps even your keynote speakers, will be working from home, you should still establish a code of conduct and a dress code.
This will keep the formality present with your physical events.
Step 5: Engage your attendees
A physical conference engages all the senses when your attendees are present. However, a virtual event can engage them just as well! It just requires a different approach and plan.
Brella offers multiple ways to engage your attendees, even in the current virtual reality:
- Gather feedback through surveys quickly
- Gauge powerful insights with our AI
- Generate buzz with integrated social feeds
- Highlight speaker bios and their content
- Understand customer experience as the event unfolds with live polling
And while your main focus should be on your event, you can also engage your attendees through other channels.
This helps you provide them with an omnichannel experience, be that through social networks, or email. If you can leverage personalized email marketing too, your event will be a raging success!
You can share the most important insights to keep everyone in the loop, and keep them motivated to attend your event.
This is where we see another major benefit of virtual over physical events: they provide more personalization opportunities.
And in a market where 63% of consumers expect personalization as a standard, virtual events can help you cater to everyone’s needs.
Step 6: Provide networking opportunities
A huge loss when switching to virtual events is the fact that people can’t network face-to-face. 74% of participants come to events because they want to meet new leads and potential business partners.
However, that isn’t the case anymore. Even if participants can’t shake hands, they can still network with the clever use of matchmaking technology.
The easiest way to provide quality networking opportunities is to give your attendees a powerful matchmaking tool, like Brella. With Brella, your attendees can:
- Filter attendees, and find meaningful connections
- Book virtual meetings in seconds
- Join a video call during their meeting to chat face-to-face
Our algorithm understands your attendees’ goals, and helps them find the best matches at your event.
Your attendees simply select their interests and their offers to be matched with other attendees.
In a sea of people at a physical event, this wouldn’t be possible. The perfect partners wouldn’t find each other.
Step 7: Promote your sponsors
You may be wondering how you’ll keep your sponsorship deals if your event is virtual.
This is not a problem. You can make sure your sponsors are still on board by offering them measurable visibility.
Brella helps you attract and retain sponsors for your virtual event with:
- Sponsor dashboards for ROI tracking
- Partners tab for your attendees
- Sponsor promotion space in attendee lists
- Attendee interest data
So even if you go fully virtual, you’ll still be able to promote your sponsors, match them with attendees who are looking for offers like theirs, and make sure that the show goes on.
Step 8: Provide guidance
Depending on your target audience’s skills, you may need to provide some form of training.
To save time, use virtual event platforms that are intuitive and easy to use. As well, use platforms that can host everything in one place, so there’s no need to navigate away or download extra apps.
No matter which virtual event platform you use, we recommend announcing your virtual event and explaining how it will work through channels you’ve used to announce your physical event.
This event type is still new, so it’s important to:
- Emphasize the benefits of the virtual event
- Tell your customers how it will work and what they will get out of it
- Elaborate on the virtual networking opportunities
Make sure you brief your stakeholders, as well:
- Tell them you will increase their visibility online
- Explain how you will help them connect with attendees interested in their solutions
- They can use metrics to measure their ROI and maximize their visibility
And once you’ve informed everyone properly, your attendees and your sponsors will be excited to hear what you have to say!
Don't fear the switch - we're here to help
Are you interested in hosting your event online, instead of postponing or cancelling?
Contact our sales team to schedule a free consultation call and take advantage of these new virtual features.