Virtual events’ lasting effects
While in-person events will surely return, there are still values in the technologies used in the pandemic
In this era of social distancing and lingering concerns about in-person gatherings, many businesses have moved their sales meetings, fundraisers and award ceremonies online to a virtual format.
Going virtual has proved to be an effective way to communicate during these challenging times, and in the months ahead when life begins to move toward normalcy, it may be wise to incorporate many of today’s learnings into your future communications planning.
Success in this environment involves the use of technologies that may be unfamiliar, and the dilemma here is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, when transitioning your in-person events to virtual. Deciding how best to reach your audience can be a challenge as you explore the many possible format choices.
But don’t worry: The range of options open to you can prove to be a benefit, allowing you to reinvent your event to perform in unique ways that you may have never imagined.
Here are a few questions to consider when thinking of how best to structure your event:
- Will it be live or pre-recorded? In studio or on location?
- Do you want to host it on your company’s web platform?
- Should your content be presented in an interactive format, or in a strictly presentational style?
- Do you want to bring in guest presenters or co-hosts from other locations?
- Will your event benefit from live audience interaction, or is it best to handle questions “offline”?
- Is it important to present your event “truly” live, or is it more important to create the feeling of a live event while having the comfort that comes from presenting a pre-taped event?
For an awards presentation, you may want to consider a live interactive format. In this type of event, there is great value in providing an opportunity for honored guests to speak live, to give thanks and to further inspire other event participants.
If you are holding a fundraiser and you have relied on in-person events in the past, you have a unique challenge as you try to replicate the excitement and the successes of past events. You may want to offer incentives and giveaways to high bidders that only a live event can offer. Consider how to best recreate elements like live auctions and prize giveaways in a virtual live format.
Many organizations are opting for pre-taped presentations, which have the benefit of providing the lowest stress to event organizers and offer the most control over content and messaging. An on-camera host is recorded performing the role of emcee, introducing previously recorded presentations and remarks from members of your organization. If you want to bring selected guests in for a socially distant pre-taped session, then it is quite easy to replicate the feel of a live event.
Keep in mind that there are infinite variations within these approaches. A hybrid event can consist of elements of your own choosing that incorporate many of the ideas discussed here.
Like many emerging patterns in the pandemic, there are opportunities to be found in every situation. Reimagining your events may be a necessity now, but the strategies you employ may provide benefits for the future.
Imagine how you might reassign money that was previously spent on accommodations, facility rentals and catering. It can be re-directed and utilized differently and be utilized to meet other challenges.
Perhaps it is more important to reach a wider audience than was previously practical, or maybe it makes more sense to produce a video to better explain a particularly difficult concept. You also might consider hiring a motivational speaker or professional host to transform your event into something different than you may have previously considered.
Traditional in-person events will surely return, and that will be a welcome sight, especially for the event and hospitality industries, but businesses should still consider the value that virtual and remote technologies bring to their events. They provide an opportunity to utilize the best attributes of in-person meetings with remote technologies to offer better, more efficient and more diverse meetings and corporate events.
Eric Frank is an owner of Nashua-based Edify Multimedia Group, a webcasting and video production company that specializes in corporate communications, live event production and webcasting, and is an event partner of NH Business Review. He can be reached through edifymultimedia.com or at 603-943-5308.