Virtual Events: Where To Start?

December 15, 2020

George Meek

George Meek is CEO of InPlayer, a leading monetization and subscriber management platform with over 700 customers worldwide. George has almost two decades of experience selling broadcast technology and almost as long operational experience in scaling high-growth technology companies.

You’ve undoubtedly been hearing a lot lately – and not just in this space – about the COVID-19 pandemic giving rise to something often described as the Zoom Era. Virtual events, you see, have been a necessary function of maintaining public health, social distancing and general decorum. Whether it’s a work meeting, symposium, classroom or concert, we’ve all been dutifully doing our part to suck it up, hunker down and log on. For now.

But there’s an implication weaved into that outlook – an assumption that we’ll soon go back to the way things were. We’re here to tell you: Don’t hold your breath. Although a time will come when many of us will again enter offices, halls, theaters and similar public spaces, virtual events are no fleeting fad. The flexibility, reach and cost-effectiveness they offer have certified their value across industries, markets and time zones – and even revealed new opportunities along the way.

Great. Sold. So what do I do now? It’s a question many are beginning to ask as the popularity and expedience of virtual events transform the uncertain into the inevitable. A willingness to embrace the Zoom Era doesn’t make it intuitive. So with that, here’s a quick primer to get you started hosting a virtual event:

Determine your goal. Promote? Inform? Entertain? Landing on that answer should be simple enough. But what are your long-term priorities? Audience growth or net profits? Will this be a recurring event, part of a series or a one-off? Like any other service or campaign your business commits to, a virtual event requires an action plan that helps deliver an optimal user experience and creates a foundation for future efforts.

Accommodate your host. Streaming a concert? You have travel, venue, gear and a boatload more considerations to parse through. Hosting a seminar? You’ll want to ensure everything from flattering stage lighting to the speaker’s favorite brand of bottled water. Even if it’s a company employee delivering a simple presentation, be sure they have all the tools – a working microphone, clear visuals – they need to put their best foot forward.

Know your audience. An authentic, as-promised experience is crucial for virtual events. As simple as it is to log on and order an event, it’s even easier to close a laptop and walk away when the experience isn’t up to snuff. Do your research: Compare your event to similar ones. Does its length matter? Are you pricing it appropriately? What additional features will your audience be expecting? You may get only one crack at these customers. Make it count.

Consider your platform. They aren’t all created equal. Do you want or need a live chat feature? The ability to elegantly direct viewers to a merchandise page? Crystal-clear audio and visual quality? Some streaming platforms may offer every bell and whistle under the sun, but are you prepared to pay for it? Whatever you choose, be sure to try it by sampling another event first.

Don’t overlook promotion. Some wall-to-wall services offer this as part of their package, but if you handle outreach on your own, be sure to return to a previous tip: know your audience. Niche marketing – from Facebook groups to trade magazines – tends to offer the most value. And websites and social media channels are a must. But depending on the event and audience, you’ll want to employ everything from local television and newspapers to word-of-mouth influencers.

 

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