Switching to a Virtual Event – how to and why you’re already ahead

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Like so many, you probably started planning (or thinking about) your event months ago. You had the venue, the dates, the international speakers and the audience. Now you have no choice but to go ‘virtual’. 

Being thrust into an environment you may have no experience of and little idea where to start can be daunting. Adding the fact, you’re now at home, in a crisis, trying to work (which it should be emphasised, is very different to working from home) creates extra complexity.

What you need to know, is all is not lost. In fact, the only element that’s now missing is the venue. You still have your speakers and you still have your audience; and shifting your offline event to a digital, virtual format is still all about creating content and delivering this to your audience (in a different format)… and you are ahead on both accounts.

Definitions

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It was predicted that in 2020, streaming and video content would account for 82% of all internet traffic*. I think we can all agree that, owing to the current crisis, this will increase exponentially and with social isolation the order of the day, the hard work put into planning an offline event can pay off when going virtual. 

But was does going virtual mean? Well, much like we’ve experienced with working from home, going virtual means delivering the content of your offline event across the internet. At the time of writing, this is typical as a webinar or webcast and it may be some time before hybrid events return as a realistic option.

Both formats are perfect for delivering the content that your speakers will have already prepared in the form of presentations or even panel discussions. There are a number of delivery mechanisms that work well, depending on your preferences; we’re finding a typical solution uses Zoom, Teams or Skype to facilitate a ‘meeting’ between the speaker(s) (who are now e-speakers) and the ‘host’ where we see the e-speaker (via webcam) deliver their presentation slides as a split-screen. The host can then jump in to ask questions or facilitate questions coming in from the audience.

Event content Is either pushed out live or captured for on-demand use. The live option provides the ability to create interactivity – via Q&A, polling or similar – but capturing for on-demand means you have the benefit of time and can implement some post-production and editing to create a better end product.

It’s the interactivity that is really the difference between a webcast (think broadcast… the majority of BBC content is pushing information to us without much two way communication) vs a webinar which is typically designed to be more like a seminar (with many people being able to engage with the session). There are some great third-party apps (for example sli.do or klaxoon.com) for creating simple interactivity with your audience but if you’re streaming through social channels (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), they harvest their own interactivity by definition – it’s just about making sure that you engage with it by taking questions.

Making Decisions

Choosing the right platform is vital to the success of your event and there are several factors that play into this, the most important ones being:

  • Who is your audience and what platforms are they going to engage with most effectively?
  • What are you trying to achieve by having the content online – how are you going to measure the success? Do you want mass usage (if so, social channels are probably the best option)? Do you also want to know who specifically has viewed what and for how long (in which case a dedicated platform like a First Sight Media microsite is perfect).

Although monetising virtual events is something we are often asked about, we rarely recommend putting your content behind a paywall – if your offline event was free to attend, why would you make your virtual paid for? It is often unlikely that the cost of setting up the paywall will be covered by users as most will be put-off – even at low cost.

The Professional Edge

If you’re looking to maintain a professional edge, First Sight Media have set-up a ‘popup virtual event hub’ which can be facilitated and operated by a single technician for safely managing webinars and webcasts from our offices. Meaning neither you or your e-speakers need any specific technical knowledge and we will manage and deliver your content through your chosen platform, should you require professional, branded delivery. This is the solution chosen by many of our customers in the last few weeks.

However, everything mentioned in this article can be done by you – particularly if you are going on-demand as the benefit of time alleviates pressure. If you are tackling it yourself, make sure you have a good broadband connection for both you and your e-speakers and ideally connect with a cable, not over WIFI. Rehearse with your e-speakers and ensure they know what to expect and that you are familiar with all the plates you need to juggle to keep it smooth and engaging.

This is a difficult time for everyone and with the Olympics and now Wimbledon postponed, the events industry is looking for new and exciting ways to engage with audiences and repurposing content that has been prepared and rehearsed, seems like an obvious solution. By producing your event as a virtual solution in the form of a webinar or webcast, there is the added benefit of keeping your event’s brand in the public eye and staying engaged with your audience ready for the next event. Used correctly, going virtual can introduce you to a brand-new audience that may not otherwise have discovered you.

If you do want support, find out more about First Sight Media at firstsight.media or give us a call on 0330 024 1080.

This guest blog is by Rich Belcher, Managing Director of First Sight Media, established video production and streaming specialist, delivering events from intimate webinars to large scale exhibitions and festivals.

With over 15 years of experience, a passion for multimedia and innovation, Rich leads a forward-thinking team with knowledge from the frontline.

Find Rich on LinkedIn @RichBelcher and Twitter @RichoBelcher.

*Source: wyzowl The State of Video Marketing 2020

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