Virtual events have been around for quite awhile, but the industry has been slow to adopt them.
However since the start of 2020, the outbreak of the Covid-19 has made physical events impossible to organise thus giving rise to the demand for virtual events.
Initially used mostly as a way to keep costs low while reaching large numbers of people, virtual events are now seen as the bread and butter of most event organisers.
As more event organisers pivot online and the space becomes increasingly saturated however, the focus have shifted from simply porting events online, to finding creative ways to stand out from the competition and entice participants to register for their event.
Organising a virtual event has a similar level of complexity as organising a physical event. With both forms, you need to market your event, keep your audience engaged and create memorable moments. The only difference is channel which you engage your attendees from.
Virtual events is no longer one-off webinar presentations, but a value-added, engagement-driven experiences, you can create an memorable experience that extends well-beyond a computer screen.
Types of Virtual Events
Broadly, virtual events can be categorised into three different types: Webinars, Virtual Conference, Internal/External Events.
Webinars typically start off as a one-way presentation, with a question and answer segments at the end. They can last varying length but in general, 30 to 60 minutes.
Webinars are usually the simplest form of virtual event to organise. However, they are also often the least engaging. This is due to the one-way nature of it.
2. Virtual Conferences
Just like physical conferences, virtual conferences are built around complex sessions that includes keynotes, sessions, breakouts etc.
Virtual conferences include multi-session content and can be very engaging for the participants.
While perhaps lacking in terms of atmosphere compared to physical conference, virtual conference allows participants to view keynotes in real-time, build their own agenda from relevant, on-demand content, and interact with other attendees. It is also often a lower cost alternative to a physical event.
These are events meant for internal stakeholders of the organisation. Examples includes town halls, sales kick-offs, companywide events, trainings, department meetings.
For large global corporations, internal events are used to deliver a message or celebrate a milestone.
4. External Events
At the other end of the spectrum, external events refers to events that are held for people outside of the organization.
They can be user conferences or industry conferences. These events often require larger budgets and involve multiple vendors to ensure a memorable event.
These events allow attendees who are unable to travel to the event to participate and learn. It is challenging to provide the same value at external events, as in-person attendees are able to network more freely and engage easily with content than those attending virtually.
How to organise a successful virtual event
1: Choose an easily accessible or popular channel
You want to make your virtual event as accessible as possible to your participants. The simplest way to do that is to host your virtual event on a channel which is popular amongst your target audience, or an easily accessible channel to new users.
This applies not only to your virtual event channel, but your marketing channels as well.
Much of this is how well you understand your audience. Do some research beforehand, interview or survey a handful of your target audience. Their answers should provide you with some clues as to which channels to use.
Another area to consider when choosing a platform is the features which you require to run the event. Sometimes, it might be worth using a pricier channel if it contains important or required functions for event success.
Examples of such functions include; chat, Q&A, live polls, the ability to upload slides or additional content and many more which can altogether transform your event.
Be aware of the pros and cons of each channel you are using, for example, Skype is free but allows a max number of 50 people to join. Others might have poor security or fun features like custom backgrounds. Google Hangouts allows up to 150 people to participate in a chat, but only 25 people can participate in a video call.
2: Choosing the right time
Similar to physical events, the date and time of the event would significantly affect the attendance rates.
Before selecting your event time and date, do a research and ensure that there are no competing events or holidays that might interfere with the attendance.
3: Promote, promote, promote your event
Oftentimes, event organisers spend countless hours organising an event, but do not put in equal or more effort in promoting their event. This will significantly hamper the participation rate. Promote your event using various digital marketing and advertising techniques and tools. These are often significantly cheaper than traditional advertising channels.
You can also create interactive guides and video tutorials on various aspect of the event (e.g registration, payment, sign in).
Marketing an event is no different from marketing other products and services, you’d have to communicate the unique value proposition of your event relative to other competing events.
Below is a crash course on digital marketing to help you get started!
4: Collect and leverage on data
Attendees data provide a great deal of insights which you could use to improve your current virtual event, or to improve future events.
Platforms such as EventBrite often comes with an analytics panel.
5: Create engaging, relevant content
We could not stress on this point enough!
Topic relevancy is often a huge determining factor on whether your virtual event would be packed, or empty. The topic of your content must be relevant and resonate with your target audience!
And of course, the way which your content is delivered must be engaging to your participants.
Every event is unique and has their way of content delivery. One rising method of content delivery is using Augmented and Virtual Reality technology to make participants feel like “they are here” . You can engage immersive tech vendors such as Hiverlab to help you leverage on this technology to deliver your content.
We foresee that the rise in demand for virtual events are here to stay. As people and organisations go digital, there will be higher acceptance and participation of virtual events.
This is why every organisation should have the basic skills and knowledge on organising a virtual event.