For the past eight months our events have been almost exclusively digital. We’ve planned and managed over 450 events for as few as ten attendees and as many as 29,800. It’s been an exciting adventure; here’s some of what we’ve learned.
Successfully meeting expectations means managing engagement
- We’ve all experienced digital fatigue. As audiences for virtual events get larger, it’s critical to focus on keeping attendees engaged with content and each other. Chats and question/answer sessions need moderation. Everyone needs ways to take a break from the screen without losing momentum. Make sure to insert short performance breaks to give attendees an opportunity to stretch and interact.
- With a smaller audience you can schedule interactive segments with games, demonstrations and engaging hosts. These high-touch experiences may require custom gift-giving as part of the program, for example sending wine for a tasting. Remember to factor in the costs of shipping, particularly if there are international attendees, and know your shipping rules. Not all items can ship to all states and countries.
- A dynamic presenter, or MC, hosting the event can make a big difference in sustaining attendee interest.
Content preparation demands reworking timelines
- Prepare to add time upfront for managing content, especially for speaker-intensive programs. In order to make sure there’s time to review content, pre-record presentations, and edit everything together, hard deadlines have to be set far in advance of the actual event. We’ve seen pre-recording take as much as 4 times the length of the session. For speakers used to the flexibility of making last-minute changes, this shift can be challenging.
- Speaker management goes beyond making sure you have presentation slides on time to include coaching, rehearsing and recording. This event may be the first time your speaker has presented on camera, and they will look to you for support with everything from lighting and sound to camera placement and voice dynamics. We’ve shipped lighting and recording equipment to speakers at home. We’ve also created a studio where simulive presentations were pre-recorded by multiple presenters. More speaker tips are available for download.
Customization requirements drive budgets while revenue sources may be limited
- It’s tempting to think digital events will be less expensive than face-to-face events. The reality is, however, that costs for successful digital events are driven by the desire to provide custom, engaging environments. Expect to see expenses for video, production, file editing, and extra staff hours in reviewing content and working with speakers.
- Sponsors may not feel they receive enough benefit from digital meetings with attendees to justify costs comparable to face-to-face exhibit halls. While some sponsors may expect to see lower-priced sponsorship tiers relative to past events, we can explore other ways to keep sponsors engaged. Get ahead of the curve by discussing 2-year packages, sponsorship opportunities with hybrid events and other longer-term options.
Networking has a whole new look
- Much of the value of corporate meetings, regardless of size, comes from the opportunity to network with colleagues. It’s important to get beyond the screen filled with small faces and find creative solutions to help people connect. Whether it’s a cooking class for a small group or chat to support a breakout session, interactivity is a core requirement as you create the feeling of being with a community. We’ve created an on-demand library of breaks focused on wellness and health, fun conversation starters, meet the expert opportunities, virtual games and so on.
- Interactive options such as chat and question/answer breaks require moderation by engaged and engaging hosts, to keep conversations moving and on topic. Moderators also ensure comments stay useful and appropriate, particularly for public events.
Technology means steep learning curves for all
- New platforms are being offered all the time. While this can mean there are exciting new features available, it’s important to stay up to date on the options to know what solutions might work best for your program. You’ll need to learn how to be creative within the limitations of your platform. You’ll also need to make sure you have the infrastructure in place for the platform to talk with the rest of your systems, such as registration and data management.
- As with any digital situation, cybersecurity and protecting the privacy of your attendees cannot be ignored. Anticipating vulnerabilities to data-mining and hackers is a real concern.
- Invest in educating your staff. From terminology and staffing ratios to content and design, it’s a whole new world.