The Countdown is On. 12 Weeks to Your Virtual Event. Can it be done?
It can. And here are some critical items to set in place to get you started.
Create your dream team. Can you become a virtual meeting expert overnight? Probably not. Yes, you know in person events, your content goals, your audience and have become a “Zoominator” during these past 8 months. But your role now is to drive the internal and external team to meet these same goals in a virtual world. Your instincts may be to find the platform first, just like you found the hotel first for your in-person meeting. But in a virtual world, all that has changed. You need service, and you need it fast. Some platforms decline business when busy due to their inability to provide adequate CS for the event. Other platforms only offer self-serve and with a short runway, learning the setup and implementation becomes trial by fire which is never fun. And doing this all the while juggling the other details necessary for your event success. Yikes. What to do? Hire a partner in the process who will keep all your vendors and players moving forward in lockstep. This is the best first step to keep you on the path to success in just a mere 12 weeks.
Platform Second, Agenda First. If comparing the process for in person events to virtual, many would think booking your platform is the top priority. But in reality, goal one is about building your agenda then pairing your platform(s) to your program vision.
Platforms do book up, as mentioned before, and that can be a concern and create an undue sense of urgency. But before you commit and decide to go steady, understand what services you already have internally, what security is needed, what your attendees are most comfortable using and what their adoption and frustration/enjoyment level is when trying something new on the technology front.
One Stop Shop. Housing your content in one virtual lobby is visually impactful, easy to navigate and wonderful for expos, networking, keynotes, sponsors and all sorts of engagements. If your budget is tight or your attendee count is low, perhaps the virtual lobby is fiscally hard to justify. But even small digital gatherings can’t be another zoom meeting. Avoid the “been there, done that” response from your attendees. To create an engaging, easy to navigate digital package, smaller budgets may be able to support some aspects of a virtual environment and that can be paired with existing services.
Money Talks. Invest in speaker coaching, hire expert speakers who drive change or motivate and consider topical keynotes and headliners to create FOMO. Every moment counts when you are hosting a virtual event. You will lose your audience’s attention almost immediately with drawn out speakers, lackluster content and fumbling with illegible pitches. Your chance to captivate them is gone and it will be hard to get them refocused.
Eat with Your Eyes. Remember that cooking term? Even before you smell the aroma or take your first bite, visually the plate must be well composed and creative in presentation. The same holds true for virtual meetings. From the front facing website to the landing page of the virtual lobby to the broadcast studio and commercial breaks, put forth a concerted and cohesive visual design. Outside of your skillset? Bring in experts. If you have a fabulous internal graphics team, use them. But push them to see the untapped opportunity of virtual. This is not a time for graphic re-can of your in-person meetings of the past. Investing in a new logo, power point templates and a few animated slides is not enough. Bring some reality and motion to your graphics too! Consider hiring a video team to capture employee or customer testimonials. This will bring authenticity and vigor to bumper segments in the agenda. Picture yourself sitting at another zoom meeting, what would wake you up? Music? Impactful and interesting visuals? Narrated content breaking up talking heads. Consider all your options.
I’ve got this…right? It's simple right? You just have live broadcasting, countless pitches, some prerecorded, some round tables, some Q&A, some polling, attendees with log in issues, networking and oh, breakout. I can do this on my own, right? Remember at a hotel you have the catering team, the AV production team, the inhouse staff from front desk to housekeeping and of course, your teammates. But now you're at your home running this remotely. Alone. Talk about pressure. You need broadcast executive producers to run this WITH you. From rehearsals, tech checks, show day execution, polling, moderated Q&A, contingency plans, communication plans, gamification and dealing with technical issues, you need to have a team of virtual experts aligned to support you for the full virtual event lifecycle.