A new era of events requires a new playbook.
Today, events of all shapes and sizes - from business conferences to a virtual tradeshow, music festivals to company offsites - are now increasingly virtual or hybrid. These formats are the future of events. But you already know this.
The upside is that this gives an event marketer the ability to capitalize on the many benefits of these new types of events, from increased reach to better return on investment.
However, this sea-change has meant that many event professionals, who have traditionally organized in-person events, do not have the requisite knowledge or skills to leverage virtual or hybrid events effectively. You simply cannot copy-and-paste in-person strategies and formats to virtual experiences.
So the need to upskill, and reskill for event planners and marketers has never been more urgent.
So what are the most critical things you now need to know to ensure that you’re well ahead of the curve rather than being left behind? Keep reading to find out.
1. Event production and platform technology 101
According to EventMB’s The Future of the Event Industry 2021 Outlook, only 53% of event professionals consider themselves “comfortable or savvy” with virtual event technology. That’s a huge number.
It’s understandable because there are different aspects to producing virtual and hybrid events; you’ll need to know how to work with audio, video, light, broadcasting and your chosen virtual event platform. But, to give your attendees the best experience possible, familiarity with the technical equipment used for virtual or hybrid event production is essential. There’s no way around it.
Let’s look at an example. Say you need to plan a virtual university alumni reunion. You’re looking for a way to have an introductory session, play videos about the university, notable alumni, and projects requiring alumni support. You’d like to set up ways for alumni to reconnect in class groups and 1:1 as well. And you’d also like a way to enable alumni to donate to the university.
Unless you have a familiarity and an understanding of a virtual event platform’s capabilities and crucially, the ways it lends itself to new online attendee behaviors and needs, you won’t be able to pick the one that best suits your requirements and delivers the results you want.
For the virtual university alumni reunion, here’s what the platform will need to have:
- Stages (to host your keynote and video plays)
- Rooms (to enable small group conversations - organized by Classes for instance)
- Networking (to spark connections between alumni across ages and geographies) Click here to read about Zuddl’s AI-powered Smart Networking
“It’s important to start training on the latest technology available to us. We have been using AI-powered matchmaking platforms to connect with potential customers and have meetings throughout the year, which eventually results in a face-to-face business opportunity at a live exhibition.” – Nick Dugdale-Moore, European Regional Manager, UFI.
Knowledge is power.
Organizing a hybrid event will require you to not only work with a virtual event platform but with lighting, sound, and broadcast equipment at your in-person venue.
You can, of course, take the easy way out by working with an event production company (like Zuddl’s partner, Entertainment Technology Partners) that will handle all aspects of the production for you. Using studios and set design, production companies can enhance the visual experience and immersive-ness of your event and showcase your message and branding.
But it’s best to know about the various parts of the production so that you can guide your partners to achieving the experience and results you want.
It’s inevitable to experience some hitches before or during the event, so having a solid understanding of the tech involved will help you quickly fix any issues.
2. Digital content strategist
It’s just not feasible to apply in-person strategies and processes to virtual and digital experiences. The two are worlds apart.
For instance, while previously a 5-hour in-person event may have been the norm, it’s unreasonable now to expect virtual attendees to sit in front of a screen for that amount of time. Or, while your in-person attendees may have been content to sit in the audience watching an interview between two speakers onstage, it’s very probable that your virtual attendees will get bored in 10 minutes watching this online and will just switch to another tab.
This is why an event marketer or organizer needs to be able to wear a digital content strategist ‘hat’ so to speak. In a virtual event environment, attendees no longer have the in-person distractions of a large and noisy venue crowded with sessions, expo halls, and plenty of other attendees. Their focus is going to be solely on the content you provide and the experience you curate.
As a digital content strategist, you’ll learn how to :
- Create content that supports your event goals
- Make your content more accessible and participatory
- Plan content delivery to accommodate online behaviors
To illustrate, let’s say you’re planning to host a virtual summit. Giving attendees a mix of content formats during the event can help to hold their attention and boost engagement with your content. For example:
- Host thought-leadership sessions around your event theme.
Pro-tip: Use your event platform engagement features to give attendees the ability to ask questions and interact with speakers and get exclusive insights they won’t find anywhere else.
- Organize virtual workshops based on event sessions
Pro-tip: Send attendees into virtual Rooms for post-session workshops. Give them problems or activities to discuss in small groups, and then invite them back to the Stage to present their findings.
- Make content recordings and supplementary info available at all times
Pro-tip: To accommodate busy work days and different time zones, make your content available on your virtual event venue for attendees to access at their convenience. Virtual Expo Booths are a great way to house case studies, white papers, video tutorials, and other forms of shareable online content. You can even make this available throughout the year to extend the life cycle of your virtual event.
With the right mix of content formats and engagement spaces and tools, you can fight the dreaded ‘goldfish attention span’ and keep attendees interested and invested in your content.
3. Data analytics
One of the biggest benefits of holding virtual events for an event marketer or organizer is the ability to track the movements and actions taken by your attendees in real-time - something not possible with in-person events. You’ll be able to see how long attendees stay at your event, which sessions drew the most interest, which content formats are getting higher rates of engagement, etc.
But you’ll need to have a grasp of analytic tools in order to take advantage of the data you collect, make changes on the fly, and improve the ROI of future virtual events.
4. Speaker Management
At in-person events in the past, you may have just needed to brief speakers before their event and called it a day. Managing speakers for your virtual event however requires a little more care and effort.
Keep in mind that your speakers will be unfamiliar with a virtual platform and will need help accessing and utilizing its features for their presentations. So to ensure that your speakers have a great experience at your event and to empower them to host engaging, interesting sessions, you’ll need to spend some time taking them through the platform and the tools they can use to drive better audience participation.
A dry run or two will be indispensable in building their confidence and yours as well.
Zuddl’s Backstage is a game-changer when it comes to Speaker management (#shamelessplug). You can use this virtual greenroom to prep speakers before they go ‘On Air’, and have a direct line of communication with them during the presentation. This will let you help with any unexpected issues, keep them on schedule and assist with audience engagement.
To sum up…
With virtual events here to stay, event marketers and planners need to reskill and upskill in order to stay ahead of the competition and reach more customers. There’s plenty to learn, but a fundamental understanding about tech, digital content, and management is a good start, coupled with stepping out of the “not how things are done” mentality. It may be a pain now, but it is sure to pay off in the long run.
Zuddl is a unified platform for events and webinars that helps event marketers plan and execute events that drive growth. The platform has clients across the globe, such as the United Nations, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, HSBC, VMware, Google, StackCommerce and Cipla amongst others. In January 2022, Zuddl announced that it closed $13.35 mn in Series A funding.