- What are Virtual Events?
- In-Person vs Virtual Events
- Types of Virtual Events
- Virtual Event Elements
- Determining the Success of a Virtual Event
- Effective Attendee Engagement in Virtual Events
- What Can Evenesis Do for Your Virtual Event?
The COVID-19 pandemic that took place in early 2020 has made a significant impact on the way companies are planning events. Fear from the infection and lockdowns imposed by authorities have forced us to pivot to virtual events. After the initial adjustments, virtual events begin to evolve when companies and event organizers begin to see the benefits and the convenience that comes with it.
The worldwide mass vaccination drive offers a form of reassurance as the event industry is slowly going back to physical events. However, most companies are taking safety measures from the threats of growing variants. This is precisely why event technology companies like Evenesis continue to improve on our event management software to enhance the virtual event experience for both attendees and event organizers.
What are Virtual Events?
Virtual events are organized by individual hosts or companies for the purpose of being broadcasted via live video feed for attendees to participate over the Internet. It has no physical person in attendance. Additional interactions such as networking, business matching and exhibitors’ display are made available online. There are certain virtual events that involve the production crew and studio use where green screen setup and virtual stage are used to improve the visuals.
The ease of adapting to the virtual event was not too difficult even with a dramatic transition post-COVID-19 pandemic that forced cancellation of many in-person events. The is due to the availability of event management software (EMS) which has comprehensive features and functionality that help companies and event professionals plan and organize virtual events more effectively.
In-Person vs Virtual Events
With or without the Covid-19 pandemic taking place, most companies are gradually adapting to virtual events for various reasons that we are going to highlight as advantages of virtual events later in this guide. The pandemic only escalated the adaptation of virtual events due to travel and in-person meeting restrictions. Since 2020, it can be said that one in every three persons have been a part of a virtual event whether it is attending webinars or being a part of an online classroom in the school, college, or university.
Virtual event software offers a personalized experience that allows you to host any kind of virtual event from any part of the globe and involve large number of attendees while adhering to the social distancing rules. With the advent of a high-end virtual event solution, you can host medical and health programs, sporting events live and stream them virtually. Entertainment events, educational courses, training programs, group discussion, debates, and almost anything that have been previously done in-person has now been replaced virtually.
With increasing accessibility, the virtual event gives the ability of providing companies and speakers screen time that they have otherwise lost from in-person events. The need for physical contact is being silently replaced through distant proximity of the virtual event. Supported by a virtual event platform, virtual events are gaining traction from all industries.
Is virtual event planning any different from the in-person event?
The idea behind event planning boils down to the fundamentals, whether it is an in-person event, virtual event or hybrid event, the customer value and the prospect of the event is the greatest point of interest. Therefore, singling the virtual event from the rest of the event standards would not be the right approach. Integrating the event agenda common to all platforms, the virtual event should be treated with the likelihood of success. Just like in-person events, the virtual event too needs a good event marketing strategy. Without the right targeting and effective promotional plans, the number of attendees, for example, will not meet the expectation set during the planning stage. Therefore, following all the right marketing practices and engagement opportunities must be utilized in virtual events as well.
After 2020, virtual events have become more of a norm than an option. Educational institutions, businesses, entertainment, and even sports have gone from in-person to virtual events. The digital transformation has been keeping these activities alive with its presence. It is fortunate that we have technology to provide us with an efficient approach that immediately replaced in-person events when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. When social distancing is required to prevent the spread of infection, virtual event platform rise in demand. While it cannot be denied that the in-person experience has its own benefits but given the present circumstances, virtual events has superseded its scope to make users discover its new worth. If you are using Evenesis as your virtual event software, your experience will be really satisfying.
Limitations of Virtual Events that You Need to be Aware of
There are a few limitations of virtual events that companies, and event professionals need to be aware off before they fully embrace virtual events. When it comes to effective communication, it is more than just verbal. In a virtual setting, it is difficult to read one’s body language through the screen especially if one chooses to have the camera switched off. Events rely heavily on high quality content to draw attendees and engage them with the missing element of physical interaction during networking.
Whether or not it is easier to organize an in-person event or a virtual event is debatable. It depends on the complexity and requirements of an event as well as the lead time given. For example, concurrent sessions in a conference held physically can easily be managed with breakout rooms provided at the venue. When it comes to virtual events, breakout sessions can be tricky as each breakout rooms will require a moderator besides the speaker, and in some cases, a tech support person.
When virtual events involve a huge audience (for e.g. 500 and above), engagement can be a real issue. Apart from the content, you will require some creativity and gamification tools to make a significant impact. Without it, your attendees will be easily distracted with other activities on their screen. You really do not want your attendees to be watching Netflix on their browser during a keynote presentation.
There are still many people who do not feel comfortable attending a virtual event due to their lack of savvy-ness in using technology. Being tied to the screen for lengthy hours seems tiresome causing a phenomenon referred to as screen fatigue. The experience can be also monotonous and draining in the long run. On top of that, the distractions at home can be difficult to overcome and concentration may be waivered from a home setting.
The limitations mentioned above can be solved with more efforts taken by the event organizers and event technology providers. However, there are also certain drawbacks that we could not possibly control. These includes bad network connection, power failure, environmental distractions, and equipment damage.
Types of Virtual Events
As mentioned earlier in this guide, COVID-19 pandemic expedited the transition from in-person events to virtual events, but some companies have already tapped into virtual event technology to cut down carbon footprints and cost of travelling to attend events. Apart from that, educational institutions and training companies have also migrated to virtual events to reach larger audience on a global scale. Let us now look at the four main event types were already gain its popularity on the virtual event scene. Most virtual event softwares like Evenesis can cater to these four main virtual event types:
- Virtual Conference
- Virtual Exhibition
- Hybrid Events
A webinar is an online seminar where speakers present their content to online attendees via a virtual event platform. Webinars are approximately 1 to 3 hours long and typically involve only 1-way video interaction but there are some webinars that involve 2-way video interaction with the attendees. Content can either be live-streamed or recorded and can be viewed on demand after the webinar.
The advantage of hosting of webinar makes it possible for attendees from all over the globe to meet and be a part of the webinar session. Attendees can listen to the speakers from the comfort of their home. The speakers can present interesting content that is delivered live for people from all over the world without having to fly across the country to his or her target audience like in-person event. That alone has proven as a huge financial savings for the speakers and the hosts.
A greater value is added when a virtual event software supports a Q&A facility, that surface on the monitor screen of the speaker as well as the attendees watching the webinar. The speaker can immediately respond to the questions, while delivering their presentation or keep some time aside for addressing the Q&As. A webinar generally observes 100% virtual attendance. Every industry can host a webinar based on their industry pain points or demands. A virtual event like a webinar has proved overwhelmingly successful on the virtual event platform.
Virtual conferences are similar to webinars, but it involves a longer duration which usually held consecutively for 2 to 3 days. It also has a more comprehensive agenda as well as a larger number of speakers and attendees. Most virtual conferences, just like its physical counterparts, will have sponsors and exhibitors. Therefore, the virtual event platform selected for the purpose of organizing a virtual conference must be able to fulfill these requirements.
An ideal virtual event platform for virtual conferences need to have the ability to create breakout rooms for concurrent sessions, virtual booths for sponsors and exhibitors, and allow customized add-ons such as live polling, networking lounge, real-time keynote or even gamification features to engage the attendees.
Virtual conferences prove to be much more economical than in-person conferences so companies can save money and time by conducting a virtual conference. You must rely on a highly supportive virtual event software to expect the best response from your virtual conference.
A virtual exhibition is a type of virtual event that emphasizes heavily on the promotional activities of exhibitors in a virtual setting. Similar to physical exhibitions, booth display is crucial for exhibitors. Virtual exhibitions can be designed in a 2D or 3D format with VR integrations. Virtual booths include interactive features where attendees can click on it to view the company information, watch corporate videos, learn about their products or services, live chat with the exhibitors, and many more.
While the business matching experience and networking aspects may not be as effective as in-person exhibitions, virtual exhibitions have its own strengths. For a start, it is more cost effective to organize a virtual exhibition than a physical one. For example, physical exhibition will incur venue rental costs, production costs such as booth setup and installation, manpower costs, etc. It can easily rake up to 6-figures for an exhibition with less than 20 booths.
Another key benefit of virtual exhibition is that it is not restricted by time. Virtual exhibition is available 24 hours for attendees to visit anytime at their convenience. The exhibitors do not need to man the booth 24 hours though, freeing their resources. Virtual attendees can choose to “drop” their business cards at the virtual booth or schedule an appointment with the exhibitors to discuss their products and services.
A hybrid event is a combination of both in-person and virtual event. It can be a seminar, conference, exhibition, product launches, tradeshows, annual galas, etc. Hybrid events are effective in increasing number of attendees compared to running physical events alone. For example, an in-person conference that is happening in the United States can target larger number of global audiences if it has the virtual counterparts. With the option to attend the conference virtually, the event organizer is able to sell more tickets while the global attendees can choose to save travelling costs by attending it online.
There are a few components to be considered during the preparation stage when organizing hybrid events. A production team responsible for event live streaming or recording need to be stationed at the physical venue of the event. The content will then be live streamed to virtual event platform for the online attendees. Not all hybrid events are live. Companies can choose to have the content recorded and made available on the virtual platform as a form of knowledge portal for the online attendees where they can view the content on-demand.
Large companies that have offices all over the globe are also adapting to hybrid format for their internal events to save cost and reduce carbon footprint. Companies often performed internal meets like townhall, countrywide meetings, sales training, departmental correspondence, or meetings, regularly. Hybrid events not only save cost and travelling time, it increase productivity among employees as they are able to communicate more regularly. Moreover, the ease of connecting with colleagues from different parts of your country or other countries seamlessly kept the team together.
Now that we have explained the common types of virtual events, let us take a look at the virtual event elements.
Virtual Event Elements
Unlike in-person events, virtual events do not place emphasis on the venue or F&B. Instead, it is built on content quality, attendee engagement and the event analytics derived from the virtual event platform used to host the events. Here are some key elements of virtual events that every event organizers should know:
Event website or landing page
When hosting a virtual event, the most important element that companies and event organizers should think about is an event website or a landing page. Event marketing, whether it is in-person or virtual, require an event website to connect attendees to the event. In a virtual event, the website plays an even greater role. Therefore, developing an SEO-friendly event website complete with information about the event, featured speakers and programme agenda is the first step toward getting the attention of potential attendees online. A virtual event website also include the registration link for interested attendees to sign up to participant in the event.
The next most important driver is the registration system. This is an automated virtual event solution that speeds engagement and collects relevant data for your events. For example, Evenesis registration system avoids complex registration forms where a simpler process of registration is built in. With unlimited database storage available for event organizers, the data can also be reused for another event, thereby saving time.
The event registration system also comes with event ticketing for both free and paid events. The electronic tickets (e-tickets) consist of a QR code to enable attendees to easily check-in using mobile for physical or hybrid events.
Live one-way or two-ways audio and video streaming
A virtual event platform should support high-quality one-way or two-way audio and video for a seamless event experience with the online attendees. Streaming video data through cameras and audio data through a high-quality audio source are the prerequisites of a virtual event platform. The audio and video streaming can be in-built or using a 3rd party integration based on event organizers’ preferred video conference tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Live content presentation
The virtual event software should be able to support this feature for a webinar or virtual conference. The speakers can share their PowerPoint presentations with their attendees and using interactive tools to create an engaging event experience.
Question and answer (Q&A) function
A virtual event software needs to have Q&A function at the very least. This feature is particularly important when a virtual conference or webinar is being hosted. A live Q&A session will add greater engagement to the virtual event.
A virtual event solution should have the facility of monitoring community chats in forums. The responses during sessions further add a wealth of information. The insights attained from these chat outlets provide greater depth into the audience understanding and can improve the quality of the event later.
A virtual event platform needs to have the function to record the live session and store it within the server for attendees who have registered in the virtual event to watch at their convenience.
A virtual event platform must give attendees the opportunity to evaluate the event by means of a feedback system. This is a good way of assessing the success of your event and improving it for the future.
Event data and analytics
The advantage of a virtual event is that it can be captured, analyzed, and reviewed thanks to the data retrieved from a virtual event platform. Therefore, the biggest asset of a virtual event is the scope for collecting data which reveals a lot about the audience. Advanced virtual event software collects valuable data. The data collected by these virtual event platforms are essential in helping companies and event organizers for future planning and marketing initiatives. Some of the useful data collected includes:
- Attendees Demographic Details: While virtual event platform do not typically collect demography data such as age, gender or other socio-economic data, information regarding their position level and industry types can be useful for event organizers.
- Virtual event content and session: This is one metric that shows the popular sessions attended, through the virtual event software, and analysis on the unique visitors, and the most preferred subject in the virtual event. This offers valuable resources in the virtual conference giving a direct idea of what the audience prefers.
- The engagement time: Another important metric received from a virtual event solution shows how much time an attendee has dwelt over a session. An average engagement time of a participant on each session ranks the most popular sessions and topics that can be repeated in future conferences.
- Ratings on content and presentation: A virtual event software should rate every content. The rating opportunity provided with every content along with a persuasion content sent to attendees to respond to the feedback can give organizers an idea of their most successful sessions.
Effective Attendee Engagement in Virtual Events
One of the common concerns of virtual events is attendee engagement. Unlike in-person event, there is no control over what your attendees will be doing on the other side of the screen. The only thing that you could do to ensure they are “attending” and paying attention to any virtual events you are running is through engagement.
The virtual event platform you select should be one that can support and maximize your creative ability to provide an experience that encourages attendees to come back for more in the future. In Evenesis, we are constantly upgrading our virtual event software to incorporate interactive features, visual enhancements, and gamification functions to improve attendee engagement.
Here are some of the ideas we have helped our clients implement in the past to provide better virtual event experience to their stakeholders and attendees:
Quiz and trivia between sessions
One way to ensure the attendees are indeed paying attention is to run quizzes and trivia in between sessions. You can run it as a contest where the attendees that have the most answers correct can win prizes. In virtual events that are meant for training purpose, the event organizers can also provide certificate of participation only to those who are fully participating by answering some quizzes.
Polls and Word Clouds
We are all curious beings; hence we always seek advice and opinions from others. If it is relevant to your virtual event, you can incorporate polls or word clouds so your attendees can express their thoughts through their votes. The polls can be live for all to see and the speakers can use the polls to disseminate their content further.
Hashtag Competition on Social Media
You can encourage your attendees to spread word-of-mouth through social media platforms by having an official hashtag they can use along with their self-created hashtags. You can incorporate a random lucky draw for those who use your official hashtag. This will promote your virtual event and brand at a tremendous rate on social media and at the same time, it keeps your attendees attentive.
Rewards and Incentives
Incentivizing any promotional undertaking has always generated positive results. Even though it is a virtual event you are organizing, you can ship out tangible items to your attendees prior or after the event. For example, companies can send out their branded merchandises for early bird registrants or authors can ship out physical books with their signature or you can also send out care package that include masks, sanitizers, hand wash, etc. The list is endless!
One interesting way to engage the attendees on virtual event platform is to include some mini games they can play during breaks. Mini games can also be customized to the company’s branding. It will be more engaging if the mini games are of competitive nature and prizes are given out to winners.
Virtual Photo Booth
Make your virtual event memorable with virtual photo booth! There is a compelling reason why apps such as TikTok and Instagram are so popular. Most people enjoy sharing their life visuals or what they are currently doing. You can have a virtual photo booth made available in the virtual event platform so that your attendees can have the opportunity to take photos of themselves while attending the event.
In the context of virtual conference and virtual exhibition, one of the main purpose of attending such events is the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals or get connected with potential clients. Therefore, networking lounge where attendees can engage in a 2-way video communication with their fellow attendees is crucial. Meeting and networking activity in these virtual tables or booths can be quite an engaging activity.
Just like the in-person events, you can inject more fun entertainment into your virtual events. You can plan a virtual mini concert, stand-up comedy show, DIY workshop, a magic show, and the list goes on. This will not engage attendees, it keeps them entertained and most importantly, it makes the event memorable.
What Can Evenesis Do for Your Virtual Event?
- A virtual event platform that comes with a landing page or microsite option with a seamless data procuring registration form with RSVP invitation and reminder email function.
- Automated and enriched event data and analytics to measure attendee behavior.
- Post-event reports, feedback surveys and newsletters that add value to the event organizers and companies.
- The virtual event software includes embeddable widgets, QR code generators, voucher codes, and more.
- A versatile and simplified virtual event platform with capability to host different types of events include webinars, virtual conferences, virtual exhibitions, and hybrid events.
- A virtual event software that supports a unique ticketing system for hybrid and in-person events.
- Create unlimited promo codes and different ticket types to cater to your event requirements.
- Available email templates that save you time from crafting email content from scratch.
- Event website as an optional add-on to boost your corporate and event branding.
- Updating social media with curated predictive tools.
- Multiple payment options for both local and international attendees are supported. Payment gateway can be automatically integrated into the registration page. The payment mode is self-enabled, supporting Credit Card, FPX, Online Banking, and eWallets.
- Event registration can cater to a group registration or as individual registration, enabling better attendee management.
- Responsive and mobile-friendly where you can access and view your virtual events on smartphones or tablets.
A virtual event has now become a key digital strategy for hosting and organizing a variety of events. Virtual has taken the place of face to face at least for now. Although in-person meetings and events will never cease to lose their relevance and will always be preferred over virtual events, we cannot deny the fact that virtual events are here to stay as well.
With a dynamic and ever evolving virtual event platform like Evenesis, you can make a sustainable impact for your company stakeholders and your event attendees. For any virtual event, you can count on Evenesis as your most feasible, usable, and advantageous virtual event solution.