Planning Your Virtual Event
When it comes to planning a virtual event, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.
That’s because three of the four elements of all virtual events are almost identical to their live event siblings (almost).
Content remains king! We are still here to communicate the right message to your target audience. What changes in a virtual meeting is the toolkit available to drive engagement. This will change how we use visual images, video, motion graphics and interactive tools like polls, Q&A, social sharing, gamification and a host of pre- and post-meeting activities.
Remember, it’s still all about the people. Registration, pre-work, individualized engagement, and of course, post-event follow-up. The world of virtual events offers many new choices, but the ability to coordinate seamlessly, personally and in a way that still delivers a feeling of importance to the participant is key.
A virtual event is still, well, an “event” … and it requires a production crew to manage the complexity of the broadcast. However, rather than an audio/visual crew in the back of a ballroom, you will now be at a “host location” in a studio. You might also have remote locations, like offices, homes, or yes, even ballrooms. Lights, cameras and a whole new set of actions give the virtual space the feeling of a well-orchestrated television event, rather than simply the streaming of a live event.
There is also an entire virtual world of green screen technology that can launch you into Hollywood … but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Oh yes – let us not forget the new entrant into this lineup … picking the right platform. This is the technology that makes our virtual event possible.
Good news/bad news: There are LOTS of platforms from which to choose. Each one has its own set of features and capabilities that are appealing and unappealing for a variety of reasons. Some are made specifically for conferences, others for virtual trade shows, others yet for basic webcasting. Some have massive bandwidth requirements to facilitate their interactive tools and massive audience capacity, while others are more modest and provide right-sized pricing to accommodate a smaller audience. The good news here is that with the right Sherpa, you can find a great choice for your event.
Coordinating Across The Four Elements
As you consider message delivery to your audience, it’s helpful to think in terms of an interactive television broadcast. In this environment, you are likely to have a “host” who introduces the keynote speaker (feature stories), facilitates panel discussions and moderates audience questions.
This then dictates the studio setup and the scenic elements that support the broadcast. It also drives the type of digital elements that will support the broadcast. For example, picture in picture when the keynote is speaking, names and titles that appear on screen under the speakers, and graphic elements that support key points rather than a constant flow of slides.
There are also opportunities to use prerecorded video segments, or jump to remote live speakers much like a field correspondent on a newscast. Maybe a live demo of a new product or the reveal of a new facility. Once an event goes digital, we can plan for content that is most likely to impact the digital participant, rather than the type of content that impacts a live participant, i.e., not a lot of call for ballroom pyrotechnics.
Here again, registration, pre-work, downloads, access codes, customer service to help those having difficulty with any of the aforementioned touch points are all part of the virtual event experience. All are similar to managing a traditional live event, but with small variations to account for the virtual nature of our delivery tools.
Finally, we think in terms of platform. This is very similar to the way that we look for a hotel or conference center for a traditional event. We need a platform (venue) that can handle the volume of participants, e.g., less than 10,000, 25,000 or maybe 200,000. We also need a platform that facilitates the virtual tools that are being contemplated for participant engagement. Thus, all of the choices above – live broadcast, video, Q&A, remote presenters, live polling – can impact the platform of choice.
Selecting a platform can seem daunting, but truly, once you have a handle on your content, message delivery preferences and budget, you are well on your way to finding the right tool to host your event.
Speaking of budget, let’s tackle this now so there aren’t any surprises later. Virtual events have many of the same costs as live events, e.g., a production crew, staging, lighting and sound elements. They also have a few new costs such as the hosting platform and the bandwidth necessary to carry your broadcast to your potentially global audience. There are participant management costs for registration and help desk support. And there are facility costs for the host facility and your remote locations. Finally, if you are going for maximum impact and you are considering virtual tools and the use of a green screen, there are creative development costs that will be new budget line items.
The good news is that there are no travel costs such as air, hotel, food & beverage and the other costs to move, house and feed the army of people that will be attending. A good rule of thumb is to take a look at your last production budget for a live event (not the travel logistics portion) and assume that you will spend between 80% and 120% of that budget.
Pulling It All Together
Content, production, participants and platform … 1, 2, 3, 4. Each with its own specific similarities and differences to a live event and each with a reliance on the other elements for its success. The key to developing engaging virtual events is first considering the audience and the message that you are delivering to that audience. Next, looking at the virtual events digital toolbox and deciding how best to engage your audience. Finally, finding the platform that can accommodate your vision within budget.
Once mastered, a virtual event can provide global reach, consistency of messaging and a digital record that can be used long after the event has concluded. It can be cost competitive when compared to a live event and engagingly superior when compared to a simple webcast.
Morley is a full-service provider of Meetings & Incentives. Within the Virtual Events space, we help clients with any or all of the following:
- Creating content (graphics, animation, video and/or words)
- Producing the live portion of their event (crews and locations)
- Managing registration and other participant deliverables
- Selecting digital platforms to deliver the virtual event