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Taking an Offline Event Online for Virtual Success

Last updated June 28th, 2021

The events industry has been both unfortunate and fortunate during the past few months. As an industry that largely depended on people being in close proximity with each other, we were one of the hardest hit by lockdown. We were also pioneering virtual events already so we were also in a good position to adapt quickly to changes.

The events industry has always moved quickly. We have always adapted, accepted new ideas and new ways of working. It’s in the DNA of event management. So while we have come up against significant challenges, we have also had some enviable opportunities.

One such opportunity is switching offline events virtual by taking them online.

This page is going to walk you through some of the decisions you’re going to need to make when taking an offline event online for the first time.

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Virtual events

Most offline events can successfully be taken online. They will need a lot of extra planning and thought but all the same skills, features and technologies you would use to deliver an amazing event can be used virtually too.

Here are some of the considerations to bear in mind when taking an offline event virtual.

Go live or pre-record?

You may not have the choice in this but if you do, consider the strengths and weaknesses of each. Live is the closest to the real thing that you can get. Whether it’s a virtual wedding, conference or performance, there is a specific flavour that live gives that you just don’t get with pre-recorded.c

Pre-recorded gives you time and the opportunity to schedule well in advance. Talent can record on a suitable schedule and you can plan a lot of the event ahead of time. It doesn’t have the same flavour as live but in some circumstances where audience participation isn’t an issue, going in this direction can help a lot.

We would suggest a mixture of both live and pre-recorded. Have the main speakers or shows as live but pre-record interviews and vignettes to play during switchover or on supporting channels to add layers to the event.

This way also provides a little insurance in case technology lets you down!

Asking more of talent

At a live event, the speaker or performer will come on stage, do their thing and then leave. Some may offer Q&A sessions or make themselves available to network but that’s about it.

In a virtual event, you’re going to want more from them. They get an easy gig by being able to perform from home or their studio but need to earn their fee in other ways.

For example, ask your talent to join the event chat channel or engage with the audience during the event. Hold a virtual Q&A, answer audience questions, interact with participants or offer advice or opinion during the show. This all adds to audience engagement and helps participants feel more involved in the show.

This is an essential element of hosting virtual events and something you’re going to want your talent to provide as part of the agreement.

Increasing engagement

We touched upon this above but engagement is so important, it’s worth giving it more time.

Audience engagement is probably the biggest challenge of any virtual event. If the event was originally in-person but had to switch to digital, that’s even more of a challenge as you have expectations to overcome.

Depending on the event in question, you do have options.

Go social

Use dedicated social media channels for the event. Include the talent, include guest speakers, include other industry notables and even include your own team. Get people chatting, ask questions, answer questions, offer insight and generally get people interacting as much as possible.

Breakout

Consider virtual breakout sessions. Set up virtual rooms with guest speakers or performers that participants can choose to join. While still virtual, it has an intimate feel that offers the feeling of exclusivity and almost being there.

Free food

Offer free food and drink. Depending on the event, you could load up a food delivery service with funds and offer participants a food delivery of their choice up to a cash limit. Allow participants to add their own funds if they want to spend more. Then add a channel or Q&A sessions to social to discuss who bought what and from where.

Managing tickets for virtual events

If you already sold tickets for an in-person event and are switching to virtual, you have some thinking to do. Someone who paid a lot of money to attend but is instead going to be at home looking at a screen is not going to be happy. Refunding the price may be the best option here.

You can charge for attendance to virtual events in the usual way, with a standard entry fee or you could offer tiers.

You could offer free entry but require payment to access guest speakers, Q&As, networking or other event elements. You could offer time with the talent or performer for a fee or a donation to a charity. It is entirely up to you.

There are lots of platforms out there that can handle virtual ticketing. Just because you had to switch to an online event, doesn’t mean you cannot still make a profit. You’ll just have to work a lot harder to get it!

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