Transitioning to a virtual event can be a daunting task. Even the most seasoned event professionals have been required to refocus business practices and adjust to this digitized new normal. If planned and executed properly, virtual events can provide the same value, impact, and overall attendee engagement as in-person meetings. The process of virtual event planning can seem overwhelming, but with the demand for online accessibility, knowing where to begin is the first step. Check out our team’s quick tips for planning your next digital program.
Choosing the Right Platform
With so many platforms out there to choose from, how do you know which system will best suit your needs? We recommend taking a holistic approach to virtual event planning. Consider all aspects of your event and desirable goals when making a decision. Create a comprehensive list of key priorities to identify the top features to look out for during the research and demo stage. For example:
- Is networking an essential reason for your event? Ensure your platform has plenty of opportunities to boost attendee interaction.
- Are sponsors and exhibitors a primary focus? Look for a platform that has a wide range of partnership visibility and reporting.
- Is security a concern for you and your audience? Confirm whether or not the platform provides security testing and proper compliance documentation.
As we know, each event is unique and has its own set of demands, so defining your goals is an essential first step.
Screen Time Overload
When starting to plan your agenda for a virtual event, there are a few areas to take into account that may not hold as much weight compared to an in-person event. Most widely known, virtual attendees experience endless distractions ranging from their emails and notifications, internet browsers, and of course background noise. Thus, it’s important to:
- Consider how long each session will be. A good rule of thumb to follow is that for every hour of a live presentation that holds an attendee’s attention, only about half that time will work in a virtual setting. Offer concise, rich content to keep participants focused and engaged.
- Stay away from two-hour long or back-to-back sessions. If your sessions exceed over 8 hours, plan on spreading your conference over multiple days to lighten the strain on your attendee’s attention span.
- Keep participants involved by utilizing interactive methods such as polling, question and answer, and file sharing.
If virtual networking and exhibitor interaction are essential for your meeting, make sure to build in dedicated opportunities for socialization on your agenda. Provide some structure and guidance around activities that encourage virtual engagement. Unlike an in-person event, you miss out on running into people in the hallways, so it is essential to provide moments that spark conversation. Utilize features like open chat, matchmaking, or moderated interviews to keep the discussion going.
Gauge Your Attendee’s Technical Aptitude
A common mistake is overlooking the technical aptitude of your audience. Just because over 50% of the world’s population are active internet users, does not mean everyone is an expert in virtual event software. To accommodate everyone’s comfort level, enlist in some technical customer service prior to the event. Send out a few questions in a pre-event survey or allow attendees to submit any electronic concerns in advance.
As a best practice, don’t overcomplicate your event with too many gadgets or portals. Depending on your attendee’s perceived comfort level, you can offer additional digital features, but keep the overall process straightforward and user-friendly for optimal virtual engagement.
Dress Rehearsal Anyone?
Rehearsing before you go live for your virtual program is one of the most critical steps to properly prepare. Set time aside to rehearse with your team and practice, practice, practice! All speakers and any other participants who will be on camera need to be set up, engaged, and properly trained. Just as you would plan sound checks and presentation reviews for your in-person sessions, you will need to do the same here— and probably more!
As a best practice, provide a detailed speaker kit that reviews the platform, how the session will operate, and what you need from them (i.e. polling questions or introductory script). Schedule a meeting for a 1:1 rehearsal and final run-through — and don’t forget your exhibitors! Provide them with training as well to assist them with maximizing their value and participation in the event. Thorough preparation is key!
Don’t Go At it Alone!
Working with a team of experts can significantly contribute to the success of the program. With virtual engagement and event planning still being relatively new in the greater online community, it is a considerable undertaking to gather the necessary knowledge to produce a seamless and sophisticated virtual program. This is where we come in! We have insight into a multitude of platforms and technologies in the marketplace, along with specific best practices, pricing guides, and ideas that we have developed for various programs. Our virtual event planning expertise will save you time, resources, and manual labor, as we help you execute your virtual event like a pro.
Contact us to go beyond the screen to create a meaningful experience.
This blog post was authored by Diane Ambrogio.