Kim Taylor, Head of Collide, a Creative Business Unit of Eclipse Communications, mentioned that while some physical events will take place towards the end of 2020 and beyond, the benefits of virtual or hybrid events cannot be ignored, both now and in the future.
The Covid-19 pandemic upended the global business landscape in a matter of weeks, with events, conferences and meetings either cancelled or postponed until the latter part of 2020, at the earliest. Some meetings or events could not be postponed any longer, and organisers needed a solution that took health and regulatory requirements into consideration.
The solution has been to embrace 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) and embrace digital events which have, in some instances, attracted greater visitor numbers while living up to the promise of a memorable experience, no matter where delegates are in the world.
The virtual world
A virtual event can be described as one entirely run online. This involves no live in-person component, and instead, participants interact online. A hybrid event, a concept seeing increased popularity as a result of the easing of lockdown regulations, combines live in-person events with virtual online elements.
According to Congrex Switzerland’s Disruption In The Business Events Industry: Rising To The Challenges Of Covid-19 white paper, benefits of investing in online events include:
- Reduced costs: not needing a venue or catering allows for greater profitability.
- Increased attendance: attending remotely negates the need for travel, with visitors able to opt-in from anywhere with a connection.
- Greater measurability: the technology used can provide data that organisers can use to measure the event’s success in real time.
- Easy transition: adapting to virtual eventing is easier than it seems. Most people have already attended events such as webinars and online training courses.
There are countless options in the virtual world:
- Online training/workshops: one of the more popular online formats where trainers can interact with all attendees or individually.
- Virtual summits/conferences: best suited to small groups, this format allows for multiple speakers, break-out sessions and the opportunity for speakers and attendees to have direct interaction.
- Webinars: a virtual seminar, webinars are best suited to presenting to a large audience.
- Virtual meetups: most of us have used Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom.
- Virtual trade shows: not limited by geographical location, these virtual events facilitate direct interactions between exhibitors and attendees with interactive features, such as live chat and Q&A sessions.
For a virtual event to be a success, you have to keep your audience engaged.
- Create excitement ahead of the event.
- Make sure the topic is relevant to your audience.
- Interact with the audience during the event.
- Make use of technological advancements such as augmented reality.
- Make it memorable and ensure post-event interactions, additional input and feedback.
Think outside of the box and stand out from the crowd. Use innovations such as digital artist live scribing (where a professional artist or illustrator transforms abstract content into easy-to-understand images) to interact with the audience, or run a live competition during your event to keep the audience continuously glued to the screen.
Dancing to the digital tune
The music industry embraced the virtual eventing scene by hosting live-streams of famous artists for fans to enjoy from the comfort of their living rooms. From recording artists, DJs and bands, many artists are taking to the digital space to continue their craft and at the same time, raise much-needed funds for the global pandemic.
On 30 May, internationally-acclaimed DJ David Guetta staged a livestream dance party performance in New York benefitting the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Feeding America, the World Health Organisation and Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris – Hôpitaux de France. The event was live-streamed across Guetta’s various social media channels.
There are four main tips to consider when looking to host a successful virtual or hybrid event. These include:
1. Know your brand and audience
Knowing your brand and audience is crucial to effectively engaging your target audience, and will give you insights into what platform will be most effective, the time of day to host your event and a host of other insights.
2. Be creative
Organisers must think creatively to keep events relevant and engaging while continuing to build brand trust. This could mean using hybrid solutions such as having actual guests participate in the virtual experience.
3. Test before you go
Technology has let us all down at some point. It is important to test all technological aspects such as bandwidth speed, pre-record what you can, and do a few dry runs to make sure everything runs as it should.
4. Plan, plan and plan again
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Make sure you have accounted for every last detail and take into account every possible scenario and have a plan for it. The possibilities are endless, and the popularity of virtual and hybrid eventing is likely to grow exponentially post-pandemic. Businesses should invest in a strong digital presence and embrace the opportunities that the new norm presents.
Experiment with advancements such as virtual reality, there are countless opportunities to use technology to come up with exciting concepts that keep your audience engaged and enthralled like never before. Embrace the change.