HOW TO TRANSITION YOUR LIVE EVENT PLANNING TO VIRTUAL
Resources to Adapt Your Event and Meeting Plans
Imagine a time when Planet Earth buzzed and whirred with fax machines and that unmistakable dial-up internet noise; a time before iPhones, when PalmPilots reigned supreme; mankind slumbered, unaware it needed to keep up with the Kardashians; cyberspace wasn’t flooded with portraits of appetizers; and the selfie hadn’t been invented.
No, it’s not a trailer for Jurassic Park 4 or yet another dystopian Netflix series; it’s the early 2000s, which gave rise to TER’s first virtual event. While technology has come a long way and a single smartphone can replace the caravan of white satellite trucks we once needed on-site, the fundamentals of successful virtual events have remained.
Here are six takeaways that should be top of mind if you’re looking to go virtual or add a virtual component to your live event.
Production Value Reflects Your Brand Equity
Production Value is a critical aspect of any live or virtual event. A production team manages the nuances that make it a true production, not just a web meeting or webinar. The team includes technicians and line producers to make the real-time moments run smoothly, just like live television. This allows you to focus on content that drives ROI for your different audiences. Each event elevates or diminishes your brand equity for future events. Thus, it’s critical that your virtual events are seen as deliberate, focused, and polished. Audiences demand higher quality in a 4K world than they did in Wayne’s World.
Production Value is a Product of its Environment
You may be wondering how to plan a virtual event. Attendee engagement, strong energy, and high polish throughout are hallmarks of a successful experience. Avoid a droning, impersonal feel with in-studio production and a small audience for presenters. On top of providing valuable real-time feedback that improves presentations, in-studio production allows for a controlled environment and dedicated bandwidth needed to execute a virtual experience. This eliminates amateur production, unreliable connections, distracting backgrounds, and sound quality. Providing your virtual attendees with a high-quality production enhances your content and builds credibility. That credibility widens the audience for your next event, be it live or virtual. It begins with creating the right environment. While a child or a pet cameo might seem like a fun guest appearance, it will be difficult to keep your audience’s focus on your message.
Content Remains King
Studies have revealed virtual engagement is 50% less than physical engagement and your audience is just a click away from leaving your presentation. Building an experience that keeps them engaged is essential. While a virtual medium demands a change in tactics, do not let it change your strategy. Focus your content and communication goals around the best designed meeting for you and your attendees. Interactive content ideas include virtual expo booths, storefronts with e-commerce shopping experiences, scavenger hunts, live Q&A, on-demand content post-event, and more. When transitioning to a virtual event, be creative with your approach and respect your audience like you would in person. Assume you’re the 19th virtual meeting they’ve had that day and establish how yours will be the one they remember.
Unburden Your Presenters
Imagine two identical presentations. In one, the presenter focuses solely on sharing his/her message in the most compelling and impactful way. In the other, the presenter tries to moderate, answer inbound questions, monitor his/her video and sound, and advance the presentation, all while delivering his/her message. Thoughtful preparation allows speakers to focus on messaging and delivery by providing a support team to moderate, manage AV, and quarterback live interaction during the session. Preparation might also include coaching to help maintain energy and pace, focusing on smaller and more easily digestible amounts of content, and creating a fun learning experience. Pre-production rehearsals, advanced audio and lighting tests, and tutorials on what to expect throughout their presentation are just a few more ways to prepare presenters to maximize effective messaging. If you know of an engaging presenter who can deliver a compelling, multi-slide presentation while seamlessly answering live and virtual audience questions and working their own sound and video, stop reading this and hire them at once. If you haven’t met one of these unicorns, don’t worry. You can still make virtual meeting magic by reducing your presenter’s responsibilities and allowing him/her to do what they do best: communicate.
Customize to Connect
Customized experiences keep your attendees engaged, focused, and collaborating. Networking behind a computer screen is indeed possible and ensures attendees walk away more knowledgeable and connected than before. Touchpoints like customized advance mailers for early bird registrants can be used to entice and engage attendees in a targeted way throughout the event. Select breakouts and interactive workshops facilitate smaller, collaborative groups. Virtual lobbies and lounges provide quiet space for further focused interaction. Social media walls build digital bonds while simultaneously growing your engagement. Leverage customization to enhance attendees’ digital experience. During this time of relative isolation, you can still empower attendees to feel engaged, important, and connected, which is important because we all get by with a little help from our friends.
Go for the Gold
Sponsorship opportunities can be used to partially or fully offset the investment required for the above. They also help build a strong coalition of partners. Using live show tools like a walk-in loop, music, on-screen videos, a moderator, and an emcee are great ways to incorporate sponsorship into your virtual event. Commercials and live introductions serve as premium ways for sponsors to showcase themselves. Maximize ROI by creating sponsorship opportunities that will help support your event and create long-term value for all stakeholders. A thorough sponsorship prospectus, detailing what is available for both cash and in-kind donations, will increase your revenue and drive your sponsor participation rate.
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