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Successful Virtual Events: What We’ve Learned So Far

The pandemic has brought on a challenging year for the events industry. The shift from in-person to virtual events was uncharted territory for many event planners. We had to rely on events management software to host high-quality events for the first time. It’s safe to say that the past year has accelerated changes that were previously on the fringe of the events industry. 

And, of course, no event comes without its challenges, especially when it comes to virtual events. Here at 20 Bedford Way, our events team has encountered many twists and turns. But we’re now in a position to reveal what we know about the art of a successful virtual event, and share our tips with you. 

Encouraging virtual event engagement 

As an event planner, engagement is one of the most important metrics to track. In fact, in 2019, 39% of event professionals stated that attendee engagement is the most important factor when it comes to live events. 

However, we quickly learned that keeping your audience engaged during a virtual event is not the same as an in-person event. 

This is mainly down to screen time. Many people suffered from ‘Zoom fatigue’ during lockdown, when their screen time increased. There’s every chance that your attendees experience this during events, too. They may even feel that they’re not getting their money’s worth because they’re spacing out and losing track of the overall event. 

Think about how your content translates for a digital experience. Presenting hour-long decks across a few days is not the best way to engage your audience. 

So, how do you make virtual conferences fun and engaging? Keep content short and snappy, and interweave it with interactive elements for your audience. These could include anything from quizzes to Q&As. Chat functionalities also work well as they allow attendees to ask questions, spark discussions and network. 

Expect the unexpected

Virtual events come with their own technological challenges  so it’s important to be prepared. 

One of the most common issues is often connectivity. With yourselves and your guests tuning in using different devices and internet services, it’s fair to expect a dip in connection. 

There could also be troubleshooting problems with your chosen software, or maybe your camera isn’t working properly on the day. One of your speakers may have trouble accessing the stream, or their device breaks without an available backup copy of their presentation. 

Ensuring that you have a contingency plan in place for these sorts of incidents will be a big help when planning a virtual event. Test your chosen software, especially if you haven’t used it before. It’s also best to ensure that your team and speakers do the same. The more comfortable you are with the software, the better. And make sure that tech support is on-hand and ready to jump in if need be. 

To ensure you plan the best virtual event, check out our guide on choosing the best guest speaker for your event.

Considerations for moving an event online

Moving an in-person event to a digital space takes a lot of planning and consideration. Your staff will take on slightly different roles as they will be involved in the more techy elements of event planning. You’ll also be interacting with attendees in different ways. 

With virtual events requiring more behind-the-scenes planning, you’ll need to reflect on your event goals and strategies. This could mean:

  • Updating attendees and speakers as soon as possible to ensure that they don’t miss out and still have plenty of time to prepare. 
  • Tweaking your content and organising activities for attendee engagement. Also think about the resources you’ll need to create in the lead up to your event, and after. 
  • Briefing speakers to ensure that they’re comfortable with presenting via a digital platform. They may also need a run through of your event software. 
  • Event security changes – you don’t want any cyber threats disrupting your event. 

There are many ways to make the transition from in-person to online easier. You could record some elements beforehand to give you and your team time to prepare for any major presentations during the event itself. 

Hosting a virtual event: best practices and quick tips

When it comes to planning a virtual event, we’ve learned a thing or two here at 20 Bedford Way. For virtual event best practices, take a look at our guide to hosting a virtual event. In the meantime, here are a few quick tips to help:

  • Create follow-up content for after the event. One way of doing this is to record the speakers’ presentations, so attendees can view their talks again if they’d like to. You can also send out survey requests, follow-up promotions, or even recent blog posts shared to your business’ site. 
  • Communicate clearly in the weeks leading up to the event so attendees know how to sign in. Include the information needed in all promotional material. It’s also a good idea to install a few other ways for them to join, in preparation for any possible sign-in issues. Some event platforms have a dial-in option, which could work well for your event. 
  • If possible, create hands-on experiences that guests can get involved with at home. These could be social media challenges, virtual meditation or even s’mores or cocktail making – you could send out the equipment in the weeks leading up to the event to ensure that everyone can participate. 
  • Utilise any data collected from the event to help plan any future virtual events you may host. Many attendee behaviours may have changed slightly during the course of the last year or so, so it’s vital that you understand their needs and expectations. To find out more about data, take a look at our event data guide here
  • If you make mistakes, don’t panic. Many event organisers did not have much virtual event experience before the pandemic, so it’s been a journey for everyone. Stay calm, and follow our tips above to ensure that nothing hinders the experience for your attendees too much. Even if the event did not go as planned, still give yourself a pat on the back for your achievements. 

Are virtual events here to stay?

It seems that virtual events are here to stay. According to a report by LinkedIn, 75% of event organisers will continue planning virtual events beyond the next twelve months. When considering the benefits of this event format, it’s not hard to see why. This event format can reach more people than in-person events, making them more practical for many reasons. They can also have a longer lifespan, thanks to live recording and post-event content. For event planners and attendees alike, these benefits speak for themselves. 

But human interaction is just as important, something that virtual events can’t quite replicate. So what is the solution for event planners?

Hybrid events are paving the way for a new era of event formats. Combining both in-person and virtual events, they allow attendees from far and wide to tune in, while those who prefer face-to-face gatherings can also attend in person. For many event organisers, hybrid events are the perfect way to meet in the middle. In fact, 66.5% of event professionals plan to use hybrid events as their go-to. 

If you’re hoping to plan the ultimate hybrid event, take a look at our recent post for tips and best practices. 

Event Planning with 20 Bedford Way

Whether you’re hosting an in-person, virtual or hybrid event, our team at 20 Bedford Way are here to help. Our London-based venue has everything you need to pull off a successful event, no matter the format. Our team can help you make the most of your budget and provide you with the resources you need. To book your event with us, or to simply find out more, get in touch today. You can reach us at 020 7612 6143 or email venuehire@ioe.ac.uk

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