The new virtual event strategy: Spoiler – humanize the tech - ClickZ

30-second summary:

  • Thinking creatively with your virtual event formats will be crucial to enticing potential attendees. Bite-size video content (5-30 minutes) provides a sweet spot for our current work-from-home era that is rarely unplugged and online-reliant.
  • Not every element of in-person events should be adapted to the virtual environment – and that’s ok. Be aware of the virtual elements that might be disruptive versus those that provide value. Eliminate non-essentials.
  • If the premise of a live event is too daunting due to unforeseen technical difficulties, opt for pre-recorded sessions.
  • The virtual environment provides content longevity through on-demand access and the ability to leverage recordings through social channels and networks.

The past year saw organizations pivot strategies repeatedly – from team management to client communications and everything in between – to adapt to and embrace a fully virtual environment.

Needless to say, everyone is online for every aspect of their day-to-day and it’s only becoming more saturated. Zoom fatigue has entered our vernacular due to the overabundance of virtual meetings, events, and conferences popping up left and right that, in normal circumstances, would be attended in-person.

So how do marketers combat the increase in virtual engagements to produce and deliver something that stands out in the sea of competition?

When time and space is tight, be an escape

It may seem like a daunting mission to create something memorable within the confines of the digital atmosphere but rest assured, it can be done.

For starters, we already bring new meaning to an important component of this experience: “know your audience” – when both you and your prospective audiences are working from the kitchen counter or corner of the closet (hey, (Read more...) can be hard to come by!), we have an acute understanding of our end-user to help us create and deliver something truly special.

First rule of thumb: not every virtual event needs to be a full day, or even an hour! When everyone is already stationed at the computer all day, we’re more susceptible to multitasking to the extreme and staying online for longer hours – answering Slack messages, responding to emails, working on to-do’s.

This is where bite-size video content comes in handy. Think 15-minute fireside chats, 30-minute round tables or even a 5-minute question and answer format – a shortened length provides a sweet spot for the busy professional.

Avoid formatting faux pas in favor of authenticity

There’s a lot of pressure to take an event that would typically be held in person and literally adapt it to the virtual climate. Think of the mayhem – a live audience tuning in and submitting questions digitally (where we would typically raise our hand and have time to answer one at a time)?

Hosting multiple sessions held throughout the day (some even during competing time slots)? Doesn’t mean to say it can’t or shouldn’t be done but let’s first discuss how to avoid some common formatting faux pas.

Picture it now: your event is about to commence, but then your WiFi starts buffering, your speakers start talking over one another, and on top of it all, someone’s computer freezes causing a force-end to an event that was meant to be far from over.

A live (virtual) event can be tricky. Content, though, is still king. It can be hard in the moment, but remember as event organizer, it is your primary job to do the unthinkable – declutter the confusion, calm the nerves, and let a bit of humanity shine through to the audience.

Provide the element of authenticity your audience craves. Pre-prepare your guest speakers for such challenges. Encourage them to chock it up to a comical anecdote. And guess what? In the process, they’ll actually be loosening up the audience, subliminally encouraging them to begin to actively participate in the scintillating dialogue that is about to unfold.

We’re all human. Sometimes a tech error can actually break down the screen barrier.

And when tech glitches happen – provide a buffer

If the potential of a live, technical downfall feels too stressful to endure, let alone overcome, there are other alternatives to consider. Top of the list is pre-recorded content – this can mitigate the fear of our technologies potentially combusting before our eyes.

By providing a buffer between recording the session and your target event date or time, you can also get ahead of digital marketing efforts.

You’ll have insight to the conversation that can be used for promotion across channels and creative assets. And if there is any final editing to the video itself – whether overlays or bleeping out accidental profanities said during a passionate conversation – you have ample time to make those adjustments.

The session topic can also help indicate which is the best format. If the topic is more timely, then live might be a preferred format to allow speakers to discuss industry happenings.

Regardless of which route you choose, you should consider providing attendees with access to the video sessions on-demand. People are busy and sometimes new meetings pop-up on their schedule day-of or a client fire happens and they’re unable to attend the virtual session at the last minute.

While the option may incentivize less people to tune-in the day the video content goes live, with a good marketing strategy you can continuously drive traffic towards your sessions on a consistent basis over a period of time.

Make sure you’re leveraging a platform that can serve as that content hub (with added engagement additions) to help with this step. We may not be sourcing venues for conferences but we can still provide something exciting.

The content, agenda and topics are certainly a crucial component of creating a virtual event that stands out. But full-day sessions with back-to-back activities (virtual happy hours and the like), from a scheduling perspective, are difficult to commit to for attendees.

When your audience no longer has the flexibility to shut off work for the day to attend as they would have in-person, you have to be considerate of the attention span.

Bite-size content, creative formats and content available post-event are important elements that can help your virtual event break through the digital clutter and have the impact it deserves.

Jani Lehtimäki is the Co-Founder of Brella. He has 10+ years of experience both in the event industry and sales. Jani believes that empathy and compassion are the essential tools for a meaningful life, long client relationships, and great workplace culture.

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