A year ago the world was thrust into working from home and virtual events. Whether they were Zoom meetings, webinars or live streams, we all spent hours in front of our screens. Screen time was high. Platforms raced to adapt, add features and find a way to handle the increased throng of users. Now, a year later, it's clear virtual events will stick around in one form or another. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but navigating good virtual solutions hasn't gotten any easier.
Since virtual events are still effective communication tools, it's time to really look closer at the platforms we're all using. Also, it's important to understand how to know if you're getting a good deal for your money. Here are some things to consider when evaluating platforms:
- What is the attendee limit? Meaning, how many people can be in the event?
- What's the user interface and is the platform easy to use?
- What features do you really need?
- Do you need registration? Is entry free or are you selling tickets?
- What is the quality of the audio and video?
- Can you customize and add your branding?
- Can your presenters and attendees access the platform? (This is important and we'll address this below)
- Do you plan on having simultaneous sessions or break out rooms?
- Who is going to provide technical assistance during the event? (Tip: We can help)
Types of Events
Webinars are great for one presenter or a panel of presenters to speak to an audience. Typically, only the presenters are on camera. The attendees are in the room and can interact through Q&A features, live chat and polling. Webinars make it easy for presenters to share slides, handouts and videos. Most webinar platforms also have registration and provide good event analytics for who attended the event. Some webinar platforms can post technical hurdles for attendees and presenters. This includes accessing webinars that may be blocked by an attendees firewall or browser permissions. This is a good solution is you have fewer than 1000 attendees for a live webinar.
Live streaming is a good solution for reaching a diverse audience and has one of the lowest technical barriers. I always tell clients if you can stream a YouTube video, there's a good chance you can watch a live stream. Think of a stream as a live television program. It's produced from start to finish. Your audience is watching the program. There are some options for interaction, including 'ask a question' and live chat. However, the interaction is not as robust as a webinar or virtual meeting. Live streams are great for virtually any size audience.
Another option is virtual event venues. These are platforms that support live presentations, vendor and sponsor booths, and greater interaction with attendees. These venues are typically enterprise level events that require working with a platform that supports such events. As a response to client requests, Creative Liquid added some of this functionality to our FedStreaming.com platform. Virtual venues can be a good solution, but keep in mind these will require extensive setup and configuration and will have a higher cost.
Creating Engaging Events
Regardless of the format your event takes, the most important thing to keep in mind is focus on the content. Make the event worthwhile for your attendees. The content should be engaging and contain information that adds value. For example, we produced a webinar for a hospital where a panel of doctors spoke and answered questions from attendees. The content was worthwhile and the audience was engaged. A webinar is a great sales tool to introduce a product or service to your audience. Encourage questions and interaction.
We have produced many live streams for nonprofit clients who have effectively used these events for fundraising. Some of these events have featured entertainment, musical acts, VIP speakers and conversations that people want to see. Be creative.
Over the next year we'll see hybrid events take shape. These are events that will have an in-person and virtual component. We're already seeing this. Some attendees will not want to, or may not be able to, travel to conferences and events. Don't leave them out. Virtual solutions can bring those attendees to the event.
Virtual events take many forms. Platforms and solutions are always changing. We're here to help manage solutions. Give us a call to start the conversation 703-459-9900 or contact our team to learn more.