Virtual events – are they still effective?
Face-to-face interaction will always be powerful and have its place, but there’s good reason why virtual events have taken off in recent years. Especially in the past six month – that being said, they aren’t a completely new revelation!
The advancement of modern technology has eliminated the discrepancies of time and distance. Meaning that today, people all around the globe can participate in events at their convenience through computer mediated communications. Without having to travel half way around the world to attend the same event. Businesses, organisations, associations, and the like have capitalised on their online presence in lieu of the traditional face-to-face interaction.
It can’t be discounted that both require attention, skill, and resources to become successful. But without the physical attendance of an in-person event, how do you achieve the same level of engagement at a virtual event?
What are virtual events?
Virtual events, as the name suggests, are those held online. They are conducted through web-based platforms and software that connects the hosts with attendees all around the world. Additionally, virtual events often provide more interactive engagement features such as surveys, polls, chat boxes, and Q&A.
Although virtual events have been around for a while, innovative approaches in conducting them have been on the rise of late, which align in-person event objectives to virtual channels.
Much like in-person events, their virtual counterpart can cover almost anything. But unlike the latter, virtual events are typically categorised into 3 types of events: conferences, webinars, and hybrid events.
Types of virtual events
This type of virtual event brings together customers, users, and thought leaders in your industry where they have a platform to discuss their agenda. Virtual conferences are able to bring in a broader audience while providing your team with new ways to engage and interact with the attendees. They typically have the same set up of an in-person conference where the agenda includes keynotes, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.
With the flexibility of its medium, virtual conferences shifts the attendees’ passive experience to one with more engaging opportunities before, during, and after the event.
Webinars deliver content in a one-way interaction format. This allows attendees to listen to the speakers or host, with minimal interaction with other attendees. Webinars are effective in creating a unique experience with their audience, allowing them to choose their preferred content.
This type of content may be live or pre-recorded. They may also be paid or free. But due to their availability of a one-off educational nature, webinars usually do well in terms of attendees.
- Hybrid events
These types of events combine the benefits of virtual and face-to-face interactions, offering both physical and online experience. With this, lectures, conferences, or any other corporate activity may be attended live and is simultaneously streamed online. Attendees can interact amongst themselves complemented with the power of the digital world.
This may be further classified into internal or external hybrid events. Internal hybrid events are those that are conducted with attendees being part of a company, organisation, or association. Due to logistical concerns, not everyone may be able to physically attend their meetings. External hybrid events, on the other hand, cater to attendees who are outside their organisation.
Organising in-person vs. virtual events
In terms of preparation, both are at a par when it comes to the fundamentals. You must promote your event, secure attendance, create memorable experiences, and prove your event success. While both differ in terms of logistical preparations, they still need to run smoothly to deliver your message to your attendees in both platforms.
The difference lies in the content delivered between the two. In-person events heavily rely on networking and a unique destination that attracts your attendees. On the other hand, virtual events rely on content as their main attraction. Engaging sessions and relevant keynotes will determine the success of your virtual events.
Additionally, virtual events pose a difficulty in terms of the engagement of your attendees. Together with your content creativity, you also need to event technology such as mobile event apps to ensure that your attendees are engaged and informed.
Advantages of virtual events
An advantage of virtual events is its flexibility in terms of the attendees as well as the hosts.
For webinars, speakers may go live or have a pre-recorded video. Guests can actively participate in several engagement features of webinars if they opt to watch live or they can go at their own pace and select their preferred sessions.
The cost of holding a virtual event is 75% less than an in-person event. Ideally, event planners opt to save money during their small events to prepare for bigger events with more leads. Due to limited logistical concerns, event planners will no longer need to pay staff, hotel accommodation, travel costs, meals, and so much more. However, there still remains the cost of paying for a virtual meeting platform.
Flexible and variable
Hosting your event online grants you more flexibility as to the delivery of your content. No matter what type of virtual event you’re holding, you have an extended array of options you can include. For example, you can make it interactive, offer different language options and invite more guest speakers.
As you’re not limited to a single destination, virtual events can easily attract attendees as they can join without the need of travel. It all simply boils down to marketing yourself online. Planners are able to increase the events reach without worrying about accommodating an excess number than expected.
Virtual events operate at a much faster pace than in-person events. This is because attendees don’t need to move from session to session. Creating connections with other attendees or speakers becomes easier as their contact information is readily available. Additionally, as everything is online, attendees can record important information while connecting with other attendees or speakers.
Virtual event essentials
Much like in-person events, virtual events still need content, attendees, engagement, and data. Promotion-wise, they essentially the same elements as your in-person event. Here, video quality production and connectivity is crucial to your event, as well as attendees ease of access.
To ensure that your virtual event’s attendees participation and impact is similar – or better—than an in-person event, you should make sure you’re well prepared in the following areas:
- Event website and registration
- Content for presentation
- Email reminders and post-event email sequences
- Live one-way audio and video
- Engagement features such as polls, Q&A, surveys, and on-demand after content
- Online event guide
- Mobile event app
Although your event will heavily rely on technology such as computers and other similar mediums, you’ll also need to work with event technology platforms to promote, execute, and manage your event.
How to get the most out of a virtual event
Keep in mind that hosting a virtual event is not as simple as going live or recording a video of the host.
Email sequences are a great way to build up anticipation for your virtual event. You can send out reminders for your upcoming events and keep your attendees updated and excited by sending relevant snippets of what’s to expect.
Virtual Event Tool
Similar to in-person events, not all virtual events are going to be made equally. Other event tools offer more robust features than others, while some may be more costly. It’s worth to consider factors such as the size of your event, demographics of your attendees, engagement features, and the costs of the provider.
Invest in technology
While the cost holding a virtual event is a fraction of an in-person event, consider getting a more professional set up than just your standard webcam and it’s built in mic. A high quality camera and a microphone does your event justice by making your event professional and engaging. You’ll quickly lose attendees if they can’t hear or see you properly.
Mobile event app
Mobile event apps are not only limited to in-person events. Especially with virtual events, attendees can engage via private messaging, polls, and surveys before and after the event and even in between.
Keep them engaged
Popular event engagement features allow you to keep your attendees attentive, focused, and interested. But to make them feel more included, consider having your speakers check in on them every 15-20 minutes during each session.
Virtual event KPI, metrics, and reporting
As they’re online, gathering data post event is made easier and can be more accurate that it is with in-person events. You can easily track the attendees that have logged in, their demographics, their payment forms, responsiveness, dwelling time, and their feedback of the success of your event.
Just like your regular in-person event, tracking your success is done through collecting the right data metrics. Here the top metrics and KPIs you should track after concluding your event:
- Number of registered attendees
- Number of actual attendees
- Demographic attendee information
- Email open rate
- Click-through rate
- Speaker engagement via event engagement features
- Event feedback through event mobile app
- Social media engagement
- Social media feedback
- Connections built
- Attendee satisfaction feedback
Face-to-face interaction still is and always will be powerful in terms of networking and making a strong impact with your target audience. But with a shift to the modern approach of communication, and current climates, virtual events continue to remain relevant and more powerful with innovative methods. Adding virtual events into your marketing mix ensures that you’ll have a broader audience, enhanced engagement, and another powerful tool for connecting your event planning kit.