If the past twelve months have taught us anything, it’s this: those who are willing to embrace change, evolve with shifting circumstances, and diversify their approach have a huge leg up on their competition. As in-person events transitioned to a virtual space, we have seen an industry-wide push for new forms of online engagement that will foster human connection by any means necessary.
The focus on interaction and connection is more important than it has ever been. As we move more and more into hybrid event solutions, we must also set the proper strategies to ensure this human connection between attendees continues at all times. Discover our biggest takeaways from the past twelve months and how Vario’s focus on human connection successfully produces results.
#1 Engagement is More Important than Ever
The human experience will always be such that in-person interaction is integral to the way we communicate. It is clear that we truly are analog creatures living in a digital world. However, while the in-person experience was the most pivotal piece of an event in the past, 2020 saw a major shift to virtual interaction due to practicing social distancing.
Luckily, Vario was prepared with years of experience to providing seamless virtual solutions without sacrificing engagement.
Audiences can connect via real time chat and Q&A, experience augmented physical presence with XR stages, and participate in digital networking foyers. Smaller breakout sessions have also become a popularized method of encouraging group discussions via video conferencing tools. These types of virtual event production and platform features are key to increasing client retention and attendee engagement.
#2 Events as a Digital Marketing Strategy
Event data, attendee data, and spending data are all integral pieces that help event planners create a more targeted marketing approach. By diving deep into your data, you can truly connect with both your in-person and virtual audience, understand them, and nurture their interests for the next time around. While your next audience might not be exactly the same as a previous group, the ability to study data trends to see what works and what doesn’t is an invaluable resource.
#3 Truly Understand your Audience
Event data isn’t just useful at the close of an event. You should truly understand your audience by forming an audience persona(s) and then build your marketing campaign to appeal to those buyers. Start by collecting information such as their name, age, occupation, hobbies, motivations. From there, you can conduct Q&As, live chats, breakout sessions, and more to determine the pain points or motivations for attending the event. You should also use these engaging activities to collect real-time feedback from your event attendees during the program. What do they like about the event so far? What do they dislike? What are their recommendations to make the event better?
By truly understanding your audience, you create a better experience for your attendees before, during, and after the event.
#4 Have a Backup Plan for your Technology
Technology can sometimes fail at the least expected time. For this reason, when planning your virtual or hybrid event, it is best to have a backup plan to be prepared.
Your backup plan should consist of backup generators, a dedicated team for technical issues, and a backup streaming source in case of things like power shortages, WiFi problems, video playback issues, or radio frequency interference.
It may even be beneficial to have a backup keynote speaker or understudy guest waiting on standby. Even if everything goes according to plan, you could always figure out a way to add in your understudy as a last-minute special guest.
#5 The importance of Leveraging Audio Visual in Virtual and Hybrid events
To leverage the best possible result from your virtual or hybrid event, here are our four top tips:
- Keep it visually stimulating – Use different camera angles and attractive event lighting to hold your audience’s attention.
- Use reliable software & Virtual Production Technology – This will limit technical glitches on both ends, providing a better overall experience for all parties involved.
- Use Appropriate sound – people need to hear what you have to say. Be sure to double-check your audio before the event.
- Stay Connected – Make sure you have plenty of bandwidth, high-speed internet, and power to complete the event without any unwanted interruptions…keep the stream flowing!
#6 Promote the Event
Publicizing your event is critical for generating the necessary buzz. Enthusiasm is directly tied to momentum, and a strong groundswell of interest via online marketing is a premier method for generating the proper excitement before your event.
One of the best ways to generate buzz is by creating a hashtag prior to your event. A hashtag, especially one that is catchy, allows your future guests to begin engaging with one another even before the event begins.
Creating positive buzz and an atmosphere of engagement was always an event goal, but it’s especially important if there are any virtual elements. An active virtual community before the event informs your future guests that this event will be just as vibrant, if not more so, while the in-person components are taking place.
#7 Bite-Sized Content is Key
As a culture, we are developing a much shorter attention span. While this realization is not novel, it does pose a very specific conundrum to those tasked with planning events. Plan to have a strategy in place that directly addresses an audience’s collective attention span. Incorporate compelling quotes, infographics, GIF’s, and even memes if appropriate for the event and attendees.
Short, concise, and quick moving content will keep your virtual audience engaged and prevent them from leaving — which is only one click away!
#8 Appealing Content
Content cannot be boring! If Apple can successfully turn motherboards and microchips into something as sleek and sexy as the iPhone, you can find a way to keep your content fun and engaging for your audience.
Both in-person and virtual audience members are at risk of becoming bored unless your content is engaging, informative, and exciting.
Even with the most intriguing lineup of content, you will want to change the content type throughout the event. Incorporating a variety of slides, media, single presenters, panels, etc., will help keep your presentation fresh and your audience engaged.
One of the biggest challenges resulting from the shift to virtual events is the duration of the event. Do you stick to a traditional full day (or two) of sessions, split them up into half day summits, or sprinkle smaller webinars throughout a week? There is no correct answer and it truly depends on the content you’re delivering, the attendee demographic, and the flexibility of attending relevant topics.
Though virtual events are generally more accessible (goodbye commute, hello pajama bottoms), involving multiple time zones can also be tricky. If your virtual event is broadcasted on a national level, strategically choose a marketed start time that works reasonably well for all. Expecting an international audience online? You may consider repeating live sessions more than once or making recordings available OnDemand for those that can’t be up extra early or extra late in their location. Clearly informing your guests what time events will take place and keeping to a rigid schedule will add to an enjoyable user experience.
#10 Pre-record vs Live
Pre-recorded elements can limit potential challenges during your virtual or hybrid events.
As live events are more prone to technical issues, pre-recorded assets are a great way to take one less variable off the table. Pre-record a speaker that would otherwise be unavailable the day of or shoot video in different locations to keep the event feed interesting. For added variety, mix pre-recorded and live content to further diversify the event experience and ensure real time engagement can occur.
#11 Evaluation and Follow-Ups
The best way to continue to learn about what makes a virtual or hybrid event a success is by following up with surveys or questionnaires. When developing your questionnaire, consider the type of information you are looking for, such as which sessions were useful, which ones weren’t, their experience, the reason for attending, etc. and develop your questions based on the most relevant information for you and your company.
It’s important to take the time to go through the evaluations, organize comments into common themes or pain points, and meet internally with your event production team to determine what can be done for the next event. Additionally, be sure to thank your attendees for filling out the evaluation and ensure that their comments or concerns are heard.
#12 Prepare for Future Events
The future of events is now more robust than ever. We have expanded our initial offering of in-person to virtual and hybrid events in a little over a year. These new techniques are not going away anytime soon and for good reason. It allows attendees to engage in various ways, strengthening your event and their experience.
As you prepare for your next virtual or hybrid event using helpful tips, keep in mind budget considerations and proper preventative supplies in mind. Things like masks, sanitation stations, and touch-free equipment are now a must for any event with an in-person element and will require a piece of your overall budget.
While the last twelve months have certainly proved to be challenging, the reality is that nothing can stop the desire for human connection. Whether you seek digital, in-person, or an inspiring hybrid event, our team at Vario is here to make that happen. Let our industry-leading ingenuity and exceptional creativity. Ensure your next event meets and exceeds the new standard for our industry.