If you have any events planned for 2020, the chances are that you won’t be able to proceed with any of them. Live events are being cancelled all around the globe, and yet we know we can’t go another year without live interactions. Businesses are suffering without event marketing in their repertoire, and that’s a huge issue. Imagine how valuable you will be to your company if you have the know-how to convert a physical event to a virtual one without cancelling? Here are five essential steps to make that happen.
Moving your event online affects more people than you think. Your attendees will have to make alternative arrangements to make sure they can attend your event in the most conducive environment possible. Once you’ve decided to convert to a virtual event, your very first step is to communicate this to all your attendees. Focus on “why” and “what next”. You have to communicate your reason for this decision and provide any details you have nailed down for the virtual event.
There are usually 4 main groups of people you need to communicate your decision to. There are:
- Event Staff — Vendors and Employees
- Sponsors — Exhibitors or executive sponsors
- Speakers and Presenters
Make sure you have a tailored email for each group. Have your Event Producer sign off the email, so that it’s more sincere. Please don’t leave it at that too, cause we know emails can get stuck in the spam folders. It pays to have your team reach out to people by phone.
One common mistake event organisers make is to try and convert a physical event into a live one. Human behaviours (and attention span) differ significantly in a virtual environment, and you can’t expect them to pay attention to all 30 webinars just because there are 30 presentations planned for your physical conference. Instead, you should envision and design a unique virtual experience, using your physical event as the foundation. Be aware that there are features of a virtual experience that you can’t provide at a physical one.
Yes, it might match your attendee’s expectations more if you model your virtual event flow after your physical one. However, we often find that the best virtual experiences are those designed with a 100% digital mindset, breaking the moulds and expectations of what an event should be. Only by doing something different can you create something that will get everyone talking.
There are so many things to rework when you move your event online. The first thing you will want to look at are your timelines. Here are a few dates you have to move around:
- Services from external providers
- Marketing timeline
- Press releases
- Speaker presentation submission
- Sponsorship deliverables
Once that is done, figure out how to re-assign everyone on the physical team. Work out cancellations with your event suppliers such as venue and food which you will not need. Find those who are providing you with transferable services and work out renewed terms of services with them. Lastly, don’t forget to re-assign your internal teams. Some might need to take up new roles to remain relevant in a virtual event.
The silver lining from this pandemic is the introduction and enhancement of tons of technology platforms. These range from webinar to 3D, immersive platforms. To avoid drowning in options, take one step back. Go back to what you envisioned your virtual event to be like, and map that to a suitable platform. Don’t plan your event around the platform. Instead, find a platform that can support your plans.
Once you shortlist a few, it never hurts to speak to the vendor’s sales team. Share your vision for the event with them, and request for their demos to showcase how exactly they can deliver on your vision. A good point of reference to take if past events like yours. Speak to those customers, or request access to the event archive, to see if what they are selling fits the bill.
There is no way you are a virtual events expert 2 months after COVID19 forced you online. Take on a rookie mindset, and do dry runs to make sure your event goes according to plan. For speakers, train them on the streaming platform of choice. You can preload presentations, videos, and take them through the presentation flow. You might also want to make sure your speakers are familiar with speaking virtually. Standardise the distance to the camera, the angle, sound equipment and lighting in the room. It might seem redundant, but you might want to set a dress code as well.
For exhibitors, give them access to their virtual booths. These let them test out their booth materials and hotspots beforehand, to make sure they are not hampered by technical frustration on the event day. Your internal team can act as the attendees, so you get some real conversations going on the platform.
It’s no small feat to bring a physical event online, but the alternative (no events at all) is much scarier. With the above five checkpoints, you can be the hero your company needs. Just remember to think outside the box, and not let your assumptions and past experiences limit your virtual event. Your event will then be so much more memorable.