Few industries have suffered as much during the current pandemic as the event industry. Event production companies across the globe have been forced to cancel many of the events they had planned for 2020 because of Covid-19. The current pandemic conditions are expected to last a while and corporate event planners are converting planned live events to online gatherings.
According to Marketing Drive, 71% of media and marketing executives think virtual gatherings and conferences will be the only option for businesses through 2020. In addition, 51% predict live gatherings will likely continue to have a virtual element post-pandemic.
Are Virtual Events the Future?
The early days of the pandemic were marked by widespread confusion in the event industry. Some event production companies initially attempted to hold in-person concerts and seminars while following social distancing measures.
These live gatherings stopped being held in the UK after the event ban was put in place earlier this year. The situation is much the same in the US. Large gatherings are banned; few professionals are willing to attend trade shows and conferences.
The UK government is gradually reopening many public spaces. However, the number of people permitted in gatherings remains limited. For this reason, virtual events are presently the only option available for organizers interested in hosting live seminars or concerts. If you’re interested in organizing a virtual event, follow this simple guide to move the corporate event from the physical world to the virtual one.
How to Shift your Physical Event to a Virtual One
Virtual events have been around for over a decade, but gained widespread popularity after the Covid-19 outbreak. While safer than physical events, they can still be a challenge to organize. This guide should be useful for event organizers who are planning their first paid virtual gathering.
- Select Software for Your Virtual Event
Once you have decided to shift your event to the virtual world, you will need to start the planning process for your “new” event. Instead of hiring a venue, you’ll need to find a virtual event software or platform to host your event.
The virtual event software will determine the capacity and length of your event. Some video conferencing software limits the number of participants that can attend at a single time. This could be a small limit, such as 50 participants, which may or may not be suitable depending on your event type.
Some virtual event software limits the length of your event to avoid overloading the software provider’s servers. Organizers may be able to find software that offers the right participant capacity and doesn’t limit the event length. Some software platforms offer larger numbers of participants and longer times if the organizer pays a premium.
These paid platforms typically come with better customer service than their free counterparts. This customer service could be incredibly useful if you run into technical problems during your event. You may wish to test the service with a free trial to familiarize yourself with its basic functionality and test its technical support.
- Inform Attendees about the Virtual Event
The next thing to focus on is informing your prospective attendees about the event. Event organizers should have a list of people who initially registered for their in-person event. Contact these attendees via email, phone, or social media to inform them that the physical event is now a virtual one.
Many attendees may not be on-board this new arrangement. For this reason, you should offer refunds for attendees who do not want to attend your virtual event.
Attendees interested in attending your virtual event should be given a partial refund. This will compensate them for the fact that your virtual event won’t be as immersive as a physical one. Send these attendees digital tickets they can use to sign into the virtual event.
- Promote the Virtual Event
Once you have taken care of the attendees who already bought tickets, you can focus on promoting your event to others. You can advertise the event using paid online advertisements and/or social media.
You can also publicize the event through blogging, social media posts, email blasts and earned media mentions. Encourage social media followers to share news of the event with a branded hashtag. Make sure session titles and descriptions are descriptive and compelling. Speakers or performers at the event may use their blogs, email lists or social media accounts to promote attendance at the event.
If your event is a concert, promote it on social media sites frequented by young people, such as Facebook and Instagram. If your event is a webinar or web conference, you can promote it on sites like LinkedIn. Video snippets of the performers or interviews with them work well for promoting virtual concerts.
Tickets for your virtual event should be easy to purchase and download online. There’s no point in hosting a virtual event if attendees have to step outside to purchase tickets from a ticketing booth.
- Set up the Event
After promoting the virtual event, start planning for each speaker or act. One of the advantages of hosting virtual events over physical ones is the ability to record presentations beforehand.
Recording each presentation beforehand gives speakers the freedom to edit out any mistakes or problems that occur during their presentation, such as faulty equipment and poor audio quality. Companies that wish to hold webinars should record presentations beforehand to ensure their event proceeds according to plan. For webinars, the speakers should be available for live Q&A after their presentations.
Social media listening can reveal what attendees talk about during and after the event. Their comments can provide ideas for new online sessions and other ideas on how to improve your virtual event.
The current pandemic conditions are expected to last for a while, so event goers will have to hold off on attending physical events for a bit longer. Virtual events undoubtedly will continue gaining popularity.
Many virtual events get off to a rocky start, so you may wish to explore other tools and techniques for hosing a successful virtual event, including using a professional event production service.
Given concerns about the risk of spreading coronavirus in large gatherings, virtual events may become as popular as physical events in the future.
Sarah Hill is a content writer at Seven Events Ltd, an event production company in the UK that offers event management and venue finding services. She started her career in the events industry almost a decade ago and she became an avid event blogger, sharing her insights on corporate event planning.