Opinion /

Navigating the world of Virtual Events

2020 saw a dramatic shift to the ways in which we interact with each other. The COVID-19 pandemic saw events around the world disrupted, from conferences to awards across every sector. Although smaller gatherings will be permitted under lower levels of government restrictions, for the moment large physical gatherings are a thing of the past. People around the world have had to rethink the ways in which they can engage with stakeholders, which has resulted in the exponential rise in popularity of virtual events.

Whilst the concept of virtual events is not new, it is something which before now was not seen as the primary way for businesses to reach their stakeholders. As physical distancing guidelines came into effect, the importance of virtual events has become prominent.

For many businesses this is the first time that they have been required to look at changing the way in which they host events. This may seem like a daunting prospect, but once you become aware of the resources available to help with the production of your event then you may be wondering why you didn’t go virtual sooner!

What are virtual events?

A virtual event is any event that could have been held in a physical setting but is held online instead. This has scope to cover any kind of event that businesses would have hoped to have held this year, as well as affording new opportunities which, perhaps, seemed unfeasible before. 

Virtual events create the possibility for larger numbers of participants to attend, as well as making an event accessible to a wider audience. They can range from interviews to site visits, awards ceremonies to conferences. Now is the opportune time to use these events to reengage with stakeholders.

Picture: Edward Jenner

Creating virtual events

Preparation is the key to a hosting a successful virtual event. It is vital to understand what value the event will add to your business, knowing what content will keep the audience engaged and being aware of technical considerations around production. The same amount of thought and care that goes into a physical event is required to create an experience for the participant that will make your virtual event memorable.

There are a multitude of ways through which you can virtually reach your desired audience. Software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have developed as favourites for creating interactive live events in recent months. Social media platforms can also be used as streaming tools. Live streaming features on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be used for events such as Q&As, influencer takeovers or, even, interviews. If the aim of your event is business promotion, or to reach a very diverse audience all at once, using social media as a streaming platform can yield excellent results.

For many people new to the world of virtual events, and not from a tech background, the digital production element can seem off-putting. Event management companies are usually called upon for physical events, taking a degree of pressure off the company. Fortunately there are now services available that will perform the same function but will cater to your digital event needs. Such companies will handle the technical and production elements of your event, giving it a professional feel whilst taking the stress off you, the organiser.

Given the supports available, this is the perfect time to learn how to create seamless virtual event experiences for those who have never done so before.

Will a virtual event work for every business?

Virtual events are dynamic and variable. There are so many options available to make your event work, no matter what your business is or what expectations you have for your event. As the world has had to adapt to moving online for a lot of social interactions and events, the facilities are now there to support any event you can think of.

The most crucial thing to remember is that although your event is online you should treat it as if it’s physically happening. That means putting the same effort into preparation and production, but also, it is vital to consider promotion.  Promotion would play a big part in the planning process of your physical event and this does not change for your virtual event.  Arguably, it becomes even more important to build the hype.

So although this is the first foray for many businesses into the world of virtual events remember that there are a multitude of support options, as well as different platforms, that can suit the needs of any business. As virtual events become commonplace, the main thing to remember is that although your stakeholders may not be physically present, you can still engage directly with them in innovative and creative ways.

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