Large in-person conferences are obsolete (though hopefully not forever). Virtual events are the new modus operandi.
Successful in-person events can be adapted to virtual events, and there are even bonuses to moving into virtual. But there are also pitfalls to be aware of. Here are 6 of the most common mistakes in virtual events, and how you can avoid making them.
Mistake #1: Weak content.
That 45-minute PowerPoint presentation you’ve been working on all week? Just go on and drag that to your desktop’s recycle bin.
You don’t have a captive audience during a virtual event. Your attendees face distractions such as kids, pets, their iPhones, deliveries, just to name a few, and it’s up to you to keep them engaged.
How can you hold engagement?
● First, balance that slide presentation with video, panel discussions, and short breaks. It might be tempting to pack it all into longer sessions, but it’s to your advantage to spread out your content over shorter sessions in more days.
● Second, make it entertaining so attendees want to come back. Use storytelling to engage and choose speakers who are genuinely funny, engaging and fun. How will you know? Look at Mistake #2.
● Three, ADD VALUE. Content has to strike a balance between informative and interesting, don’t be overly technical, but don’t waste their time. Give something away that adds to their experience, is clear and genuinely useful. Their time is important- ask yourself, “what am I giving my audience?’
Mistake #2: Sub-par presenters.
Be ruthless when it comes to choosing your digital presenter. You want a digital native with charism and magnetism and please do not rely on their success at live events. They will be navigating and switching between chat rooms, the camera, live panels and Q&A sessions, while charming attendees and winning over audiences potentially from around the world. They need to know the format and speak well online.
Don’t rely on their performances at live events, look at samples of their VR content and interview them online. You’ll quickly get a sense of their presence and the value they can add. And speaking of adding value…
Mistake #3: Underestimating sponsorship.
Your sponsors are your bread and butter. If you choose sponsors who are irrelevant to your industry or the event’s topic, you won’t be able to give them a proper platform and you’ll compromise attendee engagement. Promote sponsors on online social media platforms that are relevant to your attendee demographics.
Other suggestions include:
• Include sponsorship pages on your event website
• Promote your sponsors months in advance
• Create whitepaper based on the areas that your sponsors specialise in
• Give sponsors links to their bio page, website and opportunities for lead generation
• Use video in teasers approaching the event.
Choose sponsors who fit with your event theme and the messaging. Consider asking sponsors who are qualified to present, depending on their strengths. Use engaging advertising between sessions. And be completely up front about how a sponsor will be highlighted throughout the event. (More on expectations in #4).
Mistake #4: Neglecting to manage expectations.
Get clarity on what is expected from attendees, clients, exhibitors and sponsors alike. Using terms like ‘chat’ is a great example. Do clients or attendees expect live interaction between sessions or text communication? Do sponsors want 1:1 or group calls for their in-platform video calls. Create a dialogue and be clear. Ask layman such as non-event planners if they understand what’s on offer with your messaging.
In terms of attendee expectations. How long will the event last? What types of content will be included? Will they be expected to participate with their cameras and microphones on? Do they have what they need to know to fully engage with the content. Consider offering brief clips, teasers of the event, how-to’s on utilising the interface. Assume responsibility for getting them ready to fully experience your event. Clever marketing uses humourous antidotes and even video clips to show guests do’s and don’ts of making the most of the event.
Additionally, your event planning team is on the same page when it comes to the objectives and success metrics of the event. From sponsorship, to attendees, to the staff you have sweating to put this thing together, you want everyone on the same page as far as what is on offer, and how you will be measuring the results. From your staff to your exhibitors and sponsors, to your guests, you are creating not just an event, but a long-term relationship that will ideally continue in future events for years to come. Start with proper communication so you can deliver expectations.
Mistake #5: Forgoing professional help.
You cannot replicate your live event just by putting on the web. A book has to be reimagined and written as a screenplay before it can be a decent movie, and you have to reimagine every part of your live event to make sure the online version is engaging and successful. A professional does this everyday.
You cannot forgo a specialized production company. It’s not uncommon to think you can do it all yourself when it’s essentially brand new. A professional team has 10,000 hours on anything that can and will happen, and has already found solutions for a variety of issues you may have never even seen before. They can account for these in real time and are present to make sure that everything runs smoothly from marketing to the live event to post event analytics.
Mistake #6 Cutting Corners on Rehearsal
You cannot cut corners on rehearsal. The timing must be correct. You must run through the entire event, complete with slides and videos, and be prepared for what could go wrong and where you’ll adjust the time when a presenter goes too long or too short.
Live events have rehearsals. Speakers practise. Lighting and sound is tested. Timelines are run through in real time to bring mistakes and issues to the forefront naturally before the actual event. Audiovisual settings, switching between slides and speakers, chat and live video functionality have to be tested. You will be surprised at how much goes wrong during the first couple of run-throughs, and ridiculously grateful that you tested it out ahead of time.
Mistake #7: The Wrong Technology
What could be wrong about the technology? Oh, so much. You need a laptop that keeps up with your virtual reality headset to avoid cybersickness- latency free performance is non-negotiable. You want HDMI ports that can output at high speeds and an integrated USB that can keep pace the requirements of VR- otherwise it won’t’ even matter if your GPU can. You have to avoid harsh shadows in a studio consider the right green screen (there are many out there) and make sure that the connection has no lag time or the brilliant speaker/presenters you’ve lined up will not matter.
A few of the basics:
• Reliable WiFi
• Event registration software
• Virtual event website
• Live streaming software
• Digital video
• The right lavalier (lapel mics)
• Lighting equipment
Technology is the gateway to a brilliant virtual event experience. Choose it wisely, and you’ll be grateful for the investment.
Mistake #8: Neglecting post-event best practise.
What went well? What would you like to improve upon?
Send surveys and incentivise your audience to fill them out prior to leaving the event. Create material that attendees can download from the event and share with others. It’s free promotion and it adds value.
In addition to your own examinations of what went well, reach out to your attendees after the event. Survey them to gain actionable feedback — find out what they liked and what bored them. Be sure and provide them with a link to a recording of the event so they may revisit it whenever they wish.
Bringing a Virtual Event together.
If you’re planning a virtual event and reading this, congratulations! You’re ahead of the curve and gaining a bit more awareness into some common pitfalls. It shows you are realistic and that you care. By making sure you prioritize exceptional content, great planning at every stage, and professional help for a seamless, lucrative event, your virtual event can be a success. You will continue to cement a reputation as an event provider of who offers quality and integrity, regardless of the genre.
Not sure where to begin? We offer consultation and estimates for every stage of the event planning process, from virtual consultancy, to studio space and production, to the right technology and content. Get in touch at any time for friendly, professional and sane guidance throughout your next virtual event experience.