Ok, so you're planning a virtual event and you've read the how-to guide, tips on monetising your virtual event and how you can grow your audience. However, having been to (probably) many virtual events yourself recently, you're still a bit unsure on how to tackle some elements of a virtual event that are proving a bit tricky.
That's why we've decided to list a few common hurdles organisers encounter when planning a virtual event so that you can spot them before they're an issue and make sure your user experience is the best it can possibly be.
Hurdle 1 - Encouraging attendees to get involved
When you're at an in-person event, whether that's a conference, exhibition, away day or literally any other event ever, we can sometimes feel a bit anxious to attend alone. This worry is usually resolved in the first few minutes, once you start chatting to your fellow attendees in the coffee line, or bump into an old acquaintance.
At a virtual event, you lose this small talk element and casual interaction between strangers, and this is sometimes where people retreat into themselves, turn their cameras off and simply watch the content then leave. But we don't want it to be this way!
The Solution - Provide opportunities to interact
There are no natural interaction opportunities here, so create them! Provide lots of opportunities for for your attendees to interact, but don't force it. For example, creating a low-stress environment where people can network with like-minded people will encourage those who want to interact to get chatting. To do this, find a platform which offers integrated AI-powered networking based on attendees' interests.
Awkwardness is the thing to remember here - it's going to be less awkward if there are common interests floating around, so stress to your attendees that everything is optional, there's no pressure and that you just want people to enjoy themselves talking about things they're interested in. You'd be surprised at how many people suddenly feel empowered to try it out.
Gamification is another good way to get attendees engaged and enjoying themselves. Building human interaction digitally is no mean feat, but once people start having fun they'll get more and more involved and are more likely to stay for the duration of the event.
Offering interactive elements is a winner at any type of virtual event - whether it's a virtual conference, virtual away day or even a virtual party, making people feel comfortable will make all the difference to their experience.
Hire Space Top Tip: Choose an events platform, such as Arena, which offers interactive elements such as live Q&As, emoji reactions and polls - these work wonders because as soon as one person gets the ball rolling, others will have the confidence to participate too. You could even plant one of your team in there to ask the first question!
Hurdle 2 - Using the tech
You may know the platform inside out, but assuming your attendees will is not going to set you up for a smooth event! Not everyone will be familiar with your chosen platform, and even if they know the basic functions they may not know all the ins and outs.
I don't know about you, but if I can't work out how to get around the event or even get into the event, I'm probably not going to stay for very long.
The Solution - Make it easy for people
Assume they don't know anything about how it works; provide clear and detailed instructions and hold their hand every step of the way. It's also a good idea to use an all-in-one platform to make things as simple as possible. For example, Arena is a brand new platform designed by event profs, for event profs, meaning that it's jam-packed with experience-enhancing features.
This makes for a much better user experience as attendees will get so much more out of the platform. Don't forget, if an attendee gets lost at a live event, they would ask for help, so helping them navigate your virtual event easily will not only help them get way more value from the event, but means they're much more likely to stick around and attend your future events too.
Now of course, the other side of the coin is that you may have problems with the tech. You may not be massively tech-savvy, and that's okay! It's just really important to make sure you've had demos and spent time on the platform so you're as familiarised as possible. This is also super important when it comes to reporting - knowing exactly how many people attended which sessions is really important for proving ROI not just for you but for your speakers and any sponsors you may have too.
We also would always recommend hiring a technician to help out on the day - if something's going to go wrong, it's better that it can be fixed quickly and calmly by a pro.
Hurdle 3 - Making it worthwhile to attend
We're all busy people. When people are taking time out of their busy lives to attend your event, it's because there are sessions/content that they want to see.
When people are working from home and tuning into your event digitally, there are a lot more distractions than with an in-person event. The doorbell may ring, the kids might burst in, the cat might walk across the keyboard... you name it! Making sure your event is engaging and valuable is crucial, and not just for your attendees. The event needs to be worthwhile for everyone - you, your sponsors/partners, and your delegation.
The Solution - Content is king
Make sure your content is top notch and you'll have no problem keeping your attendees there. Your attendees will feel like they've had a valuable experience, your sponsors will feel they've had good ROI and you'll feel like all the hard work was worth it too!
So, our advice is don't go into this half-hearted - spend time devising great content that people want to listen to, invest in building relationships with knowledgeable speakers and put effort into the look and feel of the event too. Ultimately, the more hard work and effort you put in now, the more you'll reap the rewards later.
Hurdle 4 - Making it feel personal
At an in-person event, you would be greeted by a host who would welcome you and explain the layout of the event, hand you your name badge and point you in the right direction. At a virtual event, this isn't the case. Attendees typically gather in the main event platform page and wait for the generic welcome speech, which can feel impersonal.
The Solution - Value your attendees
Easier said than done, but really making an effort to personalise their experience will definitely help engage attendees and make your event a success. As previously mentioned, AI-powered networking will make them feel that their experience is tailored to their interest, which is great, but you could go one step further and personalise it even before the event day. For example, adding personalisation tokens to your delegate comms will just add that little extra touch that people appreciate - who doesn't love receiving a personalised invite!
If you really want to make your attendees feel loved, why not send over some personalised virtual swag bags based on their likes and interests, or even a goody bag to their homes! This obviously depends on how large the event is, but it's certainly worth keeping in mind.
We hope we've given you the confidence to get planning and the reassurance to tackle these issues head on.
If you want to chat anything through, ask any questions or even just let us take over the planning for you, book your free consultation below with our Virtual Event Experts and let's get started.
For more guidance and advice on how to plan unforgettable virtual events in the meantime, check out our Complete Guide To Virtual Events.