How to Make Virtual Events Easy and Productive

April 27, 2020

Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts serves as PGi’s CMO, responsible for all marketing operations worldwide, driving growth opportunities and building brand recognition for the company within the communications market.

As business demands shift in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have moved from hosting in-person meetings and events to virtual ones. Clearly, many businesses continue to move forward, even as many places remain closed. They are finding a new way to stay connected while properly socially distancing.

In fact, our data indicates a majority of internal and external meetings, including town halls and sales conferences, will be virtual for the next six months. Possibly longer. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve seen a 320% increase in demand for virtual events.

Virtual events are a powerful means to interact with audiences in organizations with many benefits, including the ability to host a larger audience than the venue for an in-person event might allow.

Identify the Objective

Don’t get caught up in the craze to use technology for the sake of using technology. Any application must have a practical business purpose, and it must be clear to attendees. In other words, don’t deploy a solution in search of an objective.

Before even deciding to go with a virtual meeting, take a moment to understand what you are trying to accomplish. Then, work to create a program that can be delivered powerfully virtually, and one that helps meet a business objective.

Know How Your Audience Will Interact

As the world moves to virtual events, organizations must keep in mind many in their audience are interacting with such a tool for the first time. As such, they may be unfamiliar with the nuances of digital experiences.

As part of the planning process, think through contingencies for everything that might go wrong — from attendees with a poor connection to a speaker who forgets to join on time. As with any execution, it is also imperative to think through what questions your targets may have and prepare a response, so you aren’t caught off guard when they ask it.

Practice Makes Perfect

Pulling off a virtual meeting is more than plugging in a camera and hoping everything goes according to plan. It requires advance preparation, such as distributing an agenda, pre-reading materials and setting expectations before anyone joins the meeting.

It also requires practice, so be sure to also test everything in advance to make sure the actual event goes off without a hitch.

It’s also important to keep in mind things sometimes look differently in a virtual setting than they might look on a stage, especially if a presenter is working from home. Take a moment to consider the background and what distractions might be present and can be avoided.

Pre-do Whatever You Can

Virtual events provide an opportunity to create elements in advance, which will help ensure everything goes smoothly. It could be as simple as pre-recording some speaker sessions.

Events should be buttoned-up affairs, and just because a meeting or gathering has moved to a virtual setting doesn’t mean its quality should suffer. In fact, an online event has an opportunity to increase engagement between an organization and attendees.

Use It as a Starting Point

Like any in-person event, a virtual event should serve as the starting point for future customer engagements. Before putting on an event, consider what the post-event steps will be and decide how to launch them, so as not to lose any momentum.

Because virtual functions can be recorded with ease, consider archiving all content on a microsite or elsewhere, so attendees can re-watch and those unable to attend the original event can watch at their convenience.

The world will undoubtedly emerge from the pandemic with a different view of how to engage and meet. So, organizations should use the learnings they gain during this time to guide their thinking moving forward.

Not only will it prepare them for a future global crisis, but they may find a better way to operate in general.

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