Online corporate meetings and conferences are becoming the norm for many businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak, and they’re likely here to stay post-COVID-19 because of their intrinsic value. These virtual events expand audience reach, provide evergreen content opportunities, allow for in-depth reporting on attendees and are more cost-effective than their on-site counterparts. They’re also not at the mercy of external factors like a major storm or global pandemic, as is the case today.
While some organizations have already fully transitioned their in-person events online, others are still contemplating the move. The process can feel overwhelming, especially since you only get one chance to make a good first impression, so here are tips to help you create a memorable digital experience.
Determine the Virtual Format
There are various ways to run an online event, each with its pros and cons.
A live, same-day event is closest to a physical one. There is no need to organize presenters’ pre-recordings as they simply login on the scheduled day. However, this event comes with risk. Possible problems include presenter technology issues or even no-shows.
When stretched over multiple days, a live event can have a greater mix of content. It also allows for shorter sessions to avoid attendee burnout. But this type of event takes more effort to organize and attendees may see it as too much of a time outlay.
An on-demand event is less risky because presenters are pre-recorded, though this method requires a substantial time commitment to coordinate and edit all the content. Further, it is less interactive than a live event as there is no opportunity for Q&A.
A simulive event is one where the content is pre-recorded and then presented live, often with an interactive element such as a Q&A period. This allows presenters to focus on connecting with attendees. However, like an on-demand event, it can take a lot of time to organize and edit pre-records.
It is important to choose the format that works best for your online event. This should be done as early as possible so you can plan accordingly.
Pick a Platform
Not all virtual event platforms are created equal. Make sure the chosen platform can actually support the type of event you want to run. For instance, some platforms are not suitable for a simulive event that incorporates a live Q&A period.
Decide on a Date and Time
You will want to ensure your event occurs at the best time for your audience for maximum impact. Check that there are no competing events or holidays that would interfere with attendance. If you plan to go global, take time zones into consideration and pick a time that works for as many attendees as possible.
Create a Schedule
While you might not be able to complete this task until all speakers are booked, developing a draft agenda or schedule will help attendees plan their own. Don’t forget to include breaks. As engaging as the content might be, attendees won’t necessarily be keen to sit in front of a computer for hours at a time. You will want to schedule accordingly to maximize their engagement and comfort.
Select Savvy Speakers
Speakers are essential to any event as they set the tone, attract attendees and educate the audience. Choose ones that are most relevant to your desired audience and have the necessary expertise. Keep in mind how engaging they will be in an online environment; not every speaker will capture audience attention. And, of course, they will need to be available on the event day.
Promote and Market
Start promoting your online event as soon as the registration link is live. Marketing is similar to a physical conference, though the focus should mainly be digital channels like e-mail and social media.
Practice Makes Perfect
It is important to ensure speakers know the content well, so make sure they practice, even if they will be pre-recording. This will improve performance. Plus, you don’t want to waste precious time re-recording. Scheduling dry runs means there won’t be any surprises on event day and your audience will get a great experience.
Consider a Mix of Channels
If you don’t want to completely go the virtual route, streaming an event to online attendees is a great way to extend reach while maintaining that physical connection. There are a number of ways to do this, from streaming parts of the event live or making keynote addresses available after the event. This hybrid will likely continue to gain traction during the COVID-19 pandemic or until it is safe to meet in large groups again.
Melissa Hugel is the marketing manager at WorkCast, a software-as-a-service platform designed to bring together innovative online events with proactive support. WorkCast and its team make webinars, webcasts and virtual events simpler and more engaging, allowing users to generate more leads and connect with audiences on a global scale. Melissa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.