It’s not just meetings that have moved online over the last year and a half. According to Metrigy
research conducted earlier this year, more than 90% of companies now conduct some form of virtual event, whether that be a one-hour webinar or a multisession, multiday conference. The number of virtual events will likely remain steady, or even slightly grow as we head into the end of 2021 and into 2022.
Virtual events allow organizations to engage with employees, customers, and prospects, regardless of location, to foster engagement, convey information, establish communities, and drive sales. Examples range from executive briefings to customer meetings, customer and employee training, and product demos.
In the last six months or so, the vendor community has responded to growing interest in virtual events by rapidly expanding capabilities
of webinar platforms either natively or via acquisition. Examples include:
- Immersive presentations that allow speakers to put themselves into their content
- Enhanced audience interaction, enabling participants to meet one another and with speakers, event hosts, and sponsors virtually
- Polling, Q&A, and gamification to increase engagement between speakers and attendees
- Analytics to measure event success
- Sales and marketing integrations to enable leveraging of events to drive pipelines
- The ability to stream events out to consumer social channels such as Facebook and YouTube
- Closed captioning, transcription, and translation to increase accessibility
- Breakout rooms to enable support for smaller sessions within the context of a larger event
A key challenge for organizations looking to up their virtual event game is determining a company-wide strategy for obtaining and utilizing event platforms. To achieve success, here are five approaches that organizations should adopt:
- Build an event management capability – typically part of IT, this group should determine supported event platforms (or platform), set policies to ensure security and compliance, manage vendor relationships, and manage overall event operations to ensure quality and performance. Event teams should work hand-in-hand with event organizers such as sales and marketing, HR, corporate communications, etc. to make sure that event platforms are meeting demonstrated needs. The event team should also stay abreast of rapid developments in the event space to ensure that those responsible for events are taking advantage of the newest features to improve attendee engagement.
- Develop an event training center of excellence – The goal of this function is to enable groups that hold events to share information with each other. Examples include best practices for event structure and marketing, audience engagement, post-event follow-up, and event content management. Enterprise social and/or team apps provide a means for different event organizers to engage with one another, outside of their specific line of business or role.
- Develop necessary integrations – to include marketing automation support for lead capture and sales follow-up, integration with learning management systems and/or HR platforms for internal training, and the use of team collaboration applications for pre/during/post event management.
- Ensure high-quality presentations – by leveraging either existing video conferencing endpoints or newer, high-quality, personal video and audio devices to compensate for lighting, block out unwanted noise, and improve audio fidelity.
- Consider the right mix of events – both in-person and virtual, as well as hybrid events that allow attendees to participate either in-person or remotely, and ensure that the plan you develop is flexible as pandemic conditions change.
Successfully delivering virtual events requires close coordination between groups responsible for holding events, and IT groups responsible for supporting them. A proactive approach that conducts necessary tasks up-front is critical for ensuring that your organization is able to meet its event goals.