There’s no question that the meeting and events industry continues to be rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Events large and small are being forced to cancel or switch from live to virtual, with no end in sight. Guides for planning virtual events have taken over the web in a matter of weeks. But when it comes to virtual event planning, how much does size matter?
It turns out, it matters a lot. There’s a vast difference between a true virtual event and a webinar. Effectively switching a 300-person live meeting to virtual and a 5,000 person or even a 20,000 event to virtual is like comparing Earth to Mars.
For smaller events, a well-planned webinar may meet your needs. But what about large events? To successfully engage large audiences, planners need to think about reasons people attend face-to-face events and simulate the same experience virtually. A tall order, to say the least!
While many event organizers wonder if this is achievable, big technology companies are leading the way and converting massive live events to virtual with ease.
Keep reading because we are going to share exactly how some of MeetingPlay’s big tech event clients are accomplishing this with outstanding results.
Key Considerations When Shifting Large Events to Virtual
When shifting massive live events to virtual, there’s a lot to consider. Most large events span several days with multiple session tracks and dozens of presenters.
MeetingPlay CEO Joe Schwinger comments:
“Every event is unique, but as we assist our big technology customers with moving their large face-to-face events to virtual, we’ve identified some common needs that come up regularly.”
In one MeetingPlay customer’s words:
“Many people attend our event for networking. We don’t want to lose the spirit of our face-to-face event, even though we can’t be together in person. So, what should we do?”
“We can’t open our event to the world but we still need to provide flexibility with who we allow to attend specific sessions. How can we achieve this?”
“Much of our event revenue comes from sponsorship. How can we connect virtual attendees with our sponsors?”
How are big tech companies solving these challenges with virtual events? Let’s take a closer look.
Focus on the Event’s Purpose
Before getting down to “what” and “how” to switch face-to-face events to virtual, we recommend that organizers carefully consider their live event’s purpose.
Is it to showcase new technology, expose new customers to your brand, provide a networking forum for users, drive leads, entertain, or all of the above?
A live event’s purpose should drive all virtual event decisions, from determining the format to selecting a virtual event engagement platform.
Choose the Right Virtual Event Delivery Option
One of the first things for planners of large events to decide is a virtual event format. There are 3 main ways our big tech customers are delivering virtual events:
This is when a speaker is presenting live and it is streamed for an audience to view and interact with in real-time (albeit, a few seconds delay). YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and Vimeo are all good examples of live streaming platforms.
During a live session or live stream, all who have access to the stream have the ability to:
- Chat with one another
- Take notes on points that are important to them
- Engage in live Q&A
- Participate in polls and surveys
Pre-recorded sessions work well with session tracks where organizers are sharing a lot of content. Contrary to what some believe, pre-recorded content can still be engaging for your audience. In fact, through public and private chat, participants have the ability to personalize their schedule and interact with other attendees and presenters in much the same way as they would in a live session. Adding gamification can encourage even more participation and excitement.
Our big tech customers have shared how they want their audience to experience the “feel” of their live event virtually but still have session flexibility. To solve this, we recommend they adopt a hybrid format.
A hybrid event is when some of the sessions take place live and other sessions are pre-recorded.
Many kick-off virtual events and build excitement with a live stream keynote before offering their audience pre-recorded, interactive sessions and tracks.
Achieve Awesome Virtual Networking Opportunities
The holy grail of any large event is successful attendee networking.
A big priority for many of our big tech virtual event customers is enabling event participants to connect with one another around mutual interests. We can’t emphasize enough: To truly, re-create the magic of a live event virtually, do not neglect this!
To make their large events memorable, our tech customers utilize matching technology to connect event participants. Attendee matching works by recommending connections based on company, job function, topic, and other interests during and between sessions. In this way, our big tech customers are creating robust virtual networking experiences for their audience.
Another essential networking tool is giving virtual guests the ability to set up online appointments in the same way they would if they were attending a face-to-face event. All this is done through our virtual engagement platform, making it easy and stress-free.
Bottom line, abundant networking opportunities will make or break an event. We urge organizers to consider this carefully when planning virtual curriculum and evaluating technology partners.
Virtual Event Registration, Ticketing, and Session Access
Solving registration, ticketing, and access with large events may seem daunting but with the right event technology, it’s very feasible.
So how can this be accomplished?
Ingenuity, flexibility, and a tight API integration between our virtual engagement platform and our customers’ registration system is required to make this a seamless experience. In general, the tighter this integration, the better.
Many large event clients need to personalize access and session breakouts based on each individual’s registration data. Offering some free session content along with paid ticket upgrades enables them to recoup revenue lost from their face-to-face events.
Personalize Virtual Content and Sessions
Offering highly-relevant, personalized content available to event attendees is critical to a large event’s success. To accomplish this, allow virtual attendees to create their own personal curriculum, similar to mobile event apps. Then, based on the sessions they attend, make additional session recommendations to keep them engaged.
Connect Virtual Event Attendees with Sponsors
For many large events, a significant amount of revenue comes from sponsorship.
Our big tech customers leverage multiple ways for sponsors and attendees to connect, including:
Virtual exhibit halls
Here, attendees can access sponsors and meet with representatives as they would a face-to-face exhibit hall.
Web banners are a powerful way to give sponsors additional exposure to their target event participants.
Similar to YouTube pre-roll ads, video interstitials highlight sponsors before pre-recorded content plays.
Keep Virtual Event Attendees Coming Back
Big tech event organizers are generating buzz before their events and keeping attendees coming back with push notifications. Since push notifications have more than 5x the click through rate of email, this is a fantastic way to amp up excitement and anticipation for next year’s event.
Now that you know how our big tech customers are successfully creating life-like virtual events, what are some next steps?
Don’t wait...Make a plan!
You may be implementing a “wait and see” approach but we urge you to make a virtual plan for your June and July events and beyond.
Once the COVID-19 crisis is over, consider how adding a virtual pass to your face-to-face may help you expand and further monetize your event.