Introduction to Virtual Events
There’s no denying the value of face-to-face interaction. In-person events have been used for years to create meaningful connections and bring people together. However, with lockdowns, social distancing and the lack of confidence amongst attendees of in-person events, virtual events have soared in popularity throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and are set to be part of every event planner’s event strategy going forward. In fact, Conference News reported in October last year that 94% of UK businesses are planning to run an online event within the next 12 months, and it has also been reported that by the end of 2021, video, including web conferencing, will account for 80% of all global internet traffic.
In this piece, we’ll explore the key types of virtual events and the ins and outs of organising a successful virtual event. There are a lot of factors to consider before organising a virtual event that vary from in-person, but with this ultimate guide, you'll be up and running in no time.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual, online or digital event is an event where attendees tune in via the internet to watch, listen to or read content rather than travel to a physical location. Different to hybrid events where part of the event will be in-person, virtual events are exclusively online.
The term ‘virtual events’ encompasses a whole range of online experiences, such as webinars, virtual conferences, virtual trade shows, virtual networking events, online meetings and more. There are a lot of virtual event solutions out there offering state-of-the-art features to make your online events stand out, such as live polling, Q&A, live streaming, and on-demand content. And if you think virtual events are just conferences, think again. If you want to create an AR spaceship or take your delegates to the Dubai desert, you can! The possibilities of virtual are endless!
Why Virtual Events?
The benefits of virtual events are far-reaching. Not only can they be much more cost-effective than live events, but they also provide an invaluable channel of communicating and building relationships with your clients, teams, customers and stakeholders when in-person events may not be possible. They also provide attendees with a chance to connect with one another socially, which is vital for mental wellbeing.
Here are just a few reasons why you should consider virtual events as part of your event strategy:
- Do more with less: Virtual events allow organisers to reach much larger audiences even on a limited budget. The cost per additional attendee is a matter of just a few pounds as opposed to the extensive costs you would face by increasing the capacity of your in-person event.
- No geographical location limitations: Being completely virtual means you can reach new audiences overseas and those who may have found it difficult to travel to a physical location.
- Sustainability: An important issue the events industry is facing and many organisations must address, a virtual event can massively reduce the environmental impact of your event.
- Inclusivity: Many groups can struggle to attend in-person events whether it be due to disability, child care obligations, financial limitations, or other factors. Virtual events can often open up the opportunity for some of these individuals to take part.
- Flexibility & shorter lead times: Online events can also have shorter lead times than physical events depending on how complicated the event may be, so they’re much more flexible and can be put together quickly, which is ideal during this uncertain period where we need to adapt fast.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, virtual experiences have provided a new form of revenue and means of engagement (and a lifeline!) for many businesses. And we don't expect this to change any time soon. Many organisations are now looking to incorporate virtual & hybrid events into their core event & marketing strategy.
The Event Website / Platform
This is where your online event is hosted and where your attendees will tune in to.
There are many different types of platforms with lots of different features. Consider what type of virtual event you want to organise, then consider whether you want an all-in-one platform that does everything you need, or whether you’d prefer stacked event tech, which is where you have multiple platforms that integrate with each other. We delve into the range of options available here, so you can see the best options for your needs.
This is the tool attendees use to register their attendance for your event. They’ll input their details, can select from a range of tickets available (if needed), pay for their ticket (if it’s a paid event), and provide any details you may require to execute the event.
Consider how you plan to use this data, and particularly how you may add this data into the event platform you are using if it’s a closed event. Some virtual event platforms offer their own registration which integrates directly, though these can often have their own limitations, other platforms may allow you to upload a csv file with your data. Depending on the nature and scale of your online event, integrating your registration platform with your CRM and event platform will save you a LOT of time and improve the attendee experience drastically by automating processes, such as confirmation emails.
Virtual event networking is a great way to bring your attendees together and inject a little fun into your event. Not only will you be providing your attendees with opportunities for valuable social interaction, you’ll also ensure your attendees spend as long as possible engaging with your event. There are plenty of virtual event platforms and tools out there with exciting networking capabilities, so it’s worth looking around to find the best one for you. Some types of virtual networking include gamification, AI-powered networking or virtual team building activities.
Live Presentation Content (Live Broadcast)
Most of your online event content will be a live broadcast, whether that’s your keynote speaker presenting at your online conference or your CEO presenting team updates at your online away day.
Keep the content engaging and provide visuals or an expert panel to win over the crowd. Depending on your budget you may want to consider bringing in a professional virtual broadcast production company to take your broadcast to the next level with fully branded graphics and create a seamless experience for the audience.
As the name implies, this is simply content you prepare in advance of the event and incorporate as part of your stream.
This can be sponsored content to promote your sponsors through the agenda, thought-leadership content to help break up the agenda into more manageable pieces for on-the-day management, or even recorded demos. If you think your audience might want to ask your speaker/s questions about the topic they are presenting on, maybe add in a live Q&A session after the recorded content.
This can come in many forms but the most common are live chat, Q&A & live polling.
Using features to encourage your audience to interact with the content and each other is a great way to make the event more memorable for attendees. It will also make it a lot more interesting and will encourage attendees to stay for the whole event, rather than just the session.
Depending on the type of event you are organising you may not need these interactive features. For example, if it’s a smaller meeting or workshop, you may be better off spotlighting individual attendees to ask their questions. Furthermore, most simple video calling platforms have a live chat function that could serve the purpose.
Surveys & Feedback
Feedback is an extremely valuable way to understand the success of your event. Hear directly from your audience about what they loved, what they didn’t like and what they’d like to see next time.
Not only does it practically secure your attendees for your next virtual event (providing you include the content they ask for!), it also makes them feel heard, valued and have more confidence in your brand.
It can sometimes be hard to encourage busy attendees to fill in a post-event survey. Consider ways you can incorporate real-time feedback for greater engagement or offering an incentive, such as the chance to win a magnum of Champagne!
Sponsor / Exhibitor Stands
You may wish to sell sponsorship or exhibition opportunities for the event to be able to generate revenue or engage other stakeholders with your audiences. Some virtual platforms have built in exhibition stands available which attendees can ‘visit’ and interact with, creating new relationships and offering targeted exposure.
Sponsorship is also a great way to monetise your virtual event and there are many ways you can offer value to sponsors. Not every event is suited to event sponsorship, and it can be difficult to ensure ROI. The sponsorship offerings should be centred on two key concepts; sponsors objectives and event tech capabilities. We’ll delve into this further in the section ‘Bringing Value To Event Sponsors’.
Professional Broadcast Production
The audiovisual (AV) production and technology services that will enhance a virtual event with engaging graphics, content, animations and more.
If you’re planning an in-depth agenda with sponsored content and want a high end visual appeal, you may want to consider investing in a production partner. If you’re just doing a small company presentation, perhaps a series of slides screen shared would do the job. It all depends on your event type, objectives, audience and, of course, budget! However, we would recommend having a technician on hand to help with anything that goes wrong. After all, your event solely relies on technology, so it’s crucial to ensure there’s someone who knows what they are doing and can troubleshoot technical issues quickly to ensure the attendee experience isn’t compromised.
We delver further into the broadcast production options available to you below.
Entertainment, Activities & Gamification
Virtual event fatigue is a real thing, breaking up the event with some fun and engaging activities or entertainment can be a great way to keep your audience engaged, in the platform and invested in the event.
Many virtual event solutions offer some form of virtual networking capabilities, but these can be pretty basic. Think outside the box and consider what your attendees would be impressed by, and what they would tell their colleagues/families/friends about! For some ideas, watch this session from Smyle Founder Matt Margetson on gamifying your virtual event and read this piece on virtual team building ideas.
How Much Does a Virtual Event Cost?
Although virtual events can be cheaper than in-person events, eliminating the costs of venue hire, catering, furniture, travel, branding, etc, this isn't always the case. It’s important to properly budget for your online event to make sure you know exactly how much you’re spending. You’d be surprised how the costs of virtual event technology providers can add up!
We’ve put together a guide on how to budget for your virtual event to pick up some tips. Below you can find some examples of event formats and what they would roughly cost. These can vary greatly depending on your specific brief but may give you a rough indication of what to expect. We recommend getting in touch with one of our Virtual Event Experts for an estimate specific to your brief.
|No. of Attendees||Dedicated Event Platform||Virtual Production||Audience Engagement||Guide pricing|
|3D Virtual Conference||500+||£12,000 +|
|Mid-Range Conference||500+||£2000 - £3000|
|Bespoke Christmas Party||100||From £4500|
|Basic Live Stream with Multiple Speakers||100||£2950|
|Team Away Day||100||£1000 - £2000|
|Webinar||500+||£500 - £995|
Introduction to Virtual Event Design
Just as event design has always been a key part of planning a face-to-face event, it’s equally as important when hosting a virtual event.
A well-designed virtual event is crucial for maintaining an audience’s attention and encouraging engagement, especially considering a virtual audience could easily just close their laptop if they’re bored.
To help support your event’s narrative visually and give a sense of high production value, consider choosing a visual theme that can tie together every element of your virtual event. For example, the Augmented World Expo USA 2020 used an interstellar theme to support its tagline, ‘it’s time to go spatial.’ The event website was designed to look like outer space, while speakers were positioned in front of backdrops featuring the recurring image of an astronaut. Read our introduction to event design for more tips and examples.
Equally, event design is as much about considering the whole audience experience as it is about the visuals. So, great event design all starts with understanding who your audience is and what kind of experience they’re looking for.
To learn more, read the key takeaways from the ‘Hackathon in Event Design’ workshop all about human-oriented event design.
Type of Virtual Events To Consider For Your 2021 Strategy
93% of event professionals plan to invest in virtual events moving forward (according to Bizzabo), and 63% of organisations are moving to digital conferences or events (according to Topo). But it’s important to note that ‘virtual events’ is an umbrella term that spans pre-recorded events, live streamed events, virtual conferences, online meetings, virtual social events and more. In other words, just like in-person events, virtual events vary hugely in their format, style, size and objectives.
Below, we’ve listed some key types of virtual events to consider for your 2021 strategy.
A virtual conference typically consists of a keynote session followed by several different sessions throughout the day. These could be a combination of workshops, panel discussions and talks, and will usually include some much-needed breakout sessions as well. After the main part of the conference has come to an end, most virtual conferences now make use of digital engagement tools to host post-event networking.
To elevate your online conference, consider sending attendees an intro tutorial video explaining how to use the virtual event platform ahead of the event, together with instructions on how to create their own agenda for the day. You could also consider incentivising attendee engagement by hosting competitions. For example, you could encourage attendees to share posts about your event using a designated hashtag, in exchange for entries into a giveaway linked to your event.
Browse our virtual conference packages for more ideas:
Online workshops are a brilliant way to deliver skills-based training at the same time as engaging your attendees. Usually, they last between 30 minutes to three hours and involve audience participation. This both allows attendees to stay engaged and tests newly-learnt knowledge.
To make your online workshop stand out, consider dividing your attendees into groups using breakout session technology and setting them tasks or even running a fun pub-quiz-style test. This way, attendees will get the chance to engage with their peers, share knowledge and learn more actively. Make sure that you bear in mind the need for interaction when you’re setting your event capacity. Often, online workshops are best suited for smaller groups of up to 70 people.
A webinar requires less audience participation than a workshop, which makes it a great way to provide knowledge, advice or training to a larger audience. Typically, a webinar lasts somewhere between 30 minutes and two hours and consists of one speaker sharing information about a specific topic. It’s a popular way to keep employees informed on internal developments but it can also be effective in educating customers about your chosen topic.
Watching one speaker talk for longer than an hour could result in a loss of audience attention, so it’s worth considering balancing out your keynote speaker with a panel discussion, an interview-style section or a Q&A. While webinars are perfect for those attendees who don’t want to speak up in front of a digital crowd, it’s worth finding some opportunities for audience engagement to satisfy those who want to be more involved. This could either be as part of the aforementioned Q&A or by activating live polls during the session.
Browse our Webinar packages for more ideas:
Investing in online entertainment is a great way to make your event stand out – whether as a standalone treat for your customers or employees, or as an additional segment added to the end of a virtual conference or meeting. A few examples of online entertainment include virtual wine tasting, online Q&As with celebrities like Louis Theroux, online murder mysteries and more.
The key to providing successful entertainment is the understanding that technology is your best friend. Consider what kind of experience you’d like to offer your attendees and go from there. For example, you could encourage attendees to problem solve with a virtual scavenger hunt or treat them to an evening of culture with a live-streamed play straight from a theatre.
We recommend exploring the Virtual Experience Marketplace, the largest curated collection of online experiences. You could also browse 10 of the best online entertainment suppliers on the market and our top suppliers of the month.
Virtual Health & Wellbeing Sessions
Health and wellbeing sessions can be a great way to relieve anxiety, uncertainty and stress during these difficult times. As such, an online health or wellbeing session can help to show your employees you’re invested in their mental or physical wellbeing. Plus, it can work equally well as part of a larger conference, exhibition or trade show where you could designate a breakout room to meditation or mindfulness.
There are hundreds of online exercise and mindfulness activities available, so to make yours stand out, consider offering something a little different from the online yoga classes that can be found all over the internet. For example, invite a Tai Chi instructor to lead a class, host an action-packed boxing workshop or even consider holding an online HIIT workout to give your attendees an outlet for their energy.
A virtual meeting is essentially just a video conference call where there’s an agenda for points to be covered. It’s a lot more personal than a straight phone call because it emulates face-to-face meetings as much as possible. This enables people to form a rapport or touch base, which is particularly useful for developing new partnerships or establishing a sense of teamwork.
Consider making online meetings a central part of your working day, for example by holding a ‘Daily Kickoff.’ Alternatively, you could make a meeting more of an occasion by providing catering delivered to your colleagues’ or clients’ houses. Either way, it’s important to try to establish a structure that allows a rapport to be built. That means giving everyone the chance to talk, which could involve getting a 30-second update from everyone, engaging in a brainstorming session or even starting your meeting with a game.
Networking is a vital part of many face-to-face events. In the same way, making virtual networking a key part of your online conference, trade show, webinar or panel discussion is a great way to give attendees the chance to build their networks, discuss your content and let their hair down.
Many virtual event platforms have an AI networking function that sends delegates suggestions of people they should meet. Some also have the ability to book virtual appointments with sponsors or specific attendees, as well as a speed networking function that can be used as a standalone event or as part of a larger event, as outlined in our virtual networking event package.
One of the most popular features of new all-in-one event platform, Arena, is the networking and breakout capability, allowing attendees to emulate the kind of encounter they may have at an in-person event.
Virtual Exhibitions / Trade Shows
A virtual exhibition or trade show typically makes use of virtual event platforms similar to those you’d use for a virtual conference. The most sophisticated of these platforms replicate the trade show feel you’d get at a face-to-face exhibition by giving organisers the ability to build a number of virtual stands that can be manned by exhibitors or sponsors where they can host content, demonstrations, chat to visitors and scan their virtual badges for more information.
On top of this, some platforms can accommodate a marketplace of products, smart networking and even 3D immersive environments. For more information on the kinds of features you could include at your virtual exhibition or trade show, get in touch with one of our Virtual Event Experts.
Check out our virtual trade show packages for more inspiration:
Virtual Team Building
Virtual team building activities are a great way to keep teams connected and to restore morale, especially when companies are functioning remotely. Online team building activities can include anything from virtual cookery classes to online storytelling workshops, online escape rooms, virtual pub quizzes and more. Take a look at these virtual team building activities or read about 5 of the best virtual team building activities for more inspiration.
If you’re truly looking to motivate your team or to kick off a new strategy that you want everybody to get behind, you could consider extending your team building activities across a whole day to create a virtual away day. Usually, an away day would include a selection of team building activities (often provided by a range of suppliers) mixed in with internal team updates, strategy planning or training.
We recommend exploring the Virtual Experience Marketplace, the largest curated collection of online experiences perfect for team building, as well as reading more about the value of team building in 2021.
Virtual parties are a fantastic way to celebrate those bigger occasions in your calendar when you’re not able to do so in person. Often, they’ll include online entertainment, a chance for colleagues to relax and chat in an informal breakout room and food and drinks delivered directly to attendees’ houses in advance.
One popular virtual party format is Hire Space’s Big Top concept, originally designed for Christmas parties. This provides attendees with a variety of entertainers, either as part of a bespoke party package or a shared party experience. Other popular party activities include Broadway mixers (where attendees are able to schmooze with musical theatre stars) and virtual DJ sets. Check out these 9 festive and fun virtual Christmas party options or read our 5 top tips for booking your virtual Christmas party.
You can also browse our Virtual Party options for more ideas:
Live streaming is the practice of broadcasting a live video stream online in real-time. Most virtual event and social media platforms (including Youtube, Facebook and LinkedIn), allow a live stream to be broadcast into their platforms for audiences to watch.
It’s worth noting, these platforms simply host the stream, and do not manage the video input. Many video conferencing tools (like Zoom) can be streamed into these hosting platforms if you are looking for a very basic production.
Independently, a live stream can tend toward one-way communication and limited audience interaction, however, this is not always the case. When used alongside other more feature rich tools a live stream can be an engaging, educational and entertaining experience for your audience. For this reason, it can form part of many types of events, from webinars to online workshops, online conferences, exhibitions and parties.
If you’re looking to go down the more affordable route you could host a panel discussion or presentation through Zoom, and plug the RTMP stream into whichever platform you wish to host. At the other end of the scale, a talk or discussion could be filmed in-person and streamed using professional broadcast-grade live video production, like in this large virtual conference package.
Virtual Award Ceremonies
Whether it’s an internal award ceremony that celebrates your top employees or an external one that recognises the best in your field, a virtual award ceremony comes with all the same rigmarole and sense of occasion as its in-person equivalent.
A high-end online award ceremony will typically include a live-stream for the announcement of the winners, as well as opportunities for networking and partying after the announcements have been made. The best platforms can also include award entry registration, booths for sponsors, social media feeds, a contestants’ leaderboard and live voting. To give your virtual award ceremony a real sense of occasion, don’t forget to arrange for food and drinks to be delivered to your attendees’ doorsteps in advance.
Browse our Virtual Award Ceremony options for more ideas:
5 Examples Of The Best Virtual Events of 2020
Last year many eventprofs have been forced to pivot to virtual and create new experiences to keep their audiences engaged. It has been a big challenge for many, and whilst it seems the whole world is offering virtual events these days, it takes a lot of planning and dedication to create a really outstanding online event that makes attendees want to come back for more.
We’ve seen some great virtual event examples in 2020, but we wanted to shine a spotlight on 5 of the best virtual event examples we’ve come across.
Developing a Virtual Event Programme
We all know the saying ‘content is king’. Well, when it comes to virtual events, this really is true. With physical events, there are lots of other ways you can entice attendees for your event, such as live competitions and games, exhibitor stands, or even just the free lunch and post-event drinks! With virtual events, even if you organise other activities during the day, the content is going to be what really sells it and will often be the difference between someone attending or not.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that attending an event virtually hugely increases the risk of screen fatigue and distraction i.e the doorbell, kids, phone calls or even the dog barking. Ensuring your content is top-notch and the event is planned with these distractions in mind will help keep attendees engaged all day and encourage them to stick around.
How Does It Differ From In-Person Events?
Planning a virtual event comes with a whole new set of challenges to keep your audience engaged and achieve your event objectives. You’ll need to consider factors such as time zones for your international attendees, screen fatigue, attendee engagement and regular distractions that can’t be controlled in the same way as an in-person event. Here are a few factors you’ll need to take into account when planning your virtual event agenda:
1. Attendee Commitment
In a real event environment, the attendees have made a conscious and tangible commitment to taking part in an event. They’ve made the effort to get to the venue, blocked the time out of their diary and are actively planning out their agenda for the day. Online, an attendee will often sign up to an event knowing full well they’ll have it on “in the background” or dip in and out knowing that they will mostly go unnoticed. This means as virtual event planners, we are battling for people’s time and attention in an entirely new way.
2. Screen Fatigue
This is probably the biggest difference between virtual and in-person events. Studies show that we should take a break around every 90 minutes before we lose concentration and focus. This means as the event organiser, it’s important to schedule in enough breaks as well as keep sessions short and snappy.
3. Event Timings & Duration
It’s important to consider the duration of the event, the duration of sessions and also the timings chosen in order to reduce screen fatigue. Recognising that you’re probably not going to get someone for the duration of a virtual event is key, and should influence your decisions around these elements. For example, don’t schedule sessions during key lunchtime hours, as people might need to check their emails, make the kids’ lunch or do other things that means they’ll miss your session. It’s all about making it as easy for them as possible to engage with.
4. Value-Driven Content
Another factor to keep in mind is that drop out rates can be higher depending on the event, which means making sure there is real and true value is arguably even more critical. Knowing your audience is key here, do your research whether that be through data or feedback collected from previous events, traffic analytics that reflect which content themes perform well, a dedicated content survey to understand directly from your audiences what it is they want to learn about.
This information will help you develop a programme that is both truly valuable to your audiences as well as in line with your event/business objectives.
5. Attendee Wellbeing
Finally, getting the wellbeing balance is harder. You want them to get screen breaks, but you don’t want to lose them entirely from your event. This is, again, where the importance of your content comes in, to ensure they come back!
Key Considerations When Building A Virtual Event Agenda
When you’re building your virtual event agenda, there are several key things to think about:
Consider whether you want to host a multi-day virtual event or a virtual event series
There are pros and cons for both, so it’s worth weighing up your objectives and what you’re trying to achieve and deciding what will work best for you. Whether you go for a multi-day event or an event series, it’s important to make sure that the content is equally good quality for all parts of the event, otherwise you may get high drop off rates if Part 2 doesn’t look as valuable or interesting as Part 1.
Make sure you take note of other industry events
Big industry events happening on the same day could compete with your attendance numbers - you want to make sure you’re the only big event happening that day so you get as many attendees tuning in as possible. If you go for a virtual event series, you should do an extra marketing push between the dates to ensure attendees remain engaged and excited about the next part of your event.
Virtual event fatigue
You can read more about this below, but what we will say here is that it’s important to schedule breaks for attendees to go outside or just to stand up and stretch. But make sure you follow it up with great sessions so they come back! Encouraging time away from screens is really important and will also let attendees know you care about them.
Use common sense and put yourself in the attendees’ shoes
Would you want to attend 6 back to back sessions with no break? Be conscious of how long your sessions are, as well as when they take place. For example, you could start at 10 so attendees can attend their morning meetings first, and then schedule a 2 hour gap between 1pm and 2pm so they can catch up on emails, grab some lunch, take a proper break and come back refreshed. No one likes feeling rushed, and the difference is at a virtual event if attendees feel rushed to tune into a session they know is being recorded, they’ll likely just give it a miss.
Battling Virtual Event Fatigue: Tips To Keeping Your Audience Engaged
Keeping your audience engaged and present can be difficult when they’re staring at a screen all day. Here are some top tips on how to keep virtual event fatigue at bay and keep those attendees interested:
Encourage Attendee Participation
This could take the form of joining in with live polls, Q&A and other interaction tools you might use. Also, ask attendees to keep their cameras on if possible. This will make it feel like more of a physical event and may also hold them to some accountability if the speaker asks questions or is trying to engage the audience in some way. Keeping cameras on will also reduce the risk of attendees getting distracted and doing something else, meaning you’re more likely to have their full attention.
This is really important to ensure attendees do have some time away from their screen and have the chance to stretch.
Utilise Virtual Networking
This can be a great way to involve your audience, connect them with their peers and also just give them a change of scenery. It’s also a good idea to use more targeted networking for optimum engagement and value, such as AI-powered networking or even just scheduling dedicated networking sessions into the agenda. For more tips and tricks on how to facilitate virtual event networking, you can read this piece:
Offer Translation For International Attendees
It’s also worth remembering that you may be appealing to a broader, more international audience. So, to ensure it’s easy for them to attend and engage, consider providing translation tools if relevant, or simple useful details such as the event timings in their own timezone. This will make it easier for them to tune into and absorb the sessions they’re interested in and reduce the risk of them giving up and leaving the event platform altogether. In a more general sense, provide all attendees with a detailed, easy-to-access agenda with all sessions, timings and session links if relevant so that they only need to go to one place to get the information they need.
Virtual Event Project Management
At first glance, planning a virtual event might seem super easy. Whilst it’s true that some types of virtual events can be more straightforward to organise than others, such as simple video meetings, on the whole, the planning of a virtual event can get complex and therefore should be taken seriously! There are many factors and elements to consider when planning a virtual or online event, which all must be addressed and dealt with appropriately in order to create seamless and professional virtual experiences for your clients and delegates.
In this section we’ll explore how the virtual event planning process differs from in-person events, as well as a checklist of each necessary part of the process and the potential role of flexi-events in 2021. You can also read this piece on some of the common hurdles when organising virtual events and how to overcome them.
How Does It Differ from In-Person Events?
Good question! There are many different elements to planning a virtual event, just as there are many different elements to planning an in-person event. Whilst some do cross-over, it is a completely different ball game and there’s a lot of elements to consider. We’ll list a few below.
Your virtual event budget will usually be a lot lower than an in-person event budget, but that’s okay! Luckily, virtual events tend to be a lot more cost-effective as you don’t need to pay for a venue, physical printing and branding, food, equipment, travel, the list goes on! What you do need to pay for however is your virtual event platform, technician/production company if not doing in-house and also any speakers who ask for payment to participate. Read our piece on planning a virtual conference on a budget to get some more advice.
As we’ve mentioned, virtual events in their very nature remove the need for deliveries, travel, food preparation, branded collateral, venue branding etc, so in that respect they are easier to organise. We’ve all been there when something hasn’t turned up at your venue when you needed it to! However, there would be some logistics involved say if you were organising a hybrid event, or if you wanted to send your delegates any extras such as drinks or snacks for the event. Make sure you place any orders and arrange any deliveries well in advance - lead times tend to be quite long, especially for larger events/deliveries.
You’ll need to develop a strong agenda, taking extra care with session timings to accommodate breaks and time zones for virtual events, get great speakers on board and give delegates valuable content that will make attending your event worth their time. Content is important for live events too, but for virtual events this is likely to be the major (if not only) draw when attracting potential attendees.
Encouraging Audience Engagement & Interaction
This can be a tricky one. Try and make sure your virtual event platform is full of helpful little tools to assist you in interacting with your audience, and to encourage them to interact with each other too. There are lots of platforms offering features that do this, it’s just about knowing which to choose to ensure your event is as engaging and exciting as possible. Have a read of this section on virtual engagement & experience for more information and ideas on involving your audience.
Providing Value To Sponsors
Again, this can be tricky, especially as we’re all so used to attending large-scale live events where sponsors can be front and centre of their target market. It is possible to create value for sponsors of live events, you just need to think outside the box. For example, ensure your virtual event platform allows plenty of branding opportunities, as well as virtual ‘booths’ which can drive traffic for your partners. Check out this section for more ideas and help to drive that ROI!
Your Virtual Event Planning Checklist
From tech to target audience, there are a lot of factors to consider when planning a virtual event. That’s why we've prepared this handy virtual event planning checklist so your virtual events run as smoothly as possible! We’ve broken it down into before, during and after the event so you have a rough guide of what you need to consider at each stage.
Staying Flexible During Covid-19
During these uncertain times and the rapidly changing events landscape, it’s essential to stay as flexible as possible. You may choose to take advantage of the Hire Space Covid Cover Guarantee. This Guarantee ensures that if your event plans change due to coronavirus, you can effortlessly switch between virtual, hybrid and in-person events as required. Hire Space developed this Guarantee directly in response to the uncertainty facing event planners trying to organise events during a pandemic.
While virtual events are a fantastic solution and are sure to last long after Covid, the events industry is founded on meeting face-to-face. That’s why Covid Cover is centred around the understanding that some event planners would rather organise an in-person event, but may be too worried about the event being cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Covid Cover allows you to:
- Cancel your event up to 14 days before
- Effortlessly switch between event formats at no cost to you
- Save money - you will only pay for costs you have already incurred, capped at 10% of the total cost
- Take advantage of the best hybrid and virtual event technology on the market
- Have peace of mind that your event can go ahead no matter what
Using the Covid Cover in this way allows event professionals to plan for the future, knowing that however restrictions develop, their event can go ahead as planned.
Virtual Event Technology
Virtual events rely on (good!) technology and there are so many different types of tech tools out there, it can seem a bit like a ‘needle in a haystack’ situation. In this section, we discuss all the different elements of a virtual event and the different tools you’ll need for each one, as well as how to find the right tools for the job and our guidance on the best platforms on the market. You’ll be a tech wizz in no time.
Technology Required for Hosting Virtual Events
When you’re planning a virtual event, the technology you choose is going to be crucial to its success. If your event technology isn’t up to the job, it will detrimentally affect the attendee experience and compromise your ability to keep them engaged. With that being said, we wanted to share with you a guide to all the different types of technology you’re going to need at each stage, so that you can get one step ahead and ensure your event runs seamlessly.
Find the Right Technology Solution For Your Brief: When To Keep It Simple
Every event is different, and has different technology needs. For example, if you’re hosting a small, simple video meeting for 15 people where all you require is screen sharing and videoconferencing, a platform like zoom should do the trick. If you’re hosting a multi-day, multi-stream, 1000pax virtual conference, naturally you’ll need more complex technology in order to deliver it, which naturally comes with higher costs. The livestream and production of a virtual event can be an often-overlooked additional cost that can push an event over budget. So how do you know when to keep it simple?
If you're looking to keep it simple, the big factors will of course be budget and event size. It’s all well and good wanting to organise an all-singing, all-dancing virtual exhibition and conference, but if you don’t have a budget that matches the cost to produce it, then ultimately it won’t be a slick experience and attendees will likely switch off (mentally and literally). Unfortunately, you get what you pay for a lot of the time, so if a virtual event platform promising amazing things seems too good to be true cost-wise, it probably is and will likely end in disaster on the day.
Review your budget, decide on the type of event you want to organise and how many attendees you ideally would like, then find a decent mid-range platform that has all the capabilities you require without breaking the bank. Here’s some great virtual event platforms that we would recommend, as well as our tips on how to run a memorable virtual conference on a smaller budget.
We've also put together some rough guide prices for a range of different events and formats in the 'How Much Does A Virtual Event Cost'? section above. If you need some help with a specific brief one of our Virtual Event Experts can give you an idea on what you can achieve with your budget.
The Pros & Cons Of An All In One Event Platform Vs Event Technology Stack
There are two options when it comes to virtual event technology - all-in-one platforms and event technology stacks. Both options offer different benefits and disadvantages, so in this piece we explore these pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about what event tech option will be best for you.
The Best All In One Virtual Event Platforms On The Market
When it comes to virtual events, your success is wholly determined by the tech you use and how seamlessly this helps your event to run. But with heaps of virtual event platforms on the market these days, it can be really difficult to know which one is going to best suit your virtual event needs and objectives. To help you get started, we’ve listed 10 of the best ‘all-in-one’ virtual event platforms and what to use them for.
One such platform is Arena, a brand new all-in-one platform built by eventprofs, for eventprofs. This fully brandable, affordable and infinitely scaleable solution is ideal for event organisers wanting to deliver unforgettable virtual and hybrid events, featuring breakout rooms, Q&A, live feed and much more.
Building The Best Event Technology Stack For Your Virtual Event
If you’ve decided to go for the event technology stack option for your virtual event, then you’re going to need to know about the tools you’ll need for each stage of the event planning process. In this piece, we list out all the types of tech you’ll need, as well as our top tips on building the perfect event tech stack for your virtual event.
Virtual Event Engagement & Experience
A major KPI (key performance indicator) of virtual events is attendee engagement. As we know, virtual events are in competition with a plethora of day-to-day distractions that aren’t present at live events, such as the doorbell ringing, the dog barking, or even just a good programme on TV. So how do we keep our audience engaged, logged on and interacting with each other when it’s so easy for them to switch off? In this section we delve into how to facilitate audience engagement and networking so your attendees stick around and stay in the zone.
How To Facilitate Virtual Event Networking
Facilitating networking at a virtual event can be a great way to maintain attendee engagement, offer valuable opportunities for attendees to achieve business goals and allow everyone to have a bit of fun too. However, as mentioned in this session from EventLAB Online on virtual and hybrid event networking, it's hard to replicate the serendipity and natural ease that comes with networking at a physical event, at a virtual event. So, don't try! Instead, find new ways to get your attendees interacting and create a unique experience to get them talking, such as gamification, AI-powered networking and icebreakers. In this section, we’ll cover some top tips for successful virtual event networking, as well as the best tools for the job.
Tips for Successful Virtual Networking
There are so many tools out there that it can be difficult to know which virtual event networking platform will be best for you and suit your event needs. We’ve done the hard work for you and found 7 of the best virtual networking tools on the market that are bound to impress your attendees and get them making valuable connections in no time! It's also worth remembering that many platforms, such as Arena, offer valuable networking capabilities to keep your delegates chatting away.
How To Facilitate Virtual Event Audience Engagement
There are a lot of moving parts that contribute to a successful virtual event. One of those moving parts is providing your attendees with a memorable, engaging experience that they find valuable. One way to do this is to facilitate plenty of opportunities for audience engagement. At a physical event, people can put their hands up to ask questions and physically interact a lot more easily.
That being said, virtual events allow you to really make use of lots of different very clever tools to get the most out of your audience. Plus, thanks to our innate self-preservation-driven nature, humans are likely to actually be willing to engage more when they’re behind a screen than when they’re at a physical event. So use this to your advantage! In this section, we’ll discuss our top tips for successful virtual audience engagement, as well as some of the best tools out there.
The Best Virtual Audience Engagement Tools On The Market
Some virtual audience engagement tools are better than others, and when your virtual event is counting on audience engagement as a key marker of success, it’s important you pick the right ones! Read this piece for a few of our favourite virtual audience engagement tools on the market.
Enhance The Virtual Experience With Entertainment
While some events have the primary objective of providing entertainment, some have other priorities, such as education, networking or team-building. However, that doesn’t make virtual entertainment any less important.
Just like an in-person event, entertainment can bring your virtual event to another level, helping you to achieve your objectives and make your event all-the-more memorable. As such, finding the right suppliers for your virtual event is a crucial step in the planning process – whether that’s DJs, activity hosts, comedians or performers.
Ideas For Fun Virtual Entertainment Features
Consider how you can use virtual entertainment features to further your event objectives, agenda or atmosphere. Every event is different, but they all provide a whole slew of opportunities to truly grab your audience’s attention and leave them wanting more.
Here are some ways you can incorporate virtual entertainment features in your event planning:
- Breakout opportunities: Everyone needs a break every now and again. Providing breakout rooms hosted by virtual entertainment providers can give attendees a chance to recalibrate.
- After parties: Hosting a virtual after party with entertainment can help your event to end with a bang.
- Surprise: Incorporating virtual entertainment when attendees are least expecting (for example during a daily standup) can be a pleasant treat.
- Further your agenda: Entertainment can help to support your content. For example, an event about sustainability could treat attendees to a plant-based cook-along.
- Break the ice: Interactive virtual entertainment features can help attendees to come out of their shell and encourage them to take part more actively.
The Best Virtual Event Entertainment Suppliers On The Market
A virtual event entertainment supplier works in a similar way to an entertainment supplier for a face-to-face event. The main difference is that the entertainment will take place online, often over a web conferencing platform such as Zoom. Most virtual event suppliers are also able to integrate their services with all-in-one virtual platforms, in order to form part of a larger event such as an online conference or trade show.
Some of the best virtual event entertainment suppliers include:
- Cooking and cocktails: Suppliers such as the Jamie Oliver Cookery School and Plates provide guided cook-a-longs that aim to educate and entertain. Or learn all about mixology with this cocktail making experience.
- Health, wellness and education: Siren Training’s Stress and Anxiety Workshop is a great example of online entertainment designed to promote wellbeing.
- Activity games: Suppliers such as Buckbuck Games and Virtual Race Events provide fun and engaging immersive entertainment including immersive game shows and online horse racing.
- Music and performance: Chris Fleming, one of the UK’s top mindreaders, is just one example of a supplier who provides an online show that aims to amaze and entertain.
To browse more virtual event suppliers, head over to our virtual marketplace.
Virtual Event Broadcast Production
We’ve all been there - tuned into a virtual event, waiting for a session to start when suddenly the wrong speaker comes on, you can’t hear the speakers, the wrong holding slide flashes up or worse, we're presented with the stock standard powerpoint screen share that fails to attract your attention. The list goes on. In their nature, virtual events rely on technology to run efficiently and deliver content. You’ve probably read all about the event tech you need, but do you know how to actually use it?
This is where virtual event production comes in! By using a team of production experts, you can be sure that your stream will be smooth and uninterrupted, your event tech will work in the way it’s supposed to and there (hopefully) won’t be any tech catastrophes on the day. There are many do-it-yourself tools to enhance the audiovisuals of your virtual event but they also come with their own caveats. In this section we aim to give you a broader understanding of how broadcast production fits into your event project and some advice on how to approach production for your event brief.
What is Virtual Event Broadcast Production?
Virtual event broadcast production refers to the audiovisual (AV) production and technology services that will enhance a virtual event with engaging graphics, content, animations and more.
It involves everything from ensuring the right speakers come in at the right time, the correct holding slides are in place or sponsor visuals are incorporated throughout. Most virtual events will involve a live stream, which is when a live video is sent over the Internet in real time to viewers watching on their various devices.
A live streaming system consists of:
- A video source such as a camera, laptop, pre-recorded video, slides, remote speaker etc
- A video switcher (Can be hardware or software)
- An encoder
- An RTMP server
- A Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Don’t underestimate the complexity of virtual events - with multiple sessions, multiple speakers, on-demand content, pre-recorded content, live broadcast and a whole host of things that need to be done to ensure effortless transitions, clear video and broadcast-quality streaming, this can be more tricky to facilitate than you originally thought. Your production team is responsible for facilitating all the moving parts behind the scenes to deliver the smooth end result which viewers see at home. This allows the organiser to have more control over the attendee experience, create a more professional look and feel to the event, have higher quality video as well as seamless integration of graphics elements such as holding slides and pre-recorded videos.
Do I Need Virtual Event Production?
Currently, the market is flooded with thousands of virtual events taking place every day, so it’s important to make yours stand out for the right reasons. From our experience, many planners have opted against paying for production, doing it themselves, and ending up regretting it. More often than not, the quality of the production makes or breaks a virtual event. If the stream/broadcast doesn’t work, the visuals are blurry or the sound is lagging, it won’t be long before your attendees give up and switch off. There’s no point paying for a fancy platform to host your event if the way the content is delivered is less than optimal!
As a rule of thumb, for events with multiple sessions or tracks, sessions with multiple speakers, a blend of live and pre-recorded content, holding slides and camera angles, this should be supported with professional production. Production companies will also run a full tech rehearsal and briefing with all speakers to make sure everything is up to scratch and the event runs smoothly.
A professional virtual production package typically involves:
- The audiovisual content of the event (video, slides, live speakers)
- Running the technical components of the livestream
- Working with you (the organiser) on the aesthetic and flow of the event
- Advising you on best practice for technology requirements and streaming
- Technical briefings with all speakers
Having said all of this, production is naturally going to incur costs, and sometimes quite high costs too. Therefore, it’s worth considering who your audience is and the purpose of the event. If you’re running a small internal meeting or event, you may not necessarily need full production. However, if your event is client-facing and you have sponsors, it may well need to be of a high standard and so you should consider outsourcing the production - especially if you’re charging for tickets or offering branded sponsorship opportunities.
Weighing Up The Cost vs Benefit: When To Keep It Simple
It can be difficult to decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs of outsourcing your virtual event production. Prices can vary greatly and start from around £2,950 for a half day, but if it’s a fairly simple event, i.e. maybe just 1 or 2 stages and not a lot of concurrent streams, you may not need full production but could benefit from a virtual event manager’s services instead. This means there is someone on hand to run the whole event and do a bit of production to keep it slick, but the cost is much lower. Costs for a virtual event manager start from £700 per day.
For us, one of the key benefits of having event production is peace of mind. The majority of eventprofs have never run a virtual event, so consider whether you’re willing to pay to avoid the risk of a failed event, which could arguably be more costly for you in the long run. You could even just pay for it the first few times and pick up some tips so you can do it yourself next time.
If you’re still unsure, think about how complex your event is. Large events with lots of sessions and speakers, or events that rely heavily on design, like an awards evening, will benefit from production to keep it exciting, such as award intros and cutting to the live winners. Simpler events, such as events with 1 speaker at a time, minimal stages or internal events, may not need production.
A key thing to consider is your supplier. Ask for recent examples of their work, make sure a full tech rehearsal is included, and triple check their workload - make sure they have the time to take on your event and give it the attention it needs!
DIY Virtual Event Production
There are a number of tools on the market that can give event profs with limited technical knowledge the ability to feed multiple audiovisual sources into one stream and switch smoothly between views incorporating branding throughout. If you're looking to save a bit of money on production, these could be a good option for you, although it's worth considering the pros and cons to this approach:
Cost effective solution
Requires an intermediate understanding of technical aspects of live streaming
Relatively easy to use
Requires a laptop or PC with strong CPU & GPU capabilities
Easy to build projects with some branding capabilities
Requires a very stable network connection with back up options
Lacks the advice and guidance of an experienced live stream engineer
There are limitations to what these solutions can provide
Although it may be appealing to save on costs, if you really want your event to go off without a hitch consider bring in the experts. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and it's their job to prepare for these and solve them as soon as they arise.
If you want to give DIY event production a go, we recommend trying an in-browser option like Restream or Streamyard. Both of these tools give you the ability to pull in speaker video and audio, pre-recorded materials and other resources into a branded live stream broadcast right from your browser.
If you're looking to go professional we work with many of the top broadcast engineers in the business, so if you'd like to chat for a free consultation on the best approach for your event get in touch with one of our Virtual Event Experts. Or you can find out more below.
Bringing Value To Your Virtual Event Sponsors
A great way to monetise your virtual events is by getting sponsors on board. High profile sponsors (or just reliable, valuable ones), can bring in new revenue streams, attract wider audiences and add more gravitas to your brand too. But what’s in it for them? At a physical event, the effects are far-reaching - sponsor booths are often smack-bang in front of their potential customers and offer the opportunity to develop countless business opportunities and sales.
At a virtual event, just like with everything else, things look a little different. You need to ensure your sponsors achieve the ROI they expect, virtual or not. This means you’ll need to get creative; prioritise your sponsors and make it worthwhile for them to sponsor your event. In this section we’ll explore how to bring value to your virtual event sponsors and how to keep them happy.
Understanding Sponsors Objectives
The benefits of sponsorship for an event organiser are far-reaching, but it’s important to think about what the sponsors get out of it too.
- It’s important to have regular calls with your sponsors in the lead up to the virtual event so that you understand what the sponsor is trying to achieve and that you’re all on the same page about how you’ll achieve it.
- Some sponsor objectives at a virtual event could include lead generation, brand awareness, driving sales or expanding their reach. Many event platforms offer detailed reporting capabilities, so take advantage of this feature and provide sponsors with a detailed report including relevant metrics of success, ie. booth traffic, leads, sales, clicks, etc. This will make you come across slick, professional and that their objectives are a priority for you.
- Tailor your sponsorship package to suit the individual needs of the sponsor. Although there is value in having an out-of-the-box sponsorship packages to hand, every organisation is looking for something different. So be flexible and make sure you're bringing them value for their investment.
Branding Exposure Opportunities
Whilst different to exhibiting in person, there are still plenty of branding exposure opportunities for sponsors at a virtual event. You could create virtual expo booths, allow for sponsored content opportunities, include their branding in the invites and email comms, display branded banners across different areas of the event platform, include their logo in virtual badges for all attendees (as you would give out branded badges and lanyards at a physical event), advertise them with dedicated posts across your social media and event platform (such as via push notifications, live feed or polls) or even allow them to send virtual or physical swag bags to attendees including information about their brand, exclusive discounts and offers and free gifts.
There really are endless opportunities for sponsor branding at an online event, including via networking sessions and the event content itself. It's really all about making sure you are achieving their objectives though, and it's essential to make sure you're collecting the right data to be able to prove ROI for them.
For example, if they want to position their brand as experts on a specific subject then perhaps sponsored content is the way to go. Post-event you can send them data you've collected on the number of viewers in a particular session (and tuning into post-event content), feedback collected from surveys, and click through and download rates on their resources. If they are looking to get as much brand exposure as possible, then plaster their branding across the event platform and provide them with detailed data on traffic, clicks and impressions that their sponsorship garnered.
Leveraging Content To Benefit Sponsors
As we mentioned, virtual events are a very different environment for sponsors compared to physical events; their exposure tends to be much lower and they need to work harder to start conversions and get in front of the right people. So make it as easy as possible for them! Sponsored content is an easy way to position your sponsors front and centre for attendees.
You could offer sponsors a guest speaking slot for one of the sessions, ask them to host a virtual stage (where all the content that takes place is relevant to them and their services) or include pre-recorded or live advertising slots throughout sessions. They could also run demos of their products, or simply just sponsor a session.
By allowing them to sponsor the event content rather than just passively waiting for attendees to visit their virtual exhibition booths, they’ll be in pole position to generate leads and expand their reach.
Facilitated Networking That Drives Value For Sponsors And Attendees
Another great way to drive value for your sponsors is through hosted networking.
Sponsors could host a networking session for attendees in varying levels; they could simply have their name on the session, they could organise a fun networking or teambuilding activity or even run an AI-powered matchmaking networking session (depending on the event platform and networking tool capabilities). Budget allowing and depending on the scale of the virtual event, sponsors could even send snacks and drinks to each attendee!
Hosted networking is mutually beneficial - attendees get to let their hair down after a full day at a virtual conference or event, you get to keep your attendees engaged and tuned in for longer, and sponsors get their name out there and generate more opportunities for valuable conversations. Read our top tips for successful virtual event networking for more guidance.
Post-Event Marketing: Extending The Life Of Your Virtual Event
With all of the amazing content and engagement you've produced from your virtual event, it shouldn't just end there. In this section, we’ll explore some key strategies to help you extend the life of your virtual events, as well as how events can engage your audience and keep them interested in your brand for the long-haul.
Key Strategies To Extend The Life Of A Virtual Event
Virtual events are the gifts that just keep giving! Whether it’s recording your content, keeping your attendees happy or utilising social media to attract and retain attendees, there are a lot of ways to extend the shelf life of your virtual events. We list a few of these ways in this piece on strategies to extend the life of your virtual event:
Creating An Engaged Brand Community
Adding events to your marketing mix is a great way to engage your current audience, reach new audiences, and establish your brand within your industry. In fact, according to the Event Marketing 2020 benchmarks report, 85% of leaders feel that events are integral to company success. Below are just a few reasons why you should be planning virtual events this year!
Showcase your services to potential customers
Nothing is a better advertisement of your brand than giving potential customers a first-hand glimpse of your services and products. Offering free trials, demos and tasters of your services at the event will help to hook them in and encourage them to follow up after the event for more information.
Position your brand as experts in your field
By continually providing your community with extensive content and insights on topics within your field of expertise you enable them to make informed decisions and earn a reputation as a trusted brand. They will keep coming back for your guidance and when they are ready, to utilise your brand's services or products.
Don’t underestimate the power of brand integrity and trust, especially in these uncertain times.
Keep your audiences engaged long-term
The beauty of virtual events is the fact that, without any extra effort, you have all of the event content ready to go once your event is over. You can circulate this content on social media, through email marketing and through other channels for a long time after your event. This allows delegates to catch-up, re-watch and engage with your event all over again.
Expand your reach
Virtual events can be attended by audiences all over the world, not restricted by geographical location or timings. This means you’ll be able to reach a huge amount of people and have more eyes on your brand.
Bring people together
Creating unforgettable, valuable and unique experiences for your delegates will unite them and spark conversation amongst each other, whilst simultaneously firmly cementing your brand in their minds. It’s a win-win. What’s more, people love to talk! Organising an excellent virtual event will act as a catalyst for endless social media conversation, again helping to spread the word about your brand and create an engaged community.
Measuring Virtual Event Impact
It’s all good and well putting on an online event, but if you don’t analyse metrics such as attendance rate, lead capture or social engagement how do you know if you’re achieving what you set out to achieve? Measuring the impact of an event with KPIs is an important part of running a virtual event, and will help you to improve your events for next time while delivering ROI to your stakeholders.
What To Measure For Virtual Events
There are a whole range of metrics for measuring the impact of your virtual event and these will vary depending on your event objectives. We've put together some guidance on common metrics used to measure an events success.
Read this piece on how to measure the success of your virtual event to garner insight into the types of metrics you could use to measure the success of your event and to nail those objectives:
What To Measure For Sponsors & Exhibitors
When a company sponsors a virtual event, they expect to get the most ‘bang for their buck’ and make it worthwhile for them to be spending precious time and money. Providing in-depth reports on a range of metrics is going to be crucial in delivering ROI and securing future sponsorship and the revenue that comes with it. We’ve listed a few key metrics to consider in addition to the general event metrics above.
When it comes to measuring your virtual event’s success, collecting feedback is vital. Not only will it help you to understand exactly what your audience thought of your event, but it can also provide you with essential information on what you should do differently next time.
Make sure that the questions you choose to ask support the KPIs you’re tracking. Then, use the feedback to support your other measurements and fill in the gaps.
For instance, if you’re tracking drop-off points, you might find that lots of attendees dropped off at around the same time. You can match this figure with the feedback you’ve received to build up a fuller picture of what happened. It might be that the content wasn’t valuable, or it might be that it clashed with a popular sports game or TV show. Without this knowledge, you won’t know what to change for your next event.
Read our full piece on collecting feedback for more tips on collecting constructive and insanely usable feedback at your virtual event.
Introduction to Hybrid Events
In 2020 the coronavirus pandemic caused a seismic shift in the events industry and the way events are held. Thus, we have all had to adapt and rethink our event strategies going forward in 2021 and beyond. A clear trend that has emerged is the organising of hybrid events. In this section, we’ll delve into what a hybrid event is, the different types and how to plan one.
What Is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event is an event taking place in a physical venue and also broadcasted virtually for an online audience.
Hybrid can be a very broad term, with some events having delegates attending in person and the content being broadcasted online to increase reach, and some events are just based in a studio or on location with a filming crew.
Type Of Hybrid Events
Just as there are many different types of virtual and in-person events, there are a plethora of hybrid event formats you can organise. Here’s a few of the main ones:
A hybrid conference is much the same as a virtual or physical conference, just combined! It would typically involve in-person attendees arriving at a physical venue where they attend keynote sessions, breakout sessions, networking and workshops. The virtual attendees tune into these sessions via a live stream, much like a webinar.
Hybrid Trade Show
Easily partnered with a hybrid conference, a hybrid trade show or exhibition would involve physical exhibition stands at the venue for the live element, plus either a virtual exhibition stand via a dedicated virtual event platform for the virtual attendees with a dedicated member of staff from the company, or just a video-link to the physical stand if you are on a lower budget.
Whatever you do, don't neglect the virtual attendees and their experience. It's key to make sure those that cannot attend in-person are not disadvantaged.
A hybrid meeting would typically involve a physical venue with a meeting room or space for in-person attendees to sit together around a table, plus a video link for virtual attendees to tune into. There would usually be a large screen in the room so that the in-person attendees could see the virtual attendees and vice versa, so it generates more of a collaborative meeting experience as opposed to staring at one person speaking and not seeing reactions of other attendees. This also works for hybrid workshops, where attendees are required to discuss, interact and collaborate together.
As discussed in this session from EventLAB 2020, it can be difficult to facilitate successful hybrid networking. When you’re at a physical event talking to people, connections can often be made in a serendipitous manner and the conversation can be much more reactive, feeding off what the other person is saying. But at a virtual event, this element is lost and it’s likely that the virtual attendees will end up watching in-person attendees having a conversation without being brought into the discussion, or worse, log off.
The solution? Try and find a happy medium - we recommend a hosted or facilitated speed-dating networking session which ensures every attendee is catered for. It’s important to consider the attendee experience from all angles and making sure you are breaking the barrier between physical and virtual attendees.
Much like hybrid networking, it can be a challenge for event organisers to successfully merge the two types of attendees at a hybrid party. Rather than letting everyone run loose, a great way to bring everyone together for a bit of fun is to run a hosted teambuilding or entertainment activity. This could be a murder mystery for example, where in-person and virtual attendees are each put into mixed groups and have to work together to solve a problem. In-person attendees can dial into a zoom call with their virtual counterparts and slides can be sent to the virtual attendees so they can see what the in-person attendees can see in the venue. You could also run a quiz in a similar way, but we advise keeping groups fairly small and making sure there aren’t lots of in-person attendees in the same group, as this is where the physical element wins and virtual attendees will become passive.
If you didn’t want to run a hosted hybrid party but wanted it to be more natural, it’s important to ensure the broadcast link is super sharp and clear so the virtual attendees have a similar experience to in-person attendees. For example, you could run a hybrid awards ceremony where virtual attendees are ‘seated’ at the table with in-person attendees via a live stream, and also send out three-course meals and drinks so they can eat at the same time as the physical attendees. You could also create a zoom room for all the virtual attendees to come together and enjoy the awards/music/performance or whatever it may be.
For us, the key with all of these hybrid event formats is to try and ensure the attendee experience is just as valuable and engaging for both types of attendees, so it takes some creativity and a lot of planning!
Be prepared with Covid Cover
If your event plans change due to Coronavirus, the Covid Cover Guarantee allows you to effortlessly switch between virtual, hybrid and in-person events as required.Find Out More
Why Choose Hybrid Events?
Hybrid events are fairly new to most of us, which naturally brings fresh logistical challenges. However, there are plenty of big advantages of hybrid events compared to standard in-person events, some of which are listed below:
- Increased reach
- Increased flexibility
- Greater value for sponsors
- Enhanced ROI
- More sustainable
How To Plan A Hybrid Event
Whilst hybrid events offer a whole host of benefits, they, as with any event, also require a fair amount of planning. Below, we delve into a few of the key steps and aspects you’ll need to consider when planning your own hybrid event.
1. Establish your objectives and audience.
Ensuring the event is valuable for your target audience is the first step to planning your hybrid event. Define what you want to achieve and who you’re trying to reach and go from there.
2. Find the perfect venue and event platform
As you’re organising a hybrid event, you’ll need a venue for the in-person attendees and a virtual event platform for the virtual attendees. Do your research, go back to your objectives and make sure both the venue and platform can work together harmoniously and are suitable for your event. From a venue perspective, read this piece for information on how to make your venue covid-safe and reassure your delegates.
3. Establish the event format
This is the tricky bit! When constructing your agenda and the flow of the day, it’s crucial to keep both types of attendee in mind and consider their experience. All attendees have different needs, so be considerate of all of your attendees and they’ll thank you for it. For example, virtual attendees may experience zoom fatigue from long one-speaker sessions, or they might need a longer lunch break to walk the dog or feed the kids whereas at a live event, all attendees need to do is eat! Likewise, virtual attendees can start earlier as they have no commute but this isn’t the case for the physical attendees, so be smart when planning your session timings and how the event will take place.
4. Try and engage your audience as much as possible
At live event, this is easy to do with live workshops, coffee breaks or networking sessions, but virtual interaction can tend to pose more of a problem. So get creative! Make sure your virtual event platform has lots of audience participation features such as live polling and Q&A, and include a virtual networking session if you can’t find a way to combine them with the in-person attendees.
5. Safety is key
Your in-person attendees need to feel safe attending at a venue, so ensuring the venue is adhering to all guidelines will help to reassure your delegates that it’s safe to attend your event and that they’re not at risk. This is going to be a key driver in the return of live (or part live) events.
6. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
Things can go wrong with any event, but hybrid events can be more tricky logistically as you’re dealing with both the in-person side and the virtual side. Make sure you undergo a full rehearsal to test every part of the event from start to finish. You don’t want any nasty surprises on the day! Make sure you have a tech team on-hand to support you too. Whether it’s a tech issue with the virtual or the live element, it will need to be fixed ASAP and that’s a lot of pressure! Having a tech team or even an outsourced production team will help keep things slick and you calm.
7. Ask for feedback
This is pretty new territory for most of us hybrid event planners, so after the event, ask your attendees what they thought! You can ask them about specific parts of the event you weren’t too sure about, ask them how their experience was and what they’d improve or do differently. You’ll get priceless information straight from the horse’s mouth which will help you to continuously improve as time goes on.
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