We’re coming up on a year of producing virtual event content. While this pivot - for both us and our clients - was more out of necessity than desire (thanks, COVID), there have been some perks. As we plan for the future, virtual or hybrid events are projected to continue through 2021 due to the pandemic…but will they be the new norm?
If you’re looking for advice on the benefits of virtual events and some content ideas, read this article first.
Here are some key takeaways from our virtual event experience:
Choose the right platformWe’ve had many client calls asking if we offer streaming services. Yes, we do. And from a technical setup, it’s a discussion of what camera and audio equipment is needed for coverage and is it possible to get a direct internet connection. After that, we just need to set up a streaming key from the chosen broadcast platform and we’re live.The equipment setup can include multiple cameras and a video switcher (left) or be simple with just one camera (right).
BUT, we think the more important part of the discussion is actually choosing the right streaming platform. Leave the technical setup to us….think instead: what are your objectives and what do you want your user experience to be?
When COVID hit, many platforms quickly pivoted to incorporate live streaming or enhance their existing offerings. Chances are you already pay for a service or use a platform where your audience already engages with you. Start there.
If collecting attendee data and paid ticketing is important, we suggest Eventbrite. The platform offers online-only, virtual events and integrates video services like Zoom or Vimeo Live. You can send updates and ticketing info like you are already used to doing.
If user engagement and interaction is important, Facebook Live or Facebook Premiere (for pre-recorded content with many of the same benefits of Facebook Live) is the best in our opinion. It has built in marketing features like reminder notifications and has greater potential to organically expand your reach.
We produced Mortar Covington's pitch night by pre-recording content and scheduling a Facebook Premiere.Be on the lookout for paid events through Facebook. This newly launched feature might just give it an edge over other platforms since not having a paywall previously deterred organizations wanting to charge for events from choosing Facebook.
Establish your run-of-show (program script) just like you would for a live event
A well choreographed virtual event is critical for a seamless program. If doing a Zoom meeting, having an emcee can help transition content and control the mics on mute. Test runs with the key players are also helpful, particularly if sharing screens or presenting slides.
If we are streaming a live event, we do a walkthrough rehearsal and the crew relies on the run-of-show during the program to hit cues at the appropriate time. Well organized content is necessary with or without an audience present.
Think like a marketer
The biggest benefit to virtual events is the potential to expand your audience. You are no longer limited to seating capacity in a venue. Event content can be available for viewing after its initial release so you can continue to gain "attendees". Additionally, you likely will capture a segment of casual viewers who are listening in the background while they multitask.
Think like a marketer and increase your efforts to creatively expand your online audience. You are likely used to promoting an event before it happens, but now you can do it during and after as well.
The quantity of views for Mortar Covington's pitch night was higher than typical in-person events.
BONUS: Create a virtual event team of active engagers.
When streaming on platforms like Facebook - active, real-time engagement can yield high results. For both Aviatra Accelerators and Mortar Covington's pitch nights, employees and participants were encouraged to actively post comments during the livestream. Employees even prepared some content such as links to the companies' websites or repeatedly shared the info for voting. This not only boosted organic reach on Facebook, but also gave the users a real-time shared experience.
While in-person experiences are hard to replace (and we all miss them greatly), you still have an opportunity to "show the world you exist" and provide useful content to your audience with virtual events. We've already had several clients commit to hybrid events in the fall of 2021 because they've enjoyed these added benefits. If you are interested in learning more, we are happy to chat.