Even with the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic and quarantine measures, the global events industry remains active thanks to virtual event solutions. Once thought to be a passing trend, a virtual event solution is now a must-have tool for event planners and organizers during and even long after the pandemic. Out of 1776 individuals in the April survey by the Professional Convention Management Association, 70% of them said they have or are planning to host their events virtually!
Knowing the future trend of organizing events, it is within the interest of event organizers to always be up-to-date with the best methods to enhance the participants’ experience. Take a look at some of the best practices we’ve put together to ace your virtual events.
Best Practices for the Preparation Phase
There is no need to go into details about the importance of this phase. VFairs, in one article, specifically advise organizers to book their events very early as the preparation phase can last up to 12 weeks! Give yourself as much time to brainstorm, prepare, and anticipate errors. Any unplanned shortcoming encountered by visitors can negatively impact your event. Consider applying these practices to be better prepared for the coming event. They can be the elements to decide the success of your event.
1. Pick a Suitable Virtual Event Solution
Similar to the smartphone user-base, Each business’s answer to a suitable event solution is considerably different. Don’t be surprised that a suitable solution for your business might be different from other companies.
Before picking a virtual event solution, here are some pointers you should consider:
Will the Design Benefit Your Business?
Does the design match that of your business? If not, is it possible for you to customize the look of the solution? The visual design of the solution can complement the theme of your event, adding themed colour font, logos or background are all vital in creating a cohesive and eye-catching theme to your event.
Does Your Staff Find It Easy to Use?
User experience is subjective. Even if a hundred comments praising how simple it is to use a solution, your staff might say otherwise. You should request a trial if possible to test before making your decision.
What Functions Are Available to You?
A suitable virtual event solution should be able to accommodate your design. If 6 out of 10 features failed to support your event, one should consider finding a better fit event solution. You should explore available features and discuss your needs with the sales team.
Should Your Trust in a Single Solution?
Although it can be tempting to choose a versatile virtual event solution, a wise business owner should consider this situation: A versatile solution is like a ship that can transport a lot of cargo of any type. However, if that ship sinks, you will lose everything onboard.
Instead of relying heavily on a single virtual event solution, you can use other third-party solutions tailored to specific functions. For example, Weems is an online event ticketing and registration software that allows you to reserve seats; customize your registration form in 40 languages, and comes with multi-layered security measures for the safety of your data.
2. Map Out the User Experience
With virtual events, the lack of a physical space means visitors’ sensory experience can be heavily limited. Event organizers now have to try harder to ensure a stellar user experience. Replicating an in-person live experience can be the key to a successful virtual event.
Like the saying “First impression matters”, your landing page should captivate visitors at just the first glance. You can include a trendy and fresh design or a compelling offer for signing up, followed by an immediate call to action. Your landing page should always be updated with useful information such as agenda, guest speakers, directional instruction.
For a better in-person experience, you should not force your visitors to read too much. Note that one has to stare at a monitor screen for the majority of a virtual event. Some consider this activity to be very tiring. Hence displaying your information through a long line of text is not advised. You might fail to gather the full attention of your participants.
According to Thermopylae, the human brain’s ability to understand and process images is 60.000 times faster than texts. Candidates are likely to remember your business through colourful and vibrant media. You can display your information differently to attract and maintain attendees’ interest:
- Information on a colourful, eye-catching poster.
- Create a new sensory experience through videos or interactive billboards.
The original presenter might not be able to hook and interest the visitors or failed to show up on event day. To ensure visitors have the best possible experience, consider having a back-up speaker or presenter. Last but not least, have a live job board. A live job board that can redirect immediately to the employer booth is perfect for people who do not want to wander and check all available sites. In times of Covid 19, this function will even be more special. Some of your attendees can be people affected by Covid, who lost their last job.
3. Have a Communication Plan Before and After the Event With Your Event Participants
One way to maintain participants’ retention is to keep them involved with the ins and outs of your event from start to finish. Your attendees must not feel like they are just a number, just a statistic on your report. Even before or after an event, have a look at how you can generate positive engagement through communication.
Before the event, you can:
- “Hype up” your event by posting bits and pieces of media on social media. If you are going to have someone famous speak on that day, make sure the public is informed as soon as possible. However, be careful not to over-hype your event. Failing to meet the expectation will result in a lot of backlashes. You can check out a famous case of how attendees react to failed promises - The Fyre Festival.
- You can reach out early to participants through invitations or surveys. Using surveys, you can collect data to start preparing your event and inform the public as early as possible. Also, attendees are more likely to show up to your virtual event as they have had ample time to arrange their schedules!
- Allow people to submit questions or host an AMA (ask-me-anything) pre-event. On the surface, giving your attendees the freedom to ask questions is a good way to collect their feedback and get to know the overall expectation of your event. You can also convey an underlying idea that your business cares for each opinion. This subtle method makes participants feel special. Have interactive games related to your event? Let's give your candidates another reason to attend. Give out presents and reward to attract attention. You can also make the rewards only redeemable during the event to encourage people to attend. Who said virtual events can't have fun games and prizes?
4.Technical Check-up Pre-Event for Staff and Speakers
If you are a staff or speaker that will interact with attendees on the event day, you should prepare yourself. With virtual events or any technology, another layer of preparation is necessary. Consider these practices to make your experience as smooth as possible:
- Test your gears pre-event. Whether it is your equipment such as a microphone, a headphone, or the virtual event solution, you should perform test runs before the event. You can also prepare a backup of every peripheral in case one malfunction mid-event.
- Mind your recording angle. On event day, your image will be streamed in front of hundreds or even thousands of attendees. Please make sure you pick a recording angle with sufficient lightning. Also, you should check your background. Is it tidy and professional-looking? You can tell surrounding people when you will begin your talk to minimize disruption.
- For speakers, make sure to send the slide to the event staff to be included in the list of downloadable contents. Attendees with access to your speech agenda will find it easier to follow when you deliver your presentation/ speech.
- For event or team leaders, most virtual event solutions allow you to assign user permissions. Make sure you properly assign roles and inform your staff. Your careful action can prevent a lot of confusion during the event.
Best Practices During the Event
It’s showtime! Now that you have gathered quite a crowd, it is time to push the event into full swing! It is common knowledge that one of the chief criteria for a successful event is that your attendees have an enjoyable experience. Consider these methods to reach and over-achieve that criteria.
1. Increase interactivity
For any virtual event, the more engaged the attendees are to the event, the more successful it will become.
So, the big question is: how can we create an engaging, attendees-centered experience? The answer is simple: the more things to do, the more creative the event is, the better. Let’s increase your event’s interactivity.
Interactivity in digital content has universal benefits. We can relate to perks offered by interactive eBooks, such as making the reader hooked and helping them retain more information.
You can make your event interactive by:
- Gamify your event: Add fun to your event through game mechanics such as earning points for activities, leaderboard, etc. Stirring up some competitive atmosphere can go a long way in increasing visitor retention. Hosting your event online should not limit the fun factor. If anything, virtual space introduces new exciting activities. You can check out this list of 26 activities for your virtual event.
- Organizers can allow attendees to curate their preferred content. While it is very beneficial for businesses to curate their content for visitors, letting attendees decide for themselves can also drive a sense of exploration. You can also curate your content based on the preferences defined by your visitors for increased accuracy.
- Avoid making your event a one-sided experience by adding spaces for attendees to get together. Having spots like a common area, group and private chat rooms, or activities is a step toward making a live, in-person experience. If you are a speaker, you can also allow attendees to ask questions and work together to solve challenges. Increased networking opportunities will make your virtual events more in-line with the traditional counterpart.
- Another practice to put your virtual event a step closer to a physical event is introducing break time. Break time allows attendees to relax and process the information they have gathered so far. Make use of break sessions to get to know your visitors better. Humorous activities are fun ways for attendees to see another side of your company and create a memorable experience.
- As odd as it sounds, there are still ways for virtual events to serve out refreshments. One idea is to cooperate with a local restaurant or convenience store to release a coupon code/ticket to use specifically with your event. Having your business’s name appear every time a customer purchases a specific product is an effective promotion method.
2. Provide Downloadable Content
After an event, attendees might forget some information. Some people can be in a rush for another event but are still interested in your information and would like to visit later. Providing downloadable content also shows that your company is mindful of the environment. A lot of individuals will appreciate the zero tolerance for paper usage. Latecomers will still be able to access downloadable content even if a specific booth has closed.
3. Reduce Attendees’ Chance of Getting Lost
Getting lost in an event is frustrating, and can ruin anyone’s mood. Also, your staff might have to face interruptions through directional questions they might not have the appropriate answers for.
This problem is more apparent in a virtual event, where the method of navigation is still new to the majority of participants. As an organizer, it is within your best interest to minimize attendees’ chance of getting lost. Here are several methods to direct participants around your event:
- Before the event, provide a detailed event schedule with the navigation instructions and virtual direction signs inside the event.
- The best practice, however, is to have an information desk in your virtual event. Info desk acts as a transit and Q&A hub, directing participants further into the event. They can always return to this hub if they ever get lost or have any concerns.
- As the name suggested, you should enable useful information relating to the event publicly available at the desk. They could be contact details of each participating business, event schedule, or a library of available downloadable content.
4. Provide Technical Support - Be Ready for Technical Problems
A virtual event is still a new concept for a lot of businesses. For such a tech-heavy experience, some attendees might inevitably experience technical problems. Make sure the customer support and FAQ sections are as visible as possible. Having an enthusiastic support team to help the attendees timely not only rectify the problem but can also create a positive image of your business.
5. Livestream Your Event on Social Media
Let’s bring your virtual event outside of the confine of the event platform. By live-streaming your event on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, you can gain even more remote viewers.
You can stream the keynote speeches and webinars to attract the public. People who did not sign-up for your event might be tempted to do so (if you still allow mid-event sign-ups), or at least they will consider joining your next event.
As you will be streaming on the Internet, one cannot be sure that everyone will approach your stream with a contributing and positive attitude. Make sure you have moderators in the comment section watching for disruptive individuals. If that is not possible, consider disabling your comment section.
Best Practices for the Post-Event Phase
Even with your event concluded successfully, your job is not done. There are still attendees to survey and data to crunch. Consider these post-event best practice recommendations.
1. Analyze Your Collected Data
It is no coincidence that most virtual event solutions market the ability to collect and analyze data from events. The phrase “Information is power” still holds to this day.
Why do participants click on this section the most? What makes people avoid specific sections in the event? Information like these can be the foundation to improve in your future events. Using registration information, you can identify participant demographics. Their ages, how they discover your event, reasons for joining, etc.
Depending on the collected data, businesses can even construct a digital profile of an attendee, complete with preferences, online behaviours, or social network activities. Better matchmakings are possible thanks to these profiles. Virtual profiles can also help with tailoring future events to better suit your targeted demographic.
2. Have a Communication Plan With Your Attendees Post-Event
If you want to make a lasting impression on your attendees while making sure they will show up to your next virtual event, consider these communication practices:
- Send a thank-you email to your participants. You can even attach a discount coupon or an invitation to your next event.
- Provide recordings, additional documents, networking contacts for people who might have gotten lost or missed some parts of your events. Also, you should consider leaving the information available online a little bit longer after the event. Many virtual event-hosting providers allow you to keep your content accessible online for up to 30 days.
- Send out a survey for your participants to fill, ask them how they feel about your event. A post-event survey is a golden opportunity to collect more data for your future endeavours.
- Send out the next virtual event plan if you have to attract applications from now. For example, if this is a spring event, you can share the fall event if you already scheduled it.
With virtual events rapidly taking the spotlight as the go-to event platform during the Pandemic, we hope this ultimate guide can help you host a successful virtual event!
If you are still on the search for the perfect virtual event platform to apply these best practices, consider checking out this article for some of the best virtual event solutions on the market! For those that are looking for specific guidance in virtual recruiting, check out these tips to hire on how to hire pros virtually.
Images used in this post: Freepik
This blog post originally appears on Rakuna's blog.