Just 12 months ago, a virtual event wasn’t something many event organisers and marketers would have considered an essential part of their offering. While webinars were becoming ever more popular, these would be smaller in scale, shorter in time and narrower in scope than the ever-popular in-person conferences, awards and tradeshows that littered many industries’ calendars.
Fast forward to mid-2020, however, and virtual events have taken on a whole new level of importance, offering a way to futureproof a business and maintain contact with stakeholders despite the changeable times.
Why have virtual events become so popular?
This question could be answered in one word – coronavirus. While the technology to enable virtual events has been around for some time, the massive shifts in working practices and restrictions on movement that came in to effect globally in early 2020 resulted in the events industry having to respond quickly in order to be able to deliver content to their clients. Not only that, but businesses that wouldn’t normally host large gatherings also needed to find a safe way to engage customers and potential customers. This has led to virtual events increasing by 1,000% since the start of the pandemic, according to Forbes.
And while coronavirus may have been the catalyst for this change, there are other long-term global trends that mean we won’t see an end to virtual events once the pandemic is under control.
Take climate change, for example. Pre-COVID and the climate crisis was perhaps the biggest threat we faced globally, so it seemed only a matter of time before flying thousands of miles to attend a conference or visit a trade show would be seen as unsustainable. Also consider the added environmental impact of such events: the amount of waste created at venues themselves, particularly food waste and single use plastics, not to mention the energy required to run the actual event. Now that virtual events have proven themselves to be a viable alternative expect to see these continue.
Especially look out for more hybrid events, whereby a smaller number of delegates can attend a physical show with an online audience also present. By limiting attendance to those who are nearby and offering an alternative for those who would need to travel vast distances, not only can you extend your reach but there are clear environmental benefits too.
As younger people join the workforce, online events will only become more popular as this generation has grown up with video content as their key source of information and communication. From YouTube videos and TikTok to video calling and even education, younger people tend to be much more comfortable with online learning and appreciate the value of good content, so it’s important to get ahead of this trend now.
Top five types of virtual events
Pretty much any event that takes place in person can be transferred to a virtual offering in some way, but here are five event types that can be replicated particularly well in the virtual space:
- Webinar: An easy entry into the world of online events
- Conference/Summit: Larger, multi-speaker events perhaps offering on-demand content and networking spaces with multi-camera operation
- Tradeshow/Exhibition: Including virtual booths and the opportunity to arrange one-to-one meetings between exhibitors and attendees streaming to social media platforms or cross platform delivery
- Hybrid event: A combination of physical and virtual event to reach the widest possible audience
- Internal events/Training: Useful way to keep teams working and learning effectively while operating remotely
The benefits and challenges of virtual events
Now you know what virtual events are and the background behind them, it’s important to decide whether they would be a good fit for your market.
It’s safe to say that virtual events have a lot going for them no matter what sector you’re operating in. They’re better for the environment, they’re more accessible allowing you to reach a wider audience and they can be a more efficient way for attendees to engage with your content. They can also be an incredibly cost-effective option – for organisers and delegates. Organisers don’t have the costs associated with hiring a venue or supplying catering, and delegates don’t have to pay for travel, hotel and subsistence when away from the office. They’re also much more flexible — especially if you choose to offer the content on demand after the event – another great way to boost your audience and brand profile throughout the year.
Of course, there are some areas where virtual events struggle to replicate the physical environment. Networking is one aspect often cited here, so look for solutions that offer breakout rooms, social areas and even video conversations between attendees and speakers, all ways to encourage networking and those spontaneous conversations that are such an integral part of any meetups.
Also remember that remote attendees are more likely to be distracted than in-person guests. As they’re joining via tablet or laptop they’ll still have emails, phone calls and messages popping up and the temptation of browsing the internet if your content doesn’t keep their attention.
Finally, don’t underestimate the fear of the unknown. Many people haven’t joined a virtual event yet, they’re not quite sure of the protocol or what happens when they click to join a breakout space or raise their hand to ask a question. Factor this into your build up marketing material and aim to make the experience as comfortable as possible for everyone.
The key, therefore, is to deliver a bespoke event perfectly tailored to your audience. More brands than ever are vying for customers’ attention in the virtual space so really think about your event, what your attendees want to achieve from it and the level of professionalism that should be expected from your brand. All of this means that if your event is to stand out and attract the right audience, it’s vital that you deliver the right content and the best overall experience. Simply trying to recreate a live conference and hope people will tune in will not cut it.
Live streaming the key to virtual event success
And this is where choosing the right platform and the right provider is key to delivering the ultimate experience. When streaming your event you need to make sure you have a team you can rely on and one that has the technical prowess to manage any unexpected situations that may crop up when delivering live content. This was front of mind when making the decision to create StriveAV Live, and much time and investment has gone into developing not just a great team, but also an inventory list that has been tried and tested in the live production environment.
Live streaming can provide many benefits. By offering content live you can build a sense of excitement and urgency, encouraging attendees to tune in at a specific time or miss out on a spectacular event. It also offers a more personal experience for attendees. Not only can they ask questions and interact with the content, but with the right host or panel you can create a conversational experience simply by having the right video setup.
Video production techniques enable this to be taken a step further. Consider adding graphics, data and pre-recorded video to enhance your live stream, highlight upcoming sessions, add more speaker information or even include gamification elements to increase audience participation.
And, of course, post event, you’ll receive incredibly useful data on attendance and engagement that can be used to improve future events, and you can record the content to be used on the material that promotes those events.
StriveAV Live can deliver all this and more.
StriveAV Live and virtual events
StriveAV Live’s team of talented and experienced technicians, engineers, designers, directors, and more have worked on countless events. Whether this is your first online event or your hundredth, we’ll work with you to ensure you receive exactly the service you require. Whether that’s a full-service solution from initial concept to final production or simply technical support, scripting or camera operators, we’ll listen to your goals and requirements before delivering a bespoke service perfectly catered to your needs.
We understand the importance of connecting with customers and employees and the need to grow your market despite the incredibly challenging circumstances. StriveAV Live is here to support your business, take the stress out of virtual events and help you create engaging, interactive and thought-provoking productions.