Angie Harms of London-based event management software company Shocklogic runs through some common mistakes for virtual events, and makes some suggestions for how to improve them.
The unavoidable shift to online events has highlighted a surprising number of advantages that many organisations will find difficult to ignore, even in a post-Covid world. It seems safe to say virtual events are likely to remain a significant part of the industry landscape for the foreseeable future, and it’s well worth exploring what they have to offer.
Here are a few of the key selling points for taking your event online:
– Virtual events are global: They allow anyone, anywhere in the world to attend, and this increased reach can also expand sponsorship opportunities.
– They are sustainable: The environmental benefits associated with reductions in travel, printed materials, and other onsite waste speak for themselves.
– They are flexible: Venue availability becomes a non-issue, and since content can be left online indefinitely, the life cycle of the event is easily extended.
– They save time and money: For attendees, virtual events eliminate the need to purchase flights and book hotels. For organisers, the costs associated with venue hire, onsite staff, printed signage, and the provision of food and drink are entirely eliminated.
The virtual event experience
Even the webinar experience can be interactive and dynamic. At Shocklogic, we believe there are several key elements to any virtual auditorium.
Your platform should provide:
• A waiting room for attendees who log in early with a countdown to the beginning of the session.
• A Green Room to welcome speakers and prepare them for the event.
• The ability to view the speaker and slides simultaneously.
• A moderated chat that can be used for live Q&A and polling. This allows participants to interact with one another, and with the speaker. Questions from attendees can be controlled by the moderator, and ‘up-voting’ can highlight popular questions.
• A list of participants. This provides a who’s-who of the event’s stakeholders: attendees, moderator, speakers. It also fosters a sense of community and encourages interaction.
• Downloadable handouts and slides.
In addition, your platform should be fully branded with the look and feel of your organisation, and keeping your event browser-based will ensure maximum compatibility/accessibility with minimal technical difficulties.
A changed landscape
The events of 2020 have produced a trial by fire for virtual events platforms on a global scale, and the relative success of this shift has come as a surprise to many.
Indeed, even as onsite events begin to resume, organisers will be forced to grapple with the logistics of keeping participants safe for some time to come. Social distancing recommendations may continue to limit venue capacities, and providing proof of health or vaccination may add a new step to registration processes. The landscape of the travel industry is also likely to remain disrupted, and some sections of the population may continue to avoid air travel, even after restrictions are loosened.
The future of the events sector will inevitably be shaped by everything that has happened in 2020, but the crisis can be viewed as an opportunity. The ability to move events online will make the industry more resilient to adverse circumstances in future, and we will continue to adapt and refine virtual events to make them better than they have ever been.