Making the most of any virtual event platform
Virtual event platforms: making the biggest impact
Virtual event platforms have become very familiar in recent years, thanks to the switch away from live events that necessarily occurred during the COVID pandemic. Businesses had to shift all meetings and events to the digital space, with conference calls over platforms such as Zoom and Teams, while theatre-goers only had the option of watching productions from their own homes via streaming services, and sports fans couldn‘t attend matches in person, but had to rely on televised events.
This sparked renewed interest in virtual event platforms, including Crowdcomms, Hopin and Big Marker, while virtual event organisers had more choice as new entrants to the market appeared. They all offer slightly different benefits, as we discussed in a blog about the best virtual event platforms a little while ago, but while the features of each one is important, it’s just as important to make sure your content is relevant, meaningful and memorable. It doesn’t matter how polished the delivery, unless the content hits just right you could lose your audience and potentially their custom as well as your credibility and reputation.
With this in mind, we’ve come up with our top tips for getting the most out of virtual events:
Make your proposition compelling
With so much digital content out there on so many virtual event platforms, why is it that people should choose to view your content? Clearly presenting the benefits that chime with your target audience, and implicitly conveying the reason why your virtual event is more appealing that your competitors’ offerings, will help you capture the attention of the maximum number of viewers.
Choose your platform wisely
While content is of course king, your virtual event platform choice will make the world of difference when it comes to delivering the best user experience. The platform is your stage, so it needs to be interesting and engaging as possible. Look carefully at engagement, sponsorship and networking features, as well as cost considerations. Of course, we always offer our clients steer on which virtual event platforms will help support their objectives most effectively, so do drop us a line if this is something we can help you with.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes
What do you think matters most to your audience? What do they need to know, and what functionality would help them engage with your virtual event most effectively? Consider whether a large event with a more passive watching style would deliver what’s required, or a smaller event with greater interactivity between attendees and presenters, or even between attendees. Would a hybrid event work best, if some of your audience would rather attend in person? Plan your event with the value to participants front and centre, and you will achieve much better engagement, whichever virtual event platform you are using.
Would a hybrid event be a better choice?
It’s important to decide the answer to this question early on in your planning process, before you even choose a virtual event platform. While post-COVID audiences are more aware of the benefits of virtual events – and so too are event organisers, who recognise the greater reach and lower costs involved with the digital space – it’s certainly the case that plenty of people are keen to go to events in person, now that it’s an option again. A hybrid event can offer the best of both worlds.
Preparation is key
Any event, whether virtual or in-person, requires meticulous preparation and planning to ensure it runs smoothly, and that the team knows how to handle any hiccups or challenges. Rehearsals and run-throughs of your agenda are a must, but so too is thorough testing of the technology involved, including making sure presenters know how to work the virtual event platform software, together with checking you have contingencies in place in case of breakdowns or technical issues.
Don’t overuse technology
Technology is not a silver bullet, but it is an enabler. No virtual event platform can guarantee you a successful event, but it can help you with the delivery of a well-honed schedule of carefully targeted content, that has been created to meet your audience’s expectations. Focus on the quality of your content, and the opportunities for participant engagement, and you’ll ensure the most effective connection with the people you are looking to reach with your messaging.
Build the right team
Any business runs on its people, and any business event really does hinge on the quality of its events team. Make sure you have experienced events staff, aided by motivated support staff, to dictate the strategy, since whatever technology is in play, the fundamentals of planning and marketing will be the same. If you don’t have technical expertise in-house, outsourced tech experts are a good bolt-on; make sure they’re happy to work collaboratively with your team, know the virtual event platform you’re using inside-out, and share the same drive to achieve your event’s specific objectives.
Consider audience pressures and barriers
The further we get away from pandemic conditions, the greater the number of people who are happy to mix inside in person, but it’s worth remembering that some are still COVID-cautious for health reasons. Offering a virtual event option will cater to this need, as well as to potential participants for whom travel to a live event would be a prohibitive time or cost commitment, will maximise your audience through increasing accessibility. It’s worth thinking about the event time itself, too. Now life has opened up again many are as busy as they were pre-COVID; keep an eye on event durations, and of course make sure that the value people can draw from an event is worth the time that they spend engaging with it.
Did you achieve your objectives?
It’s critical to know what your event’s objectives are when you start planning – before even choosing a virtual event platform, or setting a content schedule – and it’s also important to make them measurable. Setting KPIs that can be proven through data will mean that you can pinpoint where you were successful, and also where improvements can be made next time. You might want to consider sales, in-event interactions, or sign-ups as suitable metrics to measure your event’s success.
Don’t let all your hard work go to waste, make sure you have a plan to continue the relationship with your event attendees after they have logged off. Participants will often become prospects or even warm leads when an event goes well, so capture that benefit and use your channels of communication to remind them of your organisation’s offering and benefits. Would email marketing be appropriate? Maybe they would be interested in a newsletter? What about a follow-up event? Keeping your brand front of mind will mean that they think of you first when they are in a position to make a purchase, whatever sector you are in, even if a sale isn’t imminent.