The first several months of 2020 brought a range of hardships, uncertainties, and fear that is unprecedented in our generation. The events industry in particular, which generally focuses on gathering more than 10 people in a room, has been hit harder than most. Although nearly every part of daily life has changed, some things remain true. Nonprofits need to raise money, associations need to educate and bring industry leaders together, and schools need to recognize graduates. The list goes on and on. With this current shift, you are likely pivoting from live events and wondering how to plan a virtual event.
Prior to 2020, most people’s concept of a virtual event was a stale webinar or weekly Skype meeting for work. With the onset of a global pandemic, organizations are looking to enhance the virtual platform to accomplish their goals. It’s difficult to envision a virtual event that is as engaging as a live one, but it is possible. The big venue is replaced by a small studio. Attendees watch from a mobile device instead of theater seating. VIPs view from their couch instead of a prime, front-row location. Your mission and your message haven’t changed. Your mode of transmission has.
There are three primary types of events that your production partner can offer that go beyond a simple video conference call:
- Streaming from one room, single presenter(s)
- Streaming multiple presenters from multiple rooms
- Either of the above, as an exclusive, ticketed event
The last type can also fall into one of the first two categories and brings with it additional responsibilities for your production partner.
Streaming from one room, single presenters
This is the simplest type of virtual event. One person, speaking and presenting content on Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitter, or any open platform that attendees can click a link to attend. This is the most straightforward type of virtual event, for both the organizer and the viewer. These platforms do however limit the capabilities for collecting data analytics and monetizing content.
Instead of being onstage at a venue, your presenter addresses the audience from the controlled environment of a studio. The space will be customized to enhance the energy and purpose of your virtual event. The design may include ambient lighting, digital displays with rolling sponsor logos in the background, or a simple fireside chat setup. Content that would normally be splashed on a large screen in a venue will be cut into the main program or displayed as picture in picture, depending on your preference. The virtual setting requires the same quality of transitions needed in the live event setting. Technical glitches pull your audience away from your message and you risk losing them as quickly as a click to another open window.
Streaming multiple presenters from multiple rooms
This option allows for clients to keep a fast-paced show flow that involves an emcee or main presenter with other multiple presenters throughout the program. This is the ideal option for most clients looking to have flexibility in their program. Planning for this type of presentation gets more technical with each additional presenter. Having a trusted production partner with the right expertise makes it possible.
The additional presenters can be managed in several different ways. Your production partner can build out virtual panel rooms and cut to single presenters throughout the program. Regardless of which scenario you go with, you have the opportunity to communicate with these presenters before they go live on the stream. You can communicate with the presenters just as you would backstage at an in-person event. You need to make sure they feel comfortable, that the stream is good, and make any necessary last-minute changes to their slides. The success of this portion of the event is determined by the expertise of your production partner as it involves sophisticated technical execution. Again, the worst thing that can happen is for glitches that result in viewers tuning out. Staying on message and driving consistent content through seamless transitions is what retains your audience.
Either of the above, as an exclusive, ticketed event
Events that fall into this category range in size and scope but require the attendee to pay in order to attend. These types of events require top-level, professional production since people are investing in the content you will be sharing. Just like organizers want to bring in top talent for their keynote presenter, you will want to ensure that every cue and transition is perfect. The stakes for a ticketed virtual event are high. Since your attendees are investing time and money, the production must be flawless. Attendees paying to be a part of your event expect exceptional content and professional production. These events bring the highest risk and reward. Your production partner is key to ensuring success.
Monetizing content for a select demographic presents an opportunity for you to build a program that continually improves year over year. Just like an in-person event, having a virtual event behind a paywall allows for new innovation every year. This creates a platform that ensures that as attendees invest in you, you invest in your program.
These types of events are the most flexible and the most complicated. But they also have the greatest potential. Having the content live on your website gets brand exposure and helps educate attendees about your organization. It’s possible to host the main general session and have attendees select which virtual breakout sessions they’d like to attend. This also brings with it the opportunity to get a detailed look at data: who’s watching what, how long did they view the content, etc. The possibilities are usually only limited by the organization’s budget and organizer’s imagination.
If you have a trusted, professional production partner, they can walk you through options to see what makes the most sense for your event. Live-streaming a single presenter, multi-presenters, or having the event behind a paywall provides an opportunity to connect with attendees in a personal setting. Moving to a virtual platform is daunting for most organizations simply because of the lack of understanding for what’s possible.The short answer is: anything is possible.