If you are event planner, organizer or a company wondering how to execute your events today, I do know the big question you have is; are virtual summits or events going to work for me? I recently hosted a virtual summit for the oil and gas industry, and would be glad to share with you my experience.
Are Virtual Summits Going to Work for Me?
Yes, virtual summits or events are going to work for you. However, you will need to think through the idea and plan how everything will run. This includes the format of the event, technology, the platform and the online tools you will need to execute the event. A virtual summit can work for you and your brand, even better than a physical event.
I am no stranger to oil and gas events. I have managed a range of event formats including conferences, summits, trade shows, field events and more. But this time around, approaching the planning and preparation process for this new virtual norm was very foreign to me. For so long in-person events were my speciality and I needed to personally pivot to the new normal fast.
Have a Clear Virtual Event Agenda
Similar to an in-person event, I began the process of pivoting to a virtual event by designing a clear event agenda and programming. I knew keeping the sessions and speakers as relevant as possible was a must to provide thoughtful content to our audience. To do this, I worked with our team to carve out an agenda that reflected the most pressing topics that event organizers have top-of-mind.
The next challenge was around timing. I had to take into account the time of the virtual event and when live sessions could occur with the highest number of attendees. After evaluating where across the globe our attendees were coming from and the availability of speakers, we decided a 1pm ET start time with half a day of content would be best.
When it came to recruiting speakers, I wanted to give them the best experience possible. We took a very intentional approach to delivering an exceptional speaker experience. In our outreach, we recommended specific sessions that prospective speakers would be a great fit for based on their interests, expertise, and feedback.
Are Virtual Events Going to Work for Me?
The event industry has witnessed a great and major strategic shift, only seen following the days of 9/11 in the United States of America.
Back then, you could not have handled the kind of pivot that is taking place today. There is a shift from live events to virtual event. The underlying technology and infrastructure could not cope back in the day, the advanced and increased capacity today is making things a bit easier.
Many say we are facing challenging times. We are, but isn’t that view a bit glass-half-empty? It would be better if you were to see this as one of the biggest growth opportunities of your business or industry.
While the industry is seeing a notable shift in pushing new meetings to 2021 and later, a Northstar Meetings Group survey showed that event planners are seeing increasing demand for all things virtual for the next 12-18 months.
Even after live events and conferences make their way back into marketing strategies and budgets, virtual events will continue to be a part of the event industry.
3 Reasons Why Virtual Events Are Going to Work for You
They may not exclusively dominate the event space as they are today, but I believe there are three big reasons virtual events are going to work for you.
Virtual Events Budget-Friendly.
If you have tried to host an in-person or physical event, then you know how expenses can run high. However, the good news is that hosting a virtual event is budget-friendly.
You can host a virtual event from your home or check out alternative venues available for every budget.
Not only are virtual events less expensive to produce, but virtual event speakers typically offer virtual speaking fees at discounted rates to offset the lack of travel needed.
This can often work to your advantage as the organizer when a well-known celebrity or speaker is willing to speak for an hour when they would otherwise be completely unavailable or out of budget.
- Technology for Virtual Event is Improving.
The event industry has included virtual events for the better part of the past decade. But, the rise of virtual reality, social media live-streaming and simulated conference applications have already been transforming the event industry outside of the convention centre.
For example, the oil and gas virtual summit that we hosted featured not only multiple session rooms to visit, but also a virtual lounge for networking and virtual exhibition.
Today’s virtual event technology is making the event experience a lot more like attending a live event, without the added expense of travelling or accommodation.
User or Delegates Experience is Better.
While attendee experience has always played a role in the decisions made surrounding live events, the rise of virtual events is shifting the focus, and rightly so, to the attendee experience.
With virtual events, the participants are going to be attending the event in the most comfortable way they can. This could be from their homes or any other place where they are okay.
Technology and ease of mobile telephone or tablets has made it very easy for someone to access your virtual event from anywhere in the world. All that is needed is internet connectivity.
By shifting to virtual events, planners are opening up their events to new attendees who, for one reason or another, have not been able to attend. This will open up your business to new customers and audience. It is an exposure you would not have gotten without virtual event platforms.
It is very likely that if you shift your event to virtual format, you will see an increased attendee numbers.
As we move ahead, I would propose that you consider always having virtual sessions to your in-person events. This would allow brands to continue engaging and connecting with a bigger audience.
With such an approach, you will have new ways to monetize your event with sponsorships and provide your audience with an opportunity to consume your content in the way they enjoy the most.
As we conclude this, it is worth noting that virtual events will work for you and your business. Virtual events are going to be part of our lives and will continue to play a big role in event strategies going forward.
Virtual events are not going anywhere, they are here to stay. You will have a great opportunity which include increased sponsorships and increased brand awareness.
If you add virtual events into your strategic plan, you will reap great benefits and a positive return on investment.
Are virtual summits going to work for me? I hope that by now you have been able to figure out if virtual events will work for you or your business.
Frequently Asked Question
How do you run a virtual event?
Experts Tips on How to host a virtual event
- Make it relevant.
- Get the timing right.
- Differentiate your event.
- Brief your speakers carefully.
- Choose your platform wisely.
- Consider specialist services.
- Make attendees feel involved.
- Remind people it is happening.
How long should a virtual event be?
We’re not suggesting that every session in your virtual event be just nine minutes long, but do consider shortening the time slots you would use for a physical event by 15 or 30 minutes. For example, a 60-minute breakout face-to-face should be 45 or 30 minutes when delivered online.
How do you run a successful virtual conference?
Success Tips on How to Host a Virtual Conference
- Add strong context to your content.
- Make it easy for others to market.
- Mix in meaningful social.
- Use at least some live video.
- Plan for strong customer support.
- Prime your presenters for success.
- Treat attendees as collaborators.
- Leverage sponsors as partners.