After one year of organising digital events at fever pitch, Rosangela Quieti, Managing Director Congress Division AIM Group, explains what she has learnt and outlines what to do to advance the effectiveness of these events.
By Ronsagela Quieti, Managing Director Congress Division AIM Group.
The pandemic forced associations, corporate event organisers and event professionals, to assimilate and dive into new formats and ways to meet. We moved planned in-person events into the digital realm, in a very short time frame with limited previous experience. It was such a challenge for all event professionals. One year later, after organising hundreds of digital events, we have tried different ways and used different tools to create emotional connections and valuable and engaging digital journeys for all parties (delegates, speakers, sponsors).
Here are some takeaways from our recent experience and 6 tips to make your virtual and hybrid event more successful:
- Innovate events formats
Attendee expectations have changed considerably since the first digital events. To cope with Zoom fatigue, events are moving away from their conference format to TV show formats. Speakers are expected to act more like performers. Lively anchormen or facilitators are used to introduce speakers and sessions, to encourage discussion and interaction and summarize the “take-home messages”. Resources are now being targeted at the quality of the production and meeting rooms are being transformed into TV studios. Since people’s attention span is shorter online event sessions are being kept shorter with more breaks. Social platforms, such as Clubhouse, Twitch, Tik Tok are becoming more and more popular and should be incorporated into virtual and hybrid events. Clubhouse for example is offering an attendee centric structure with new attendance options for those who feel overwhelmed by traditional virtual events and video-chat.
- Become tech-savvy
It is important to be able to leverage every single platform and tool available on the market and evaluate the pros and cons of the different solutions in term of features, user experience and economics. The right platform needs to be chosen for each project and customized so that it is a functional, useful and intuitive platform that guarantees an excellent user experience and an economic return for sponsors. It is also important to train speakers, making them comfortable with the new technology and tools and learn how to make a speech in front of a video and how to engage participant’s remotely.
Traditional sponsorship opportunities need to be completely transformed into a digital sponsorship offering. A flexible and innovative platform can provide opportunities to create new and alternative forms of sponsorship that you may never have thought of for in-person events.
- Ensure greater quality content
Providing strong content is what is going to attract attendees and pique their interest and attention. You must deliver something special to give them a reason to be online for several hours. Plan a captivating event marketing and communication campaign (pre-event session trailers, video clips from the speakers, innovative highlights) tailor the content and campaign to reflect the interests of expected participants. You need to generate a fear of missing out to increase curiosity and ensure attendance.
- Focus on the delegates interaction
Participants were kings of in-person events, but it becomes more important to involve them remotely, while they are participating from their desks. Give more time to discussions (keeping the sessions shorter) and include innovative networking tools more suitable for a virtual discussion. Better monitor and interact with the chat platform using dedicated community managers to stimulate the discussion among participants. Consider including more edutainment solutions and also gamification programs. Organize contests, games, competitions, polling and surveys where user-generated content and the presence of experts of specific topics can impact positively on the overall experience of the attendees.
Delivering the content in a funny and exciting way will help create an unforgettable virtual experience
As an actor plays a character trying to understand every single aspect of his personality, we, as event organisers need to put ourselves in the attendees’ shoes. Only if we really understand the needs and expectations of our target audience can we deliver something worthy of applause. Data capture and analysis is crucial in order to better understand the target audiences.
- Go larger and longer.
Try to enlarge the scope of your audience. Thanks to virtual and hybrid events, attendees are able to reach out to colleagues all over the world simply and easily joining private video conferences, forums and chats. The online participation provides a great opportunity for the meeting industry to become more inclusive. Even though attendees decide not to travel due to visa restrictions, long distance, busy agendas or lack of funds, they can still join the event and this is a great opportunity not to miss out (this may remain the case when we will go back to in-person events). If you cannot come to the event the event can come to you. Another important aspect is to consider extending the life span of the event. The content and networking activities do not have to be limited to the days of the event but can be kept alive much longer. Sessions can be recorded and made available on demand for months and even up to a year. Thanks to the new conversation channels the most popular topics can be further explored and discussed post event, and this can help build active communities who can be engaged as ambassadors for future events.
- Train your staff to develop new skills.
The new normal requires a team of experts who bring together knowledge of virtual, strategic event planning as well as technical competences. Associations and event planners are expected to be digital event strategists and digital event designers and to have a deep understanding of how to deliver digital content, which means that besides having a tech-savvy mindset they need to be skilled or develop new skills in the following areas:
- Digital event strategy and tactics;
- Digital marketing and communication;
- Digital content design and delivery;
- TV/video production;
- Data Analysis.
Of course there are also a number of skills that cross over from in-person events that are relevant for virtual ones. These include project management, attention to detail, team management, contingency planning, problem solving, flexibility, stress management, budgeting and negotiation capabilities.
Finally, virtual events are much more complex than video-chats or video-meetings. It is important to be aware of all the features and opportunities they offer. We need to highlight them and share this with the organizational team (client, event organizer and sponsors). The results will speak for themselves.