A year has passed since that ‘day in March’ when the industry shut down. We are lucky in Australia to be back having in-person events with COVID Safe Plans in place, however the virtual event became our new norm (with hybrid this year). After a year of problem solving and jumping hurdles in the virtual event world I’m happy to share what I’ve learnt if you are considering virtual as an option for your next event.
Make the program dynamic
It is so important that the attendees are engaging and excited about the different styles of sessions on the program. Make sure you have a good mix of participation and interaction and also some where they can sit back and listen passively – perhaps ask a question or two.
Don’t make the program jam packed
We’ve never talked about our attention span this much in our history I guess. Yes, it is true that we can only focus limited time before getting distracted and considering that many virtual attendees access the event from their office or home, we need to factor in that there will be more distractions around them then being at the live event. So the initial advice was we to make the event short and sweet.
However, I find that rather than focusing on making everything short and tight, it is more important to give enough break time so they don’t feel like they have to committee 100% of their time in the event and not do anything else. Give them some breathing room so they can actually sit in and listen to the live content rather than thinking ‘Oh I will do other things and come back to watch the recordings later’. My advice is to take a bit more of a relaxed approach and not make it all so intense.
Have space for the introverts amongst us
Last year I felt we were obsessed with the idea of making the best virtual networking opportunities possible so we could quench our thirst for social interaction and business networking. Hence we often included many forced networking features where attendees needed to turn their video and microphone on to interact with other attendees. Let’s remember there are many introverted attendees who are as shy in the virtual environment as they are in person. Make sure to create a space for them online by having options where people can choose who they meet with, and when. Perhaps they’d prefer to just use text chat rather than video calling? Again the more options you can provide the happier your audience will be.
Spend time to find the right MC
With virtual events, your MC’s role is crucial to your event’s success more than ever. Do your research, spend some time to check if they have performed in front of a camera without a live audience and what kind of effort they have been putting into performing as a virtual MC. You have to brief them thoroughly with any relevant information about the event and do rehearsals (Yes, not just one, but many if you have time). They are the key person who will drive the event and engage the whole audience.
Don’t just give options, use engagement tools with a call to action
We all know that there is so much technology out there and it is tempting to load up as much as possible all so everyone can use it. However, what I have found more important is to create a call to action plan so attendees find your technology hooks attractive enough to use. For example, incentivise them to submit live questions, connect with other attendees or visit exhibitors. I’ve found running a live poll at the beginning of the session to kick things off works brilliantly to wake up a virtual audience. . Strategically plan your delegates’ journey in the platform – just like an in person event, don’t leave anything to chance
I’m sure the next 12 months will see continued change, new technology and more lessons to learn as we move more and more into the world of hybrid events – so watch this space I’ll be back with more lessons soon.
Thinking of going virtual or hybrid? Don’t fall into the trap of being led by technology. Nectar Creative Communications are digital event strategy experts, who can deliver seamlessly on our virtual event delivery platform. Contact us and let’s talk about how we can help you with your virtual, hybrid or in-person conference or event.