Absolute Concepts Live : Virtual Events

The value of face-to-face interaction will never go away, but there are times when going virtual is a necessary part of your event program. But how do you turn a multi-day conference, filled with networking opportunities, educational sessions, and the attendee insights they generate into virtual events?  And once you do, how do you ensure attendees are engaged throughout the event?

Hosting a virtual event requires the same care and attention as an in-person event. With both events, you need to effectively promote the event, engage your attendees, create memorable moments for attendees, and prove event success. The only thing that’s missing is the venue and the attendees on site. But, by thinking of virtual events not as small one-off presentations, but as value-added, engagement-driven experiences, you can create an impactful event that extends well-beyond a computer screen.

What is a Virtual Event?

Odds are you’ve attended a webinar online, watched an on-demand workout class, or joined a meeting using a video conferencing tool. You might even have attended a conference from the comfort of your desk. These are all examples of virtual events. A virtual event is one where individuals experience the event and its content online rather than gathering in-person.

4 Main Types of Virtual Events

When it comes to your total event program, virtual events can be added to the mix of events you host, events you attend, and your internal events. Virtual events are not a replacement for other types of events, but a new type to add and to enhance your entire program. Below are the four main types of virtual events.

  1. Webinars

Webinars typically last somewhere from 45 to 80 minutes. Holding webinars virtually allows attendees from around the world to join in and listen as one or more speakers present the content. Companies can charge attendees to join webinars using online payment services or can be offered for free. Webinars typically use video conferencing tools that allow Q&A, the ability to present live or a pre-recorded video, and be offered as on-demand after the fact. Due to their one-off educational nature, webinars have thrived with 100% virtual attendance. These can also include internal and external trainings.

  1. Virtual Conferences

Much like in-person conferences, virtual conferences are built around a live, complex agenda that includes keynotes, sessions, breakouts, and more. Virtual conferences include multi-session content and can involve community engagement tools. While not as effective in terms of lead capture and networking as an in-person event, virtual conferences allow attendees to view keynotes in real-time, build their own agenda from relevant, on-demand content, and interact with other attendees.

  1. Internal Hybrid Events

These are town halls, sales kick-offs, companywide events, trainings, department meetings, and more. For organizations that span countries, even continents, internal hybrid events are used to share a message to the entire company when employees are not all gathered in the same place. While it would be great to fly every employee to your organization’s headquarters, it would be incredibly costly, and the scheduling required would be time-consuming. The next best option is to host events that are part in-person, part virtual.

  1. External Hybrid Events

These events are held for those outside of your organization. They can be user conferences or industry conferences. These events require higher levels of video production so that virtual attendees are provided a similar quality to in-person attendees. These events allow attendees who are unable to travel to the event to participate and learn. It is challenging to provide the same value at external hybrid events, as in-person attendees are able to network more freely and engage easily with content than those attending virtually.

Why Host a Virtual Event?

Virtual events are held for the same reasons as in-person events: to deliver your company’s message to drive leads and revenue, drive adoption, and build loyalty lifetime value. Meeting and event planners have been making the choice between in-person, virtual, and hybrid events for years and each type of event comes with its own set of pros and cons. For instance, a webinar benefits from being virtual as it is purpose-built to cast a wide net to deliver thought-leadership, training, or some other content, whereas a user conference or regional training program is purpose-built to create 1:1 in-person interactions that face-to-face delivery enhances. When deciding whether or not to make your event virtual, consider what you hope to gain from the event and how well those goals can be reached virtually versus in-person.

Here are a few reasons to host a virtual event:

  • Accessibility: While the event is still being held in-person, virtual options allow you to accommodate attendees who are unable to attend in person.
  • Budget: Your organization needs to cut costs and making smaller events and webinars virtual can help move money to the biggest event of the year that brings in the largest number of leads. It also helps to have a virtual or hybrid option when attendee budgets to travel are a concern.
  • There’s no other option: Whether due to the extreme weather, travel bans, or an act of God, you’re forced to make your in-person event virtual or cancel it altogether.

Virtual Event Elements

A virtual event is built around content, attendee engagement, and data. While virtual events don’t require F&B, they are made of many of the same elements as any other kind of event. Video production quality and connectivity will be important, as well as the site that houses the agenda and content. Here are the elements that make up a virtual event:

  • Event website
  • Event registration
  • Live presentation content
  • Live, one-way audio/video
  • Question and answer
  • Live polling
  • Note taking/favourite slides
  • Recorded content
  • Interactive video conferencing
  • Feedback surveys