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It seems as we need to settle for virtual and online meetings for some time. Yes - settle, because the physical meeting and interaction between people are often unbeatable. So what to do when physical events remain problematic or impossible in some cases due to the Covid-19 crisis? Cancel? postpone? No! We do what we can do, we make the best of the situation and create digital, or even better, virtual events. And it's possible you could create a virtual event that beats a physical - at least that's the goal we think you should be aiming for.
And there's probably not a subject more relevant for me to preach on. I use to work as an event manager and producer. Before going all-out digital - I created, managed, and executed events. From thousands of concert-goers to small conferences - I've done it all. And I know the key factors like the back of my hand. On the other back of my other hand...and with the help of the sharp minds on my team, I know digitalization and have the best competence in IT at my fingertips. That's what you can call a very strong combination for managing virtual events.
In this post we give you an overview of what to keep in mind when creating your virtual event, we hope it will serve as a guide and inspiration. Of course, we would be happy to assist you in your virtual event planning as well.
Now, let's get to it!
An event is an event - regardless of the shape and form. It's a meeting between two or more people with a given purpose. The purpose might be to get information, learn new skills, networking, make decisions, be entertained...and so on. It's the event manager or producer's job to create the best possible experience for these two or more people towards fulfilling the purpose. Going virtual creates another dimension to the craft - technical skills to manage audio and video, streaming and IT security becomes as important (if not more) as the content of the event itself.
Because if you have a well-planned program, with key-note speakers, breakout sessions, and so forth - but lacking in technology, the stream is lagging or the audio isn't working, then it's not much of an event anyway. The virtual (or hybrid) event is an alloy of event management, classic TV production, and modern IT and tech skills. And they all need to play nicely together.
Shoving attendee's into a Zoom video conference and letting them have at it, is - well, it is an event, but not a very good one and will probably not serve the purpose.
A virtual event needs three main components to be a great experience for its participants:
In the next sections, we'll break down these components further.
The best advice I ever got when it comes to planning and executing events is to look at it like you're creating an experience. You want to give the participant an experience, like a story they are a part of. With this in mind, with a clear purpose and a thought-through agenda - you're halfway there. You might have heard of Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting - Warren Buffett's investment firms meeting with their shareholders is far from a stiff and boring conference.
Yes - the foundation of any event is very much about soft skills, whether its a rock concert or an annual corporate shareholders meeting, it starts with figuring out:
In what emotional state do we want our attendees at this event? Relaxed, sharp, joyful, serious, open-minded?
A good method for creating this kind of abstract atmosphere is to decide on a theme (not necessarily like Halloween or Cocktails but that's not unthinkable either) - think about the things you would like to highlight and what you want your visitors to take with them and memorize. Perhaps it could be "new innovation" "digitalization" or "history". If we're talking about corporate events, these types of themes may be fitting. Have these as a sort of brand value of the event. This will make planning easier and it will support your purpose in a great way. Because everything you decide on - from key-note speakers to decorations and content - should be in line with your events' brand values.
Give it a second and think of all the events you've attended yourself through the years - which ones do you remember and why?
Now we could get into the importance of minute-schedules, checklists, communication plans, and other project management efforts, but all of that is not worth much if the contents not any good.
When we talk about events in relation to marketing, event marketing is often referred to as the most powerful marketing tool. (But also the most expensive). The reason for events being such a great way of marketing is because you have a chance to affect all of the receiver's senses - smell, taste, hearing, touch, and vision - all at once. Now all of this can not be attended to with a virtual event - but there's a lot you can do to optimize for the senses you actually can affect. And we'll get to that in the next section.
Some tips when went it comes to virtual event management:
When it comes to technology skills there are two aspects to have in mind for your virtual event:
Let's start off with the video production.
What's the difference between when you put yourself in front of a camera by yourself and stream it online - or when, let's say, your favorite talk show host steps in front of the camera? Have a look at this clip below - James Cordon singing in a car with Stevie Wonder:
OK - so it's Stevie Wonder and he is awesome but other than that - it's a pretty simple setup, two guys in a car filming themselves, right? What makes this video not just good but exceptional is the audio and video production. The editing, cuts, lights, and pace makes you more engaged. And that's the difference you'll get using pros for video production rather than setting it all up yourself which often gives a kind of dull and sometimes unprofessional impression.
The difference in quality using professional video producers are significant, you'll notice right away. The sense of knowing when to cut, zoom, and break is in the backbone of these people - years of experience, gives them the right feeling of reflecting the purpose of your virtual event.
Regardless of the nature of your event - at least dedicate a resource to manage audio and video, hiring a professional not only increase the quality of your event it is also welcomed ease of mind knowing you have the backup needed if anything goes sideways.
Now that you figured out the importance of great professionals managing audio and video - you have other decisions to make.
Your virtual event can be offered as a live event that is either recorded or only available during the live viewing. Or it can be produced as a pre-recorded event available. Live-streamed virtual events offer exclusivity. Pre-recorded events are available for a longer amount of time and offer flexibility both for the attendees and for you as a host.
Live-streamed virtual events include everything possible to translate for the real-world event. When planning an online live event, it’s important to recreate live experiences like mingling and networking, and meet and greets in the online space. This is the most demanding and costly production for virtual events.
There might be reasons to create a fully live event - an inauguration or other time specific events - but in most cases you come a long way with a pre-recorded event - which also can include live events and interactions.
Pre-recorded virtual events could be as the name suggests - pre-recorded. But it could also be "live on tape". Meaning some content is pre-recorded but other is indeed live. It gives you the best of both worlds - pre-records key-note speeches and goes live for breakout sessions, Q & A's, and networking. There's plenty of benefits, the risk of things going wrong goes way down, it's a less demanding production, and your content can live for longer and be consumed at different times. Meanwhile, you get the interactions with the audience through the live sessions in between.
The choice of going fully live or "live on tape" also affects the need for equipment. Let's have a look at what's needed to create your virtual event.
When it comes to equipment make sure you have sufficient:
Good lighting makes all the difference. Be sure to have this in mind when choosing your venue or space. The lighting in the room might be enough or the natural light. If not you might want to invest in a simple light reflector or more advanced items.
You can get by with just a phone camera but larger events will require a more robust camera. When browsing your options - consider if you'll benefit from purchasing or if the rental is a better choice.
Good sound is probably more important than great vision. There's plenty of good equipment to look into and many systems that work well with your phone if you're going with that as your camera. If your choosing to prioritize video or audio, go with audio - otherwise go with both!
Video Streaming Software
You probably already have access to a live streaming platform on your phone. Free consumer platforms like Facebook Live have come a long way, but if you’re looking for increased reliability and reach, you’ll likely want to upgrade to a professional-grade streaming service for your virtual event. Professional live streaming services give you the ability to simulcast your stream to multiple social platforms, add polished graphics, set up a backup stream, embed the video on your site, and more.
Think about the following when choosing your streaming service:
Moreover, you might also need:
In order to broadcast your well-designed virtual events and the content, you need IT to work. The efforts you made to design a great experience and audio/video production will not be worth anything if you can't get the wi-fi working. Security is another issue to have in mind - make sure only the people invited are the ones attending. With the right IT-support, you can feel comfortable that every measure is taken to ensure your stream is broadcasted with great video and sound quality.
Now there's just the last piece of the puzzle missing for setting up a successful virtual event - the event hosting platform.
When your event does not take place in a physical space, it is crucial to have a virtual event platform that can support each planned session, keynote speech, and networking opportunity. Not only will a digital event platform allow you to pull off a seamless event, but it will also lead to a better overall experience for your guests.
A great platform and SaaS will handle much of the tasks listed in previous sections. There's a couple of more than capable services available that can manage, ticketing, agenda building, marketing and promotion, analytics and more.
There's a couple of features you should be able to check off when deciding on which platform to use. Depending a bit on the type of event your planning this may vary somewhat. But here's our top features and functions to look for:
You could hire a project manager to head your virtual event - but the parts of a video producer and IT-support are equally important if you want to uphold the right quality on your event. So a virtual event manager is really 3 parts:
These 3 roles make up the Virtual Event Manager - And usually, this type of competences are divided into 2-3 people.
I believe the meeting between people is important - perhaps now more than ever. It's the exchange of knowledge and experience that fuels progress. We shouldn't cancel - we should do what we can be given the circumstances and the very best we can do now - is to create excellent virtual events with the ambition to top a physical one!
There's nothing more exciting to me than planning and executing events - we would be happy to help you out with your next. Whether it's an annual shareholders meeting, conference, or rock concert! Welcome to contact us.
An annual meeting, executive conference or rock concert? Regardless of your needs, we'll help you create the ultimate virtual event Explore the many advantages with TeQflo as your partner - contact us today through the channel best suited for you!
Jonas Lundh, Growth Consultant
Jonas is TeQflo's digital marketing specialist who happens to have deep experience in event management as well.
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