Ready to learn more?
Schedule a demo today to see how Aventri can help you Connect Better and start creating unforgettable meetings and events.
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. Finally, we’ll look ahead to the future to see how virtual events will play a bigger role in the event industry as a whole.
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.
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 top features for increasing engagement:
Virtual event platforms offer plenty of capabilities to help ensure your event meets its financial goals. Choose from these key features and best practices:
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 s 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 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.
From natural disasters and bad weather, to acts of terrorism and widespread health concerns, events like these are unpreventable and unexpected as they relate to events. Although their occurrence in the scheme of the things are rare, event planners today need to have a backup plan in case their event is at risk of being canceled, postponed or have a large reduction in attendance. Including virtual components or having a partner at the ready to help you in-person event transition into virtual, is a must and may be the key to saving your event.
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:
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.
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.
The COVID–19 pandemic that caused a loss of $1.1 Billion to the events industry was a motivating force for companies to start thinking about and integrating virtual events into their meeting and events strategy. Regardless of the potential for future natural or biological disasters that cause significant company losses, 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. In the near future, more companies will invest in hybrid meetings and events to reach a greater audience at a lower cost. Companies are quickly realizing that 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 office 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 that allow them to connect with more people, gain more qualified leads, and decrease expenses while witnessing increased revenues.
As a whole, virtual events are playing a bigger role in the meeting and event industry. But they only seem to rise to prominence during the worst of times, like during 2020’s coronavirus outbreak. The reality is, this is something that planners and marketers should consider including in their traditional events strategy, whether it’s creating a virtual event from scratch, creating a hybrid event or simply live streaming some in-person event highlights. And even if you’re not ready to go virtual quite yet, another lesson learned from recent events is to educate yourself and your team so that virtualizing your event as a plan b won’t feel so daunting.
The key takeaway: 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.