Gemma Lowry from The Engagement Group shares tips on how to benefit and the opportunities of virtual events.
With Coronavirus imposing travel restrictions around the world, event cancellations are happening every day. A hard outcome to face, when you’ve spent months planning your event only to have to cancel so close to the date.
We understand how daunting it can seem as you restart the planning process, and it’s easy to view virtual events as a last resort. The situation should be an opportunity for you to look at communication in a new light – and challenge the norm of what an event can be.
We offer a complete solution of program development, content creation and production – all starting with a platform-agnostic approach. As established experts in live and virtual events, we’ve been creating and producing webcasts for blue chip clients for over 20 years, in 2019 alone we delivered over 450 virtual events engaging hundreds of thousands of employees.
From our standpoint, we’d like to share with you the benefits and opportunities of virtual events… so you and your audience can get the most value out of yours.
You won’t be surprised to learn that, in the last couple of weeks, our Hybrid & Virtual Events team has been inundated with briefs.
We’re hearing a lot of questions: can we do this event virtually? How can we do it? Will all the sessions and breakouts we’ve planned be kicked to the kerb?
There may be a sense of pressure because of the short lead times, apprehension about entering unfamiliar territory, and even cynicism about what can be achieved with a virtual event.
Let's pause for thought.
We tend to think of virtual events as video conferences. But they’ve come on a long way. Our opportunities have opened up – so there’s no need to halve your content delivery, cut breakouts from the agenda, or deliver long livestreams of PowerPoint presentations. It’s not about putting a camera in a room and hoping people attend. Your virtual event can and should be more than a quick fix.
What 'more' could look like, people are getting excited about. The likes of Forbes and WIRED are reporting about VR event spaces where, through a headset you can ‘re-create’ the experience of sitting in a row of chairs and watching a presenter on stage. While that’s a technical feat, we don’t believe it’s an experience worth the spend or your audience’s time – and we say this as an agency with a highly successful VR & AR capability.
Let’s not force virtual events to be something they’re not, but celebrate what they are. It all goes back to your objectives and your audience. What do you want to create? Not ‘re-create’ for technology’s sake.
When we realise we can do better, we can make something more appealing and engaging. Virtual events have their own merit: they’re a lifeline to connect with your audience on another level, different to what face-to-face offers.
We believe virtual events can deliver on your meeting objectives just as well as a face-to-face… and in some ways, better!
Just so you know…
At The Creative Engagement Group, we take an agnostic approach to platforms – we aren’t a virtual event tech platform business. There are already plenty of brilliant platforms out there, which we know and use to deliver virtual and hybrid events for our clients.
Instead, we provide creative and strategic partnership in virtual event planning and content. We design user experiences and content in ways that don’t just replicate face-to-face but exploit the benefits of going virtual. We’ve done this for many years, for a wide range of clients.
Here are three reasons a virtual event could be exactly what you need…
Technology has changed the way we interact in our personal lives, but have we exploited its full potential at work? The likes of Skype and Slack helped us transition to flexible working – a new phenomenon. Imagine the networks we can build if we approach the tradition of events with the same gusto. Think about it: no seats to fill, no need to limit your attendee list. You can extend the reach to hundreds more, including people who would normally have to wait for the cascade after a face-to-face meeting.
Consider this a chance to engage your audience differently – literally sharing control with them to co-create the event. Let your audience define what they ‘show up for’ by designing satellite sessions for niche communities. No more wasting people’s time with ‘old news’ or presentations that are only pertinent to some of your audience. We find a lot more meaning in experiences we’ve co-created. You can add that meaning and value to future projects, for example sharing crowdsourced stories in an employee engagement campaign.
Take this opportunity to give your content a wider reach and a longer lifespan. Viewing virtual events as ‘just livestreams’ doesn’t do justice to the content you’ve taken care to produce. It was worth planning your face-to-face event around your content, so a virtual event shouldn’t devalue it by not treating it as well as you intended. In fact, virtual should treat your content better, driving up its value as it becomes the core substance of the meeting. Let your audience spend quality time with your content, interact with it, and replay sessions post-live.
These are the main benefits of virtual events – in our experience. But how to make the most of those benefits?
Here are our top tips for designing and delivering an inclusive, inspirational virtual event:
With no venue, networking dinner or reception, your content is what makes the virtual experience. In other words, content rules the user experience – and we must respect it. Make the time to prepare what you want to say. It’s critical to define this as early as possible, so you have time to craft it with a content agency and nail your meeting objectives.
Have fun delivering your content, and your audience will have more fun with it too. Virtual provides a welcome break from tradition, so it doesn’t need to be death-by-PowerPoint! Can your content come to life as an interactive video series; a book club for your new brand guidelines; or multiplayer VR training? What would you be excited to see land in your inbox? Our team of hybrid and content producers can help you create the right mix of formats, technology and media to serve your objectives.