The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused the cancellation of meetings and events around the world and will continue to affect our ability to hold live gatherings for the foreseeable future. However, business goes on and more companies will turn to virtual meetings and events as an effective alternative to the live experience.
It’s important to realize that virtual experiences have their own set of requirements and success strategies. In a virtual event, you control nearly every aspect of the attendee experience. Attendees have little involvement outside of the content you put on the screen, so the best techniques for creating a truly successful virtual conference involve focusing and intensifying an attendee’s connection with the content. Here is a list of things you can do:
Refine Your Focus
A virtual meeting or event is more compelling when its purpose and focus is well-defined. More than a theme or a rally cry, purpose and focus define what the attendee gets out of their experience. The best way to communicate is to consider starting with a keynote session that defines the challenge, sets the objectives and describes how the various tracks and sessions address different objectives. At the end of each day, a wrap-up session clarifies the key points made during the day, giving attendees a concise take-away that is easy to retain.
Curation is King
Curating presentations for a virtual experience is as important as defining the focus of your meeting or event itself. You want every presentation to make its points efficiently and logically, to stay on message and, most importantly, to be designed for a virtual audience. Curation is part of a relationship you build with your presenters, assuring them that you want them to succeed.
Presenters are Promoters
Your presenters are invested in the success of their sessions and your event. Help them get the word out to colleagues and customers by providing them with marketing and messaging tools in advance so they can promote the meeting or event as well as their presentation to their group or followers.
Create an Environment
Yes, your speakers may be presenting only to a camera, but your attendees are hard wired with an association, created by years of live attendance, between the power of a space and the importance of a message. Aid the impact of the message by creating a “main stage” environment with a thoughtful design that communicates “this is more than a webcam.” The final product may be a great studio set design or an iconic environment reflecting the message being delivered – a lab, a factory floor, a data center.
It’s well known that audience attention and retention drop as the length of a presentation increases. This is never truer than with a virtual meeting, where the screen is static and the viewer can be distracted by the physical world around them. For this reason, changing visuals and breaking-up the content into smaller bites keeps viewers engaged. Punctuate a talk with a video clip, a survey, a transition to another location or another presenter or from one presenter to a panel. Any time you create a change in the screen visual, the viewer subconsciously tunes back in.
Whether the meeting or event is a B2B or B2C, your experience should consider including influencers – company bloggers, partners, key customers. Engage them as part of the planning stage and define opportunities for them to use social media to provide validation and perspective on your messaging or to ask informed questions during live chat and Q&A.
Provide Attendee Support
In a live event, many questions and problems can be answered by turning to the person next to you. This is not necessarily the case with a virtual conference. When planning a virtual conference, let your attendees know how to reach the support team and plan to provide a broad spectrum of assistance – technical support, help with sessions, accessing handouts and on-demand recordings – as well as sending push notifications to remind attendees to attend a session or submit a question.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has made virtual conferences a vital component of marketing communications, going forward. At Media Loft, we know that when strategically planned, virtual meetings and events are a highly effective alternative to a live experience.