Virtual events can compensate for some cancellations and postponements of events and provide a real alternative to site-specific events that cannot be held during the pandemic. To make a virtual event a successful one, not only a reliable infrastructure and programming is needed, but also a structured guideline, careful planning, a clear concept, and the appropriate content. This is not that easy because very few organizers and event managers have experience planning and realizing virtual events. So how do we transform our concepts for analog events into a convincing virtual event? What do we have to pay attention to? AirLST has meanwhile hosted and accompanied several virtual events. In close cooperation with our customers' planning departments, new ideas were explored, concepts were developed, and technical infrastructure for strong virtual events was implemented. After a first evaluation, we have compiled our mandatory guide for you, which covers the most important stations and points of a virtual event:
The goal of the event must be clear.
Reflect on why you are planning the event: What is your target group? What do you want to achieve with the event? How can these goals be achieved in a virtual format? How affine is your target group in the virtual form, and how can you constructively accompany them through a virtual event?
What format does the virtual event have?
The 1:1 transformation of an analog event into a virtual event is not always possible or reasonable. Thus, a concert audience's shared experience is in no way comparable to a live stream into the living room. Therefore, commonality and closeness must be created differently so that a physical concert, for example, a live stream with an integrated forum and chat, where fans can exchange thoughts, must be turned into a virtual event. And that's why the question of goals is so important; the goals define the virtual event's format and features. Welches Format hat das virtuelle Event?
Visualization and Design Development
Events often represent a welcome change from the office routine. It's a pity if we have to spend even more time in front of the computer to attend a virtual event. Therefore the virtual event venue should be designed and developed carefully. A virtual event should also be a welcome change: an appealing design motivates attendees to interact and simplifies the navigation through the virtual event.
Setting Agenda and Workflow of the Virtual Event
The more careful the planning, the more structured the virtual event can be. Clear procedures and a clear agenda help guests to participate. Time buffers should be included so that technical problems, toilet breaks, or navigation difficulties do not leave the participants behind and demotivate them.
Set-up the Welcoming and Check-in
Every guest should feel welcome. How many times have we sat in front of a live stream when there still is a test image or just an empty stage? Sitting waiting in front of a computer can be quite frustrating. The guest's attendance at the virtual event must be appreciated. A digital check-in allows the guest to be welcomed personally. Short introductory videos help to move around the platform and can prepare the guest for the virtual event and what to expect. Thus, the guest is offered a helping hand and delays until the live stream's start is sensibly overcome.
Provide Guidance and Support
A hosted virtual event has a lower dropout rate and higher attendee activity. The guests should always know at which point of the event they are and how to navigate through the virtual platform. This is a learning process, and the experience of participating in virtual events is not yet fully developed. Hence, easily accessible support and a structured, inclusive event concept are essential.
Tools such as breakout rooms, video or text chats, shared notes, virtual whiteboards, and virtual network areas encourage participant interaction. However, guests are often unprepared or not used to dealing with such tools. A short introduction and instructions about the tools should, therefore, always be provided. An easily accessible support team can also help to overcome such obstacles. Also, networking should be accompanied. Connecting by a moderator allows breaking the virtual barriers.
Schedule Short Surveys
Short interim surveys activate participants who are distracted, request short statements on the event content, and involve the guests. They also help with the evaluation and follow-up of the virtual event.
Set-up a Follow-up
Here, the virtual event differs little from any other event. A follow-up reminds the event participants, contextualizes and consolidates leads, and builds bridges for questions and next steps.
Create a Media Archive
A virtual event creates a lot of excellent material, which should be used productively. By setting up a virtual event archive or a media library, participants can access the content on a long-term basis. This increases the half-life of the event and also the reach.
Don’t Forget to Evaluate
A final evaluation is essential; after all, we are still in the middle of the learning process and want to find out how to get the most out of virtual events. To do this, we need the support of the participants and a reliable data basis.