Virtual events may sound futuristic to some, but they have been a part of the event industry for quite some time now. On the one hand where technology boom and social media have contributed to the “virtual sphere” of the event industry, a wide array of portable devices has further opened up new gateways to reach audiences.
A virtual event is one where people attend events online rather than at in-person gatherings. With the current trend of significant occurrences happening online, chances are you might have already attended a virtual event. It may have been a webinar or a training session on a video conferencing tool.
Although several people debate the importance of face-to-face interaction, the awareness around the need of moving to virtual space is gradually increasing. More and more enterprises are accepting the fact that virtual events have become a necessity rather than an option. After all, virtual events offer some very cool benefits.
Benefits of going from in-person to Virtual
One of the largest recent events to undergo the transition to virtual was Microsoft’s Build. The annual developer event where Microsoft previews its latest developments across software and services certainly has marked a major paradigm shift in the event industry. Other companies and corporations will certainly follow suite realizing the tremendous benefits of virtual events like the ones mentioned below:
- Virtual events provide you a greater outreach in terms of the number of people attending the event. Attendees are not limited by the geographical location of the event.
- Going online leads to lower marketing and operating cost.
- Easier to manage, virtual events allow you to focus on the experience and takeaways of the event.
- Launching and marketing your product through virtual events can enhance your brand strategy.
- Virtual events allow you to collect valuable feedback from the audience in just a few clicks.
A few events which were traditionally in-person but have now gone virtual
With the entire work ecosystem shifting from a formal office setting to a home environment (thanks to the global pandemic), major events in the business sector have taken a virtual avatar. Events that have always had an in-person feel attached to them have also adapted to the virtual scheme of things.
While the list can be endless, there are few global scale events that have quickly been adapted to the virtual world:
- Product Launches
If there’s one great example of turning a crisis into an opportunity, it’s got to be Glossier’s hand-cream product launch which happened virtually in April. Citing the need to moisturize hands after frequent hand-washing as the key consumer-pulling factor, the beauty brand launched their new line of hand-creams online. Similarly, Chinese Smartphone company OnePlus didn’t wait for the turmoil from Coronavirus to die down, and instead, launched two of their latest handsets via an online presentation to journalists. What these virtual product launches show is that with the right tech support,
events which could never be perceived in any other way than in-person can also be done virtually, and that too, with the same impact.
- Business Conferences
Converting in-person formal business conferences to immersive online experiences where people can attend via their living rooms, giants like Google, TechCrunch, and HubSpot set new trends in the industry by hosting their events virtually. Not only did such a paradigm shift lead to a more personalized encounter for each attendee,
but even more people could be a part of the events as compared to in-person occurrences where logistics pose a major hindrance.
- Technical Workshops
Usually, technical workshops involve making extensive arrangements to invite key-note speakers and experts at the location where such an event is supposed to be held. Additionally, arrangements have to be made to accomodate attendees and equip them with the needed infrastructure to learn what is being demonstrated or taught. With virtualism creeping into workshops too, such hurdles have been completely taken care of. All that needs to be done is setting up an e-meeting and inviting attendees via email. Everyone can join from the comfort of their homes allowing for more flexibility and enhanced learning.
Leading the way in hosting technical workshops this year are giants like Cisco, Salesforce, and even Apple.
Tips for shifting in-person events to virtual ones
While there are few fundamentals to organizing successful virtual sessions, you may experience some hiccups considering a few people may be reluctant to undergo the transition.
Here are a few tips that will assist you in taking the leap:
Going in without a definite plan will only lead to failure. You should outline the goals and basic concept of the event. Plan on what experience you want to deliver and build an effective strategy for the entire session.
- Choosing the right date and time
Since virtual events usually involve audiences from around the world, choosing the right time and date keeping in mind the time zones becomes critical.
An effective promotional strategy will help you maximize on the targeted audience. Social media and the inclusion of key selling details play an important role in this.
- Expect the worst
You should be prepared for technical glitches. You would want to hold training sessions and convey as much information as possible for the audience to join and navigate the event. Remember all of your audiences might not be tech-savvy.
Top 5 virtual events and video streaming software tools
A crucial aspect of a successful virtual event is the ability of the host to stream and broadcast a live session effortlessly. And this is where video streaming and meeting tools come into the picture. With a number of features like session recording and live chat,
these tools have evolved into a complete package when it comes to virtual events.
If there’s one platform that has captured the largest market share by simplifying the organization of online meetings to a granular level, it is Zoom. Popular video conferencing and meeting solution,
Zoom can add up to 1000 participants to your virtual event. With an easy to navigate simple interface, this video conferencing and streaming tool is one of the best meeting solutions out there.
- Google Meet
Suitable for internal virtualized events, Google Hangouts comes with an easy to use interface for your video sessions. One of the most familiar applications among corporate settings, it offers direct messaging, group chats,
video streaming, and screen sharing capabilities. Additionally, with the integration of Google Contacts, it lets you start a conversation over video and text with an entire circle in just one click.
- Microsoft Teams
Formally known as “Skype for Business Online”, this application from Microsoft has made collaboration among remote teams much simpler. With features like group chat, messaging, video conferencing, meeting and training events, and integration of Microsoft flagship products (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Teams helps promote collaboration.
Before Google Hangouts and Zoom disrupted the virtual meeting market, GoToMeeting was one of the most used online collaboration tools. The platform is still used by a number of organizations, thanks to the fact that it allows users to host online meetings with up to 250 participants in addition to the facility to share applications in real-time, and that too, for free. With features like high-definition video conferencing, GoToMeeting offers unlimited meetings with remote colleagues coupled with features like screen-sharing and instant messaging.
When talking about video conferencing tools, how can one miss out WebEx. This elegant and comprehensive solution from Cisco allows remote teams to collaborate in real-time with file sharing and HD video calling facilities. Offering unparalleled secure data encryption, WebEx sessions are backed by high-bandwidth transmissions, thanks to Cisco’s strategically located global data centers.
Bitpod Events – One-Stop Solution for executing great Virtual Events
Bitpod Events is a new-age Event Management platform that lets you plan and execute all operations related to enterprise events through a single interface.
Using this platform, you can manage memberships, ticketing, payments, reports, and much more with a few clicks, and that too, completely virtually. Offering an efficient way to handle pre-event, during-event, and post-event activities, this platform is backed by low-code tools that provide you with the ability to easily personalize all event processes.
Bitpod Event offers you the following tools (among others) to plan and execute rich virtual events:
- Create virtual event microsite to help market the event
- Registration forms
- Pre and post event surveys and feedback
- Sell tickets
- Track attendees
- Book appointment for one-one or group virtual events
- Share event links
- Send event recording to who have not attended
In addition to this, the platform’s strength lies in the 700+ integrations it has to offer, including:
- Integration with online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Google meet, Webex, GoToWebinar
- Integration with video streaming platforms such as YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and more
- Lead generation and capturing by integrating with Salesforce, Hubspot and 700+ cloud apps
- GSuite and Office365 Calendar and email integration
- Integration with accounting software to manage virtual event invoicing and capturing profitability
While all that’s good, are there any downsides to Virtual Events?
In a word, yes. Like every two-sided coin, shifting from in-person events to the virtual space has minor setbacks and risks, such as the failing to choose the right tech, not being able to create a
revenue-stream like an in-person event, short attention spans on part of the attendees, a higher rate of registered “no-shows,” and more. But in times like today where not having a virtual event could potentially mean not having an event at all (thereby sacrificing on enhanced reach), these risks are well worth taking.
To ensure virtual events give them maximum business value, companies need to devise an effective plan and strategy before diving into this new experience.
Building resources in terms of tools and video conferencing platforms will surely help but real learning would only come after we start experimenting.