Ready to learn more?
Schedule a demo today to see how Aventri can help you Connect Better and start creating unforgettable meetings and events.
In this guide, we’ll explore everything planners need to know about virtual events or adding a virtual component to your in-person event. Discover how making the investment to go virtual can help you achieve your goals, enhance engagement and discover another powerful tool to add to your event planning toolkit.
If there’s anything meeting and event planners today know to be true, it’s that making connections in-person is a powerful thing. But for a variety of reasons, it’s not always easy or achievable to bring people together in the same space. It’s why virtual meetings and events have become increasing popular in recent years, and for good reason.
Virtual events not only help planners expand their audience and promote inclusivity, but they can be an effective way to increase revenue and track key data about your audience. Despite these positives, however, there’s still a lot of planners that don’t know about hosting events online or adding virtual components to their in-person events.
In this guide, we’ll explore everything planners need to know about virtual events, from why they should consider hosting a virtual event, to what a virtual experience is actually like and how to make it a success.
Recommended Resource: Are you trying to determine the right solution for your upcoming digital meetings and events? Aventri's virtual & hybrid event platform gives you the flexibility to plan both small and large events with ease.
Virtual events, in its simplest definition, are events held online. Virtual events are events that are completely hosted and run online with the potential for attendees to view or participate from anywhere in the world. Virtual events typically consist of an agenda with single or multiple-track presentation sessions and/or collaborative sessions. These sessions are all streamed online.
Virtual events, like in-person events, can cover anything, but typically there are four types of virtual events: virtual conferences, webinars, internal hybrid events, and external hybrid events.
At Aventri, we strongly believe that, although virtual events are insanely popular right now, the events industry will ultimately move towards hybrid events. A hybrid event is a combination of a virtual and an in-person event where attendees can either attend the event in-person or attend the event virtually and/or online from around the world.
For most planners, going virtual is still a foreign concept. After all, if bringing people together in-person is the preferred option, why should planners even consider organizing an event that takes place online? Many planners are also wondering if they can reach the same level of engagement or reach their revenue goals as they would with a traditional event. The truth is there are several benefits to going virtual that may not be well-known throughout the industry.
A common misconception about virtual events is that they take away from an organization’s audience from in-person events. But in fact, virtual events have the opposite effect. From financial and budgetary issues, to health reasons and disabilities, attending in-person events can be difficult for many. Having a virtual event pass to your in-person event, for example, allows people with personal or logistical challenges to be included, adding an element of inclusivity to your strategy. Especially if the issue for not attending an event is financial, allowing people to attend virtually for the first time may also be the selling point to get them make a larger investment in your event in the future.
Virtual events can be a great option for meeting and event planners dealing with shrinking budgets. In fact, virtual events are about 75% less expensive than in-person experiences, as planners typically save money on staff, venue, setup and takedown, accommodations, meals, travel costs, and more. At minimum, the only thing planners have to worry about paying for is the cost of their virtual meeting platform. Planners also typically save a lot of time on logistics when hosting a virtual event compared to a live experience. Although virtual events do require some setup time (e.g. event website, registration, event marketing, and promotion, etc.) and some extra coordinating with presenters, it’s tremendously less than that of an in-person event. Overall, virtual events are a great option for organizations facing budgetary constraints or that need a quick turnaround time.
Collecting and measuring feedback and engagement are crucial for all types of events. But a challenge for in-person events is getting people to participate and to actually use tools to help track such key KPIs, such as mobile event apps, surveys, etc. This is where virtual events have an advantage, as all attendees have to do is use your online platform and all of its engagement tools in order to participate; plus it’s done entirely in real-time for all participants. Not only will this real-time feedback help presenters gauge how their session is going (which is especially valuable since these presenters cannot see attendees’ faces during some virtual events), but it will also be useful to measure the overall success of a virtual event. Although the data that virtual events produce varies depending on what platform and event management software you use, it should be easier to gather certain data on your event and attendees during your virtual event than an in-person event. For instance, you can know when your attendees logged on, from where, the number of people attending, how they are paying, and so much more.
The future of virtual events will become a common aspect to any meeting or event. With event turn-around times as low as two days, virtual events will be in every event planner’s back pocket for when an event must be unexpectedly cancelled, postponed or have a large reduction in attendance. Including virtual components or having a partner at the ready to help your in-person event transition into virtual, is a must and may be the key to saving your event.
Virtual Event Success Story: Learn how Washington Tourism Alliance pivoted to a virtual event in about a month’s time with the help of Aventri’s Professional Services Team.
While the name speaks for itself, many planners are finding that they’re not entirely sure what a virtual event actually is. Is it like a webinar or a large online meeting you may have every day at work? What additional steps are involved to make it seem more like a traditional in-person event or conference?
To help answer these questions, take a journey through what a virtual event experience looks like through the eyes of a both planner and attendee, as well as what popular features are typically included throughout.
Modern platforms integrate with event registration systems to capture event information automatically.
Registrants go directly to the virtual event page to get all the essentials, including the agenda, sessions, and exhibitor and sponsor directories. They can easily create their itinerary and click to attend a session. This brings them to the live-stream or recorded webcast.
Flexible platforms enable you to tailor each virtual event to fit your audience, business goals and budget. Here are a few examples:
These customizable panels put everything at attendees’ fingertips. While listening to the speaker, for instance, attendees might check the information panel to read the speaker bio, grab a membership application and download spec sheets supporting product demos. On the engagement panel, capabilities like chat, question submission, surveys and session evaluations create an immersive virtual event experience.
Organizers get the attendees’ view plus much more. Co-managed backend management platforms enable event professionals to manage the event themselves or leave that to their provider. Flexible platforms handle everything, from abstracts, sessions, continuing education (CE) credits, digital library, event website, microsites, groups, forums, gamification, reports and more.
Virtual events generate a goldmine of data. With everything online, usage data is easy to capture and curate via powerful analytics platforms. You can measure event performance with up-to-the-minute data on unique visitors, views, questions, downloads, posts and shares. What’s more, you can create custom reports for stakeholders in a couple of clicks.
Drill down to glean insights on the most engaged attendees and companies. Uncover the top-performing sessions by combined attendee evaluations and content usage. As you’ll see later on in this guide, savvy organizers leverage this business intelligence to optimize marketing programs and future events.
Recommended Resource: What is the difference between a meeting, webinar, and virtual event? Understand the distinct differences between each digital event instance in this post, we will break down the key features the best virtual event platform must have to help you put on a successful online event.
Modern virtual event platforms provide a proven way to deliver immersive experiences that drive value for constituents.
No doubt you can choose all the bells and whistles. But it’s best to tailor the technology to your attendees’ ability to consume it. To find the right engagement features, start by answering these four questions:
Your answers will help define the structure of your event. Virtual platforms can scale up to showcase dozens of concurrent sessions reaching thousands of people worldwide. But remember, attendees like a clean, straightforward, high-quality experience. If this is their first virtual event, it’s best to start with a simple format and build from there. Here are the top features for increasing virtual event engagement:
Polling, chat boxes, quizzes, Q&A’s, surveys and note taking bring presentations to life and make remote attendees feel like they’re part of the conversation.
One vital capability is question submissions. With the right platform, you enable two-way video interactions between a presenter and attendee that all other attendees can see in real-time.
Surveys are another tried-and-true feature. At virtual events, attendees are constantly online, so it’s easy for them to answer polls and surveys during sessions. Using real-time feedback, presenters can gauge how their session is going. Plus, organizers gain useful business intelligence to measure the overall success of their event.
Of course, networking is a key driver of event success. Networking lounges create virtual social spaces, where attendees, exhibitors, and speakers can come together. No need for attendees to miss out just because they’re not meeting face-to-face. By listing specific interests and event goals, they can find opportunities to connect with like-minded participants.
Along with facilitating networking through your event app, successful virtual events make the most of social channels.
As with in-person events, attendees earn points and awards by interacting with your platform throughout the event. They make their way up the leaderboard by checking into sessions and networking lounges, asking questions, filling out surveys and evaluations, downloading content, participating in digital scavenger hunts, and more.
Are attendees engaged throughout your virtual event? Or, did they open a session and take off to do something else? Alertness checks measure continued engagement, especially important for attendees earning accreditations. Using this feature, a pop-up box comes onto the screen. Attendees have a few seconds to click and show they’re participating.
Recommended Resource: Are you struggling to convert event registrants into attendees? Learn the many different ways to successfully increase your virtual event attendance. Read our blog post: 8 Tips to Get Registrants to Attend Your Virtual Event.
Virtual event platforms offer plenty of capabilities to help ensure your event meets its financial goals. Choose from these key features and best practices.
You can deliver an immersive showroom experience complete with live chat lobbies, demos and meetings. Attendees simply click on exhibitors for personalized demos and conversations with suppliers.
These proven tools consolidate content and maximize return on investment. As curated one-stop shops, digital libraries make product purchases easy for users. You can offer live and on-demand access for target audiences to view for professional development and accreditations.
Just like in-person events, virtual and hybrid events are rich with sponsorship opportunities. There are sponsored directories, premium listings, sessions, networking activities, product brochures, demos, chat lobbies, posts, logo placements, pages, spaces, banners and more.
When planning your virtual sponsorship package think about what you would offer sponsors at an in-person event some of those options might still apply for your virtual events.
Virtual event content is already online, meaning it’s easy to repurpose and share. Savvy organizers find compelling speaker content is a great way to expand their global footprint and extend the life of their event.
Recommended Resource: Recreate the experience of connecting event visitors with sponsors and exhibitors at a show floor and facilitate quality conversations via Aventri's digital lead capturing solution complete with integrated video conferencing, lead qualification and comprehensive reporting.
It’s important to remember that a successful virtual event isn’t as easy as clicking that button to go live and having speakers take turns presenting. There are a few steps planners should take throughout the virtual event planning process to ensure you achieve your goals and desired outcomes.
Virtual or not, no two events are the same, therefore not every virtual event provider will be right for you and your audience. Before searching for a platform, take the time to meet with your stakeholders to discuss your main objectives for your event, as note some key logistical factors such as event size, time, budget, etc. Keeping all of these factors and your goals in mind will be critical to securing the right virtual event platform. For example, if audience engagement is important to you, finding a platform with robust features on the attendee interface will be essential; and if having live content is the main focus of your event, one with high video quality will be the most significant.
If your event is virtual, you still need some of the essentials to efficiently plan for it such as a dedicated event website and a registration process, as well as email marketing. When used together in one event management software platform, you'll save valuable time and money by having all your data and tools in one place.
Mobile event apps are not just for in-person events; virtual experiences can utilize them as well to increase engagement, support networking opportunities, communicate with attendees and much more. Here are some examples.
How effective a presenter is at hosting their session, particularly for a virtual event, can make or break an attendee’s experience. Your presenters must be prepped and prepared with the best practices around every aspect of the process. Whether they’re new to presenting virtually or are a veteran, communicate your expectations and provide them with a few tips to help them be the most prepared. Here are some top suggestions to share:
Virtual events can be scary for first-time presenters. But one important thing to remember: don’t forget to have fun! Attendees can tell when you’re nervous, and if you’re not having fun, chances are they aren’t either. So, relax, smile, laugh, use props, hold contests, and get creative!
Virtual Event Success Story: Discover how HLB International was able to grow their annual conference by 50% by making the pivot from in-person to virtual, with Aventri’s fully integrated virtual event platform.
Although the particular metrics produced by virtual events can vary depending on what virtual platform and event management software planners use, it tends to be easier to gather certain data on your event and attendees during your virtual event than an in-person event. Why? Because everything is done online, so it can be easily tracked. You can know the exact number of people attending, when your attendees logged on, from where, their dwelling time, how they are paying, and so much more.
When choosing your virtual events platform, analytic and reporting features are a must, as these features will help you prove your virtual event ROI and learn how you can make improvements for your next event. To help you evaluate virtual event platforms, we’ve curated a list of questions to ask yourself about your current platform or a platform you are considering:
The data from these questions will provide you with valuable insights into your event, your attendees, and will increase the success of your future events and campaigns.
Recommended Resource: Wondering how to prove your virtual event was successful? If you’ve previously planned and delivered a successful event, then you know that the process doesn’t end there. Read our post: How to Deliver Marketing ROI to Your Virtual Event Sponsors and Exhibitors.
Like any event, proving virtual event success lies in capturing the correct data metrics. But what metrics and KPIs are the most important to capture for virtual events? We’ve outlined the top one’s planners should gather at their virtual events:
Recommended Resource: We surveyed nearly 150 event and meeting professionals to get their thoughts on the new virtual event landscape. Check out the results in our Infographic: The Virtual Event Experience. Where does your organization fall on some of these questions?
As a whole, virtual events are playing a bigger role in the meeting and events industry. Companies are quickly realizing that virtual & hybrid meetings and events provide a host of benefits include:
Image an event where your attendees will be able to view a live stream of your event and chat in with speakers, or a meeting where your offices across the world will be able to fully participate in without the barriers of travel expenses and language. This is all possible with the integration of virtual event technology at your next event.
COVID-19 changed the event industry but will prove to help companies and planners make more strategic decisions around using virtual event technology. Virtual events or adding a virtual component to your in-person event is an effective strategy that can expand your audience and bring more people together. Making the investment to go virtual can help you achieve your goals, enhance engagement and discover another powerful tool to add to your event planning toolkit.