2020. The year we can tour museums online, and even stream club nights from our home. If you’d have told us six months ago virtual events would be the new ‘norm’, we’d have all probably laughed.
The events industry has taken a huge blow because of this pandemic. But thanks to technology, there are innovative ways to hold a virtual version of your event.
So, what’s going down online?
There are two ways brands are holding digital events. The first, by going live. And the second, using pre-recorded content.
Live events take place in real time, which offers so many interactive opportunities. You can engage with your audience, get them involved in activities, and answer any questions or comments coming through.
One downside to live is that there are no changes or edits. What’s done and said is final. The second downside is that not everyone will be able to ‘attend’. With different plans, schedules, and timezones, it’s hard to put on a live event at a date and time that’ll please everyone. Although, there is one easy solution. You could record the event for people to watch back at their own pace. Most video streaming and communications platforms even have their own screen recording feature.
With pre-recorded events, you have time on your side. You can make sure everything is as perfect as you want it to be before you put it out there. People from all over the globe can tune in without timezones getting in the way. The only downside of this is that you don’t get that same level of interaction as you get by going live.
Types of virtual events
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, you’ll have most likely seen individuals & brands promoting all kinds of online events. But if you’re genuinely stuck for ideas, here’s a handful:
- Webinars & masterclasses
- Product demos
- Industry panel talks & Q&As
- Tech events
- School classes & open days
- Music events
- Fitness classes
- Dance shows
The list goes on and on, we’ve even seen zoo tours! With any event you can imagine, someone’s probably come up with a digital version of it, and if they haven’t, you’ve just spotted an opportunity.
And on what platforms?
We might know what kind of virtual events are circulating the web, but what about the tech and the nitty gritty behind the scenes?
Rising to popularity is video communications platform, Zoom. Although most commonly used for team meetings, Zoom has been a popular choice for event organisers. Similar to Skype, it offers group video calls and chat. Hosts can hold an event for free with up to 100 participants (or up to 500 with a paid add-on). To attend Zoom meetings you’ll need a link and sometimes a password, which helps keep the event exclusive to attendees only.
Another popular platform to use is Instagram. Event hosts can either choose to go live or create an IGTV. The flip side is that you can’t make an event exclusive. Great for giving out free content, but if you’re wanting to host a paid event, Instagram isn’t your best platform.
Some tips, please?
Firstly, you want to make sure you’ve developed an event strategy that aligns with your marketing goals. Set out some objectives & targets to achieve. How many people do you want to attend? Are you trying to sell a product? Want to increase your followers or website clicks?
Underrated, but very important — create an event page on socials! Not only can you see the number of people interested, but you can also profile these registrants and use this data for future marketing activities. And whilst you’re at it, why not shout about it? Create an event hashtag and use it consistently across all channels.
So, you’ve thought about your promo and marketing. What next? A plan.
- Start by choosing the best platform and technology suited to your event
- Consider the pros & cons we mentioned earlier on live vs pre-recorded
- Think about whether or not you want your event to be exclusive and ticketed
- Plan out what you want to do or say and have a clear script (if applicable)
- Have a running order – this is key to your event playing out as smoothly as possible
Finally, make sure your video is high-quality and your internet is up to speed so people aren’t tempted to turn off. Think about background, lighting, camera and sound quality. Make recorded content available after the event if possible, so people can recap valuable info.
Get people talking about your event. Consider writing a press pitch with your event’s details. Three key questions to keep in mind when writing one are: what value does this info hold to the person you’re contacting?; why would their audience be interested in your event?; how does this event fit with the theme of their publication? You could even invite press to attend your event for free, in return for writing a review on their website or blog.