The value of face-to-face interaction will never go away, but there are times when going virtual is a necessary part of your event program. But how do you turn a multi-day conference, filled with networking opportunities, educational sessions, and the attendee insights they generate into virtual events?
And once you do, how do you ensure attendees are engaged throughout the event?
Hosting a virtual event requires the same care and attention as an in-person event. In both cases, you need to craft an event strategy to effectively promote the event, engage your attendees, create memorable moments for attendees, and prove event success. The only thing that’s missing is the venue and the attendees on-site. But, by thinking of virtual events not as small one-off presentations or as a webinar, but as value-added, engagement-driven experiences, you can create an impactful event that extends well beyond a computer screen.
Odds are you’ve attended a webinar online, watched an on-demand workout class, or joined a meeting using a video conferencing tool. You might even have attended a conference from the comfort of your desk. These are all examples of virtual events. A virtual event is one where individuals experience the event and its content online rather than gathering in-person. According to Google Trends, the world is pivoting to virtual more and more.
Main Types of Virtual Events
When it comes to your total event program, virtual events can be added to the mix of events you host, events you attend, and your internal events. Virtual events are not a replacement for other types of events, but a new type to add and to enhance your entire program. Below are the four main types of virtual events.
What is a webinar? Webinars typically last somewhere from 30 to up to 80 minutes. The advantage of hosting webinars is that they allow attendees from around the world to join in and listen as one or more speakers present the content. Companies can charge attendees to join webinars using online payment services or can be offered for free. Webinars typically use video conferencing tools that allow Q&A, the ability to present live or a pre-recorded video, and be offered as on-demand after the fact. Due to their one-off educational nature, webinars have thrived with 100% virtual attendance. These can also include internal and external training.
2. Virtual Conferences
Much like in-person conferences, virtual conferences are built around a live, complex agenda that includes keynotes, sessions, breakouts, and more. Virtual conferences include multi-session content and can involve community engagement tools. While not as effective in terms of lead capture and networking as an in-person event, virtual conferences allow attendees to view keynotes in real-time, build their own agenda from relevant, on-demand content, and interact with other attendees.
3. Internal Hybrid Events
These are town halls, sales kick-offs, companywide events, trainings, department meetings, and more. For organizations that span countries, even continents, internal hybrid events are used to share a message to the entire company when employees are not all gathered in the same place. While it would be great to fly every employee to your organization’s headquarters, it would be incredibly costly, and the scheduling required would be time-consuming. The next best option is to host events that are part in-person, part virtual. Virtual team-building activities can work well at internal hybrid events.
4. External Hybrid Events
These events are held for those outside of your organization. They can be user conferences or industry conferences. These events require higher levels of video production so that virtual attendees are provided a similar quality to in-person attendees. These events allow attendees who are unable to travel to the event to participate and learn. It is challenging to provide the same value at external hybrid events, as in-person attendees are able to network more freely and engage easily with content than those attending virtually.
5. Virtual Exhibitions
Putting aside the fact that many may have felt forced into trying this new way of approaching events, there’s actually a whole host of fantastic benefits for everyone involved, and plenty of ways that virtual exhibitions can provide an enhanced experience for both your audience and for you as marketers or event organizers. As is the case with other virtual events, your ability to attract a wider audience via digital has become very popular worldwide.
6. Virtual Seminars
These events have typically been used to showcase product offerings in intimate settings like restaurants, in-person. The digital boom has brought these type of marketing/sales events online, bringing with them a similar level of engagement if planned properly.
7. Virtual Exhibition
Exhibitions were obviously created as in-person experiences, and in that format work best. But they still work virtually. According to Forbes, there will be a comeback for exhibitions – we’ve already seen it. But they do need to be approached differently, and having the right strategy in place will help you thrive in the virtual world. At Movazi Afrika (link this to contact us form) we shall work with you in making any type of virtual event a reality.
Why Host a Virtual Event?
Virtual events are held for the same reasons as in-person events: to deliver your company’s message to drive leads and revenue, drive adoption, and build loyalty lifetime value. Meeting and event planners have been making the choice between in-person, virtual, and hybrid events for years and each type of event comes with its own set of pros and cons. For instance, a webinar benefits from being virtual as it is purpose-built to cast a wide net to deliver thought-leadership, training, or some other content, whereas a user conference or regional training program is purpose-built to create 1:1 in-person interactions that face-to-face delivery enhances. This year, Microsoft pivoted to virtual with their Build developer conference. When deciding whether or not to make your event virtual, consider what you hope to gain from the event and how well those goals can be reached virtually versus in-person.
Here are a few reasons to host a virtual event:
- Accessibility: While the event is still being held in-person, virtual options allow you to accommodate attendees who are unable to attend in person.
- Budget: Your organization needs to cut costs and making smaller events and webinars virtual can help move money to the biggest event of the year that brings in the largest number of leads. It also helps to have a virtual or hybrid option when attendee budgets to travel are a concern.
- There’s no other option: Whether due to the extreme weather, travel bans, or an act of God, you’re forced to make your in-person event virtual or cancel it altogether.