Brands across the board — whether it’s B2B or B2C — rely on events in a big way. Whether it’s to unveil their latest product, showcase cutting-edge innovations, garner some publicity, or simply to find their next client.
Needless to say, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the events industry. A report in March estimated that the losses from event cancellations had exceeded $1.1 billion — and the numbers have only grown since.
In February, in-person events came to a grinding halt. The Mobile World Congress was one of the first to cancel their in-person event, much to the disappointment of PR professionals and brand representatives across the globe.
Nevertheless, with millions of dollars on the line, PR professionals, marketers and event organizers rallied soon enough. The solution was unanimous — go virtual. Google Cloud Next ‘20 was the first event to make the transition from a three-day conference to a global, digital-first event.
Today virtual events are the go-to solution — and most event organizers and PR teams have started planning their events as digital-first initiatives for 2021. The growing popularity of virtual events amongst event organizers as well as participants due to its time efficacy is anticipated to fuel the market growth and the industry is expected to be valued at $700 billion by 2030.
While different teams have adapted quickly to this new reality, there is definitely a big difference between in-person and virtual events. For those navigating the virtual event landscape for the first time, here are a list of things to look out for:
Before the event
Define the objectives
Virtual Event platforms have evolved very quickly to live up to the opportunities that have been created thanks to the pandemic. Today, there are different types of virtual events that you can host on different platforms. In order to understand which platform and which type of event will suit you best, it’s important to define the objectives of the event. Creating a list of quantifiable as well as qualitative goals will help you decide which type of virtual event you need to host.
Choose the right platform
Choose the platform based on the objectives of the event. If you have minimal engagement at the event, you can work with a basic platform like Zoom or GoToWebinar. On the other hand, if you want to create a more cutting-edge, immersive event experience you can use virtual event platforms like Samaaro. The option of hosting unlimited attendees, targeting people across the globe and 24/7 global support make Samaaro a feature-packed platform for successful virtual events.
Understand the audience
It’s important to understand that hosting a virtual event means that your audience could potentially become a global one. People who’ve never been able to participate in your conference in the past could now potentially become part of your audience. Reevaluate your target audience in light of the digitization of your event so that you can design your promotion strategy accordingly.
Build a custom landing page specifically to cater to generating leads for your event. Make a decision on whether the event is free/behind a paywall and target the audience accordingly. Similarly, the number of seats available at your event will also play a role in defining your promotion strategy. Regular virtual events platforms may restrict seating but leading platforms such as Samaaro provide unlimited seating.
During the Event
The biggest challenge with virtual events is to create an experience that is as personalized as an in-person event. Look at some of the best ways to incorporate personalization into the event. This could be by having special breakout or networking sessions, similar to in-person events. Small actions like showing appreciation for a point made by the speaker, or incorporating audience questions into the session can go a long way in building this personalization. Make sure you use a virtual events platform that facilitates these features.
Building real-time engagement
Creating an immersive and engaging experience is another key aspect of a virtual event. Using an events platform that enables immersive activities like real-time quizzes, polls, and games can build that real-time engagement. Ask your emcee/hosts to familiarize themselves with the platform in advance so that they can come up with out-of-the-box, tech-enabled techniques to engage the audience.
After the Event
Studying Analytics and KPIs
One of the biggest advantages of a virtual event is that you can analyze your performance instantaneously. A good virtual events platform comes with in-built analytics so you can measure how you performed on certain predefined metrics and KPIs. For instance, you can measure things like attendance per session, engagement during the session (questions asked, applause received, etc), and so on. More powerful virtual event platforms like Samaaro offer in-depth insights such as resources downloaded, time spent by each individual in each of the virtual spaces, content viewed, leads generated and much more.
An advanced virtual events platform will have provision for two types of feedback. The first is instantaneous feedback — polls, applause, etc — that can help you understand the quality of real-time engagement. Then there’s more medium and long-term feedback such as NPS (“How likely are you to recommend this event to someone else”) that can be collected post-event. You can even elicit testimonials from the event attendees once the event is over.
Unprecedented circumstances have led to a massive disruption in the industry. While the transition to virtual events might seem like a significant leap, there is a strong ecosystem that has sprung up to support this transition. Today, PR professionals and marketers have an array of tools and strategies at their disposal to navigate this new landscape. Once companies experience the ease and efficiency that comes with hosting virtual events, there will be no looking back, even in the post-COVID world. Event organisers who adapt quickly to the changing landscape and start organizing virtual events will gain a competitive edge over other players.