For many months now, virtual events have been an integral part of event planners’ daily work. Virtual events have made it possible for our industry to renew itself and deal with the health crisis that led to the cancellation of in-person events for the rest of the year. These last few months have been both instructive and revelatory; we’ve weathered the storm thanks to our resilience and agility.
The virtual world has already made great strides and has a great deal to teach us about how to deliver an engaging digital event. This new format can meet many needs, but we still need to know how to use the various technologies wisely. In this article, we share our list of 10 things to avoid when planning a virtual event.
Not having the right host, MC or moderator
In the virtual world, the way your host, master of ceremonies or moderator delivers your content is even more important. Choosing a person solely for their fame or personality isn’t enough. Think about the tone you want your event to have. It’s better to choose someone who has already led an event or even a show that featured the same themes as your event and who will be able to take your content to the next level.
Your presenter serves as the extension of your brand. They will spread your message, engage your participants, etc. The right host will make your content accessible and deliver it seamlessly and flawlessly. Don’t forget that many people are new to virtual events, which is why it’s important to prepare your host or moderator well in advance.
Choosing your platform before choosing your concept
In the past, it was common practice to choose a location for your event before you had even come up with a concept. In the virtual world, your platform is your new venue. That’s why you must define your concept before choosing your platform. Depending on your non-negotiables, the choice of platform comes down to what you had originally conceived. What experiences do you want your audience to have? How can you share your messages most efficiently to engage your participants? What are your objectives? Make sure you ask these questions before you start planning your project to ensure you make a wise and informed choice. Even if your room is now virtual, don’t neglect the participant’s journey. Try it out yourself to identify problems before they occur.
Underestimating the preparation required before the event
While the event unfolds on your audience’s screens, behind the scenes, there’s a technical team, a complete control room and speakers that will deliver content. Consider your event a story that needs all its chapters to be considered successful and well written. Don’t neglect any details. Be as meticulous as you would for a live event. At an in-person event, people head to the cloakroom first, so your virtual event’s waiting room will form the participant’s first impression of your event. Therefore, it’s essential to set up the waiting room with care. Will it be where important information is imparted, or will it be dynamic. This kind of detail may seem trivial in a virtual setting, but it will make all the difference. Take care of the preparation beforehand, and you’ll deliver a flawless, professional-calibre event. Depending on your needs, test all the technical aspects, including your platform and network connection, and have all your speakers rehearse before the big day.
Not providing the right amount of interactivity
Face-to-face events are perfect networking opportunities. Technology makes it possible for us to connect with anyone anywhere in the world and take networking to another level…if it’s used correctly!
You’ll need to include interactive elements to keep your participants engaged. However, there’s no need to go to extremes. If you’re holding a one-hour conference, add a question period. For a multi-day event, you could opt for a gamification scheme that allows everyone to accumulate points based on a variety of actions. Many possibilities exist but not all suitable for all types of events. You need to know how to provide the right amount of interaction so that all participants have a good time.
Making an event too long
Keeping your participants’ attention is essential in a virtual environment but doing so isn’t easy. Your event will compete with incoming email and social media. That’s why you must deliver your content clearly and concisely, in the shortest time possible. No one wants to watch a two-hour event that doesn’t have an intermission, especially if they’ve just spent the day working in front of their computer.
Minimize the length of your event, make it captivating and entertaining with dynamic and relevant content and drop the long formal speeches. Ask yourself what your audience needs and wants to know. Then, stick to the basics.
Consider offering content on-demand, available at any time for participants who would like to view it later. Your audience will pay more attention to the event in progress, knowing that they will have full access to the shared content once the event is over.
Overestimating people’s ability to read information
Don’t take for granted that people will read everything you send them just because you wrote it. Participants×often don’t read long paragraphs in an invitation or the text explaining how the event will unfold on your website.
Find ways to simplify important information such as the event date, how to access it, and other key elements you need to convey in advance. Provide a concierge system to answer participants’ questions before, during and even after the event.×
Not taking stock of the participants’ viewing devices
What type of technology will be used to listen to your event? The final product will be quite different if viewed on a computer screen than it will on a much smaller smartphone screen. You must consider all the variables. Moreover, plan to test your platform on all possible browsers. Some platforms do not work well on Internet Explorer, for instance. It’s always a good idea to notify your participants in advance to ensure that they have a seamless experience.
Shoehorn an in-person event into a virtual setting and have the same goals
You must adapt your concept to the virtual world. You can’t just copy and paste your event based on a previous face-to-face event. Your event shouldn’t become a television program either, as its purpose is different. Over the past few months, your participants have changed their routines and habits.
Forget 9-to-5 events, happy hours and the long awards galas. Your audience probably manages their professional and personal lives from home; their attention is already divided. Adapt your format to the daily lives of the participants rather than just being a task added to their already busy day.
Virtual event concepts must be adapted because they need to meet different needs than in-person events. The goals of participants who choose to attend an event have also changed. You must meet their needs and make them want to participate in your event by tweaking your format.
Overestimating people’s comfort level with technology
Just because the last few months have forced us to attend more videoconferences does not mean that everyone is equally at ease with technology. Even if you consider your platform easy to use, keep in mind that some participants will encounter technical problems or have trouble understanding how the event works.
Here again, it’s a good idea to have an efficient concierge system to help those who need it on the day of the event. An FAQ page can also help answer participants’ questions before the event.×
Forgetting to expect the unexpected
Be prepared for anything from a power outage to a speaker falling ill to an adapter not working. Test all connections, make plans to have a generator on hand, have a Plan B to replace speakers who cannot be there at the last minute.
One of the conclusions that can be drawn from the tips provided above is that a virtual event requires as much or more time and resources as does a face-to-face event. Now that content is king, it’s essential to leverage it and adapt the user experience accordingly. While you shouldn’t cut any corners where your platform is concerned, the quality of your content is what will drive your event and make it a success.