While virtual events can’t replace side-by-side conversations and social bonding when guests are meeting in-person, virtual and hybrid events will be part of our new normal. It’s time to embrace it. This means stepping out of your comfort zone to be in front of your clients and to do so in a format that you may not be familiar with. But, what are virtual and hybrid events? Let’s first define what both of these event types are:
A virtual event is one that takes shape solely online rather than in-person at a venue. Virtual events combine the use of technology and various re-streaming platforms to communicate the message of the event to guests via laptop, desktop or mobile device. In-person conferences, break-out sessions, trade shows, educational seminars, fundraising galas and more can all make the move to virtual.
A hybrid event is a combination of a live and in-person event that is married with virtual options – the best of both worlds. According to the Event Marketing 2020: Benchmarks and Trends report, the majority (85%) of leaders and executives have identified in-person events as critical for their company’s success. If there are barriers as to why some guests can’t attend in-person or if you want to reach a wider audience, hybrid events are one to consider.
Now, let’s talk about what steps should be taken to make your new event a stand-out!
1. Just Breathe.
It is time to step back, spend time evaluating your next steps and just breathe. Virtual events take time to design, require thoughtful planning and research into understanding the best digital platform for your needs. With how quickly technology is changing, connecting with local event professionals to discuss those details would be a good first step to take. Surrounding yourself with those that understand the dynamic world of events will save you time and resources.
2. Don’t Pull Back on Your Budget.
Even though you may not be getting all of your guests together in-person to enjoy your hors d’oeuvres at the social hour, now is not the time to make cuts in your budget, even if you are lowering the headcount to the chef. Those funds may be “eaten-up” by enhanced technology, event and production teams to assist in the planning stages and fulfilment of external communication plans. See where you can minimize items in your budget while enhancing areas that you need to so that your event can still be stellar.
3. Content is King.
Keeping your guests engaged throughout your virtual or hybrid event is incredibly important. This could mean that you will need to change-up your agenda a bit to be more visual as you keep in mind your guests streaming from home. Building in interactive moments throughout such as on-screen polls, live Q&A with speakers, virtual scavenger hunts and wellness breaks are ways to keep your event fresh. You will also want to incorporate shorter main-stage speaking segments or breakout sessions that are only 45-minutes. Guests lose interest more easily when they are in a virtual setting and can become distracted. Also, keep in mind that your virtual guests may be in different time zones – don’t start too early!
4. Promote. Prepare. Practice.
Building out a detailed event communication plan is imperative to not only your brand and message, but also to build your guest list. Increased promotion of virtual and hybrid events requires communications to be more frequent. The more you talk about the event, the more people will show up. Promotion should start at least 3.5 weeks prior to the launch of the event. Within that communication plan, schedule three separate rehearsals to include time with your event and production team, your speakers and then bringing both together for a dry-run of the event. With technology, there’s bound to be falters; therefore, you will want to get those kinks worked out prior to launching.
5. Post-Event Stewardship.
Just as you would do for a live and in-person event, don’t forget to push “send” on that survey within 24-hours of your event. Be sure to build into your communication plans, ways to not only thank your guests, but also how to continue engaging them until your next event.
All in all, instead of focusing on what you can’t do, shift that mindset to what you can do. Nothing will replace conversations that you have with the person sitting next to you at a conference or shaking hands with those that you know. The value of face-to-face events is part of the success of so many organizations; however, finding innovative ways to reach clients is essential as we engage virtually.