How PGi Is Transforming In-Person Events Into Virtual Events in Record Time
PGi is known for its corporate audio, video and web-conferencing tools. But the Alpharetta, Georgia-based communications company is also quietly powering high-profile virtual events and helping its customers quickly launch new meetings online.
Corporate Event News chatted virtually — using PGi’s GlobalMeet conferencing tools — with CMO Mark Roberts about how COVID-19 has impacted PGi’s clients, business and outlook on events.
Virtual Event Timelines are Shorter
Roberts says many of PGi’s customers were already incorporating virtual and hybrid meetings and communications into their businesses pre-COVID-19, but the pandemic hastened that journey. Since the first quarter of 2020, PGi has seen a 500 percent increase in its virtual meetings business, driven by customers looking for ways to connect with their audiences in lieu of in-person events.
“[The lockdowns] enforced a need [for event professionals] to act today, instead of thinking about what they might be doing in six months,” he explains. “It has accelerated how people are thinking about events, virtual events and meeting effectively when distance is part of the equation.”
One customer that PGi helped rapidly pivot is San Mateo, Calif.-based financial software company Model N. Model N’s annual Rainmaker event was scheduled to be held in Orlando Mar. 11-13, but in early March, fear of COVID-19 was beginning to sweep the U.S. With time being of the essence, Model N worked with PGi to take the event virtual in only one week. PGi hosted 14 webcasts over two days, and rather than the decrease they had feared, Model N saw a 27 percent increase in attendance over the originally planned in-person event.
Model N’s success shows how quickly planners can launch a virtual event when the relevant content is ready. Roberts says event professionals shouldn’t worry too much about how much time to allot for planning (although having more time is never a bad thing). There’s no empirical data yet around an ideal amount of time for coordinating a virtual event, but the pandemic has shown that virtual events can garner more registrations, faster, than physical events.
“It’s a bit shorter [ramp-up time] because the sheer logistics that event planners go through with physical events don’t apply,” Roberts says. “You’ve still got to get presenters, get your content together, etc. but you don’t have considerations and expenses like hotels and flights with a virtual event.”
Keep Engagement and Community Top of Mind
While Model N’s fast turnaround and results are impressive, for PGi, Roberts says, it’s not just about being able to quickly broadcast content. Engagement and community are also key to success.
“We're in the business of helping people connect,” says Roberts. “Right now, that’s probably people’s greatest need. So [we think of ways to] do that and provide that continual connection.”
Another PGi customer is a large sporting organization that each year allocates players to different teams. While in previous years some of the related events had taken place virtually, the majority had been held in a physical location. The challenge for this organization was to do everything remotely, working with multiple providers, but still retain the same levels of interest and engagement.
This is no easy feat. However, one of PGi’s value-adds is having its experts walk event professionals through best practices learned over the course of their years of experience.
“We spend a lot of time coaching [our clients] on content…and preparing for public speaking,” Roberts says. “[This includes training on] how to strategically place questions; and use Q&A, polling and different [mediums] throughout rather than just showing slides then a video. Sometimes, when you really want people to listen, it’s better to completely forgo visual aids.”
Using data from PGi’s experience with corporate communication tools, Roberts says that virtual events can potentially create a more immersive experience and a greater sense of community than a hub-and-spoke model, where some people are together and others are remote.
“We found that when you have a large group of people in one room and you've got one person connecting in, they typically felt somewhat disconnected, as it's difficult to engage in the conversations happening in the room,” he explained. “[But] when you sent everybody to their own desk, it leveled the playing field.”
Experts have speculated that post-pandemic, remote work will be normalized, with more people using collaborative solutions from their own desk rather than convening in a meeting room.
“[More remote work] was starting before we had this situation,” Roberts says. “Now it's proved that it's possible, and [people] can be effective remotely.”
Look for Experienced Technology Providers
One thing that Roberts stresses for planners who are looking to host a virtual event is to engage with a professional organization that has experience — and to describe to them what you want out of your event. He says not to worry about terminology or not having technical knowledge.
“It should be a fairly simple process to engage [with a provider], provided it’s a company that is used to [hosting virtual events] and not trying to adopt something new,” he explains. “If they are capable of running these events, they’ll understand your language.”
Photo credit: PGi