If we’ve learnt anything in the last two years as event planners, it’s the importance of contingency planning to manage risk, while being able to quickly pivot our events. Last minute changes in the current environment (or to call a spade a spade – new Covid variants and increased restrictions) means disruption for live events.
We rely on the latest guidance, industry insight and risk management protocols to evaluate whether we can go ahead with in-person events.
The pressure is on for event managers. Partners, stakeholders, sponsors and attendees rely on your informed, decisive action as they look for certainty on what’s next. Right now, many of our clients are asking the same question – “how easy is it to switch to virtual?”
With the right AV and technology partners? Easy. There are a few things to think about, so let’s dive in.
Do you have a platform?
This is the best starting point. If you already have a hybrid element to your event, you’ll likely have a platform in place. This is going to make the pivot to fully virtual a lot easier. You will be skipping ahead in the planning process – you’ve done the work in choosing the best platform for your event needs, you’ve already started building it out and your stakeholders are on-board.
From here, it’s about transitioning your live event elements to virtual. Your next steps are:
- Get buy-in from your stakeholders.
- Decide which live event elements you can deliver online.
- Prepare your speakers (and exhibitors/sponsors).
- Communicate your new format with your attendees.
More on these later.
If you don’t have a platform already in place – speak to the Sprintr. They will sit down with you to understand your event needs, recommend the best solution to meet your requirements and work with you to manage and implement it. They work with the best of the best, including EventsAir and Expoplatform.
What’s the scale of your event?
And where are you in the planning process?
Transitioning an afternoon Town Hall to virtual vs pivoting a 3-day, 500 pax conference with multiple breakouts, networking and entertainment are two very different things. Both are entirely possible with the right team *ahem*.
Take for example the 17th Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Asia Pacific Forum 2021, a fully virtual event and exhibition for 900 online attendees and 48 exhibitors from 22 countries, which we worked with Sprintr to flip to virtual in a matter of weeks. We’ve seen smaller events convert from live to virtual at less than a week’s notice. You can easily activate a professional virtual event from your office space with a pop-up studio in a 6 x 4m space and a reliable internet connection.
There are a lot of dependencies here outside of the tech:
- Time until live: how long do you have to turn this around?
- Criticality: How essential is it for your event to take place? Are you relying on the engagement and the communication channel for your message?
- Venue: do you have a venue contract signed and deposit in place? If so, consider meeting your venue in the middle by building a virtual studio and negotiating your catering minimum.
- Travel plans: have you or your attendees already booked travel and accommodation? What’s covered by insurance?
Transporting live to virtual
Bringing the event experience online requires some creativity to create great engagement.
Virtual event schedules need not replicate live events. Remember that your attendees are attending your event from behind a screen, and fatigue is real. Space your sessions out with generous breaks while building in a program of networking, team-building and entertainment activities. Here are a few things we’ve seen done well.
At AV1’s Strategic Planning Forum this year, Darren Isenberg’s Show and Televise was a real hit.
Everybody has achievements that they are proud of in their lives, but these are rarely shared with our work colleagues. This means often the most important stories about ourselves, that reveal what really matters to us, are kept secret from our colleagues.
Show & Televise is a chance for your team members to share these stories in a safe and structured way. Participants bring to the Virtual Happy Hour an object that represents their personal pride story. It could be a family heirloom. It could be an item of clothing or a souvenir from a trip. Or, perhaps, a photo of someone. Everyone then gets to share their pride stories in safe, intimate groups.
It can be challenging during a virtual event. How do you encourage attendees sitting behind a screen to jump in and network without the social impetus of a live event? Wonder has done a great job of creating an environment that adapts to the virtual world.
Having seen Wonder in action at an event recently, one of our production managers was impressed; Wonder allows organisers to set up rooms and assign a topic to each room. Topics can be formal, informal or casual, so attendees can choose whether they want to talk business or have a casual chat. Wonder also allows its users to see the participants in each room before jumping in; useful information if you’re looking to connect or reconnect with a specific contact.
Interactivity, interactivity, interactivity! Whatever entertainment option you go for, make sure it’s something your attendees can immerse themselves in. Wine and cheese tastings go down a treat, though some coordination is required. Attendees are posted out a tasting pack to unbox during their entertainment session. Needless to say; a drink and some nibbles are an effortless crowd pleaser.
Live events and virtual events are different; and it will be easier to convince some stakeholders to make the switch than others.
If you need talk some of your stakeholders around, there are a whole host of reasons to switch over to virtual, here are just a few:
- Budget: You can save on a whole range of costs by going virtual. Travel, accommodation, venue fees and catering costs to name a few. Make sure to consider how you reallocate these into the virtual experience.
- Risk mitigation: If your organisation’s aversion to risk is high, the virtual event option is your way forward.
- International presenters and attendees: It’s going to be a lot easier to engage international attendees who are unable to travel, or book a coveted international speaker that you may not have been able to afford previously.
- Marketing: you can record your digital event and use the footage to create a highlights video or a promo video for your next event.
- Post-event experience: make recordings of the sessions available for those who could not attend, or for attendees to recap on their favourite sessions.
- Data: Gather real-time data on popular topics, enable quick polling and get insights into range of key metrics to inform your marketing and ROI.
Going virtual can seem daunting, especially if it’s your first time. Use these tips to evaluate the standing of your events to make the right call for you.