People are, for the most part, pretty understanding when you’re just starting out. Everyone knows that there are growing pains, and a few hiccups are to be expected at the beginning of anything. But as time passes, that understanding starts to wane. For example, if you’re putting on an event every month or two, after a while your audience is going to expect you to get pretty good at it.
As we’ve had to retreat into isolation over the first half of 2020, this has come starkly into play for marketers who are trying to run events. As we moved from the normal “go to a convention center and sit in a ballroom for six hours” event to virtual events, we were all venturing into somewhat uncharted territory. Sure, we’ve all attended a webinar, but more and more types of events had to go online and a lot of people who’d never run such an event before were thrust into the fray. In March and April, a few glitches here and there could easily be defused—after all, we aren’t even supposed to be here. But as we move into summer and fall, “learning curve” time is over. Audiences are starting to expect a little more, and it’s up to event providers to answer the call.
The standards have been raised. Here’s how to meet them.
Be a good steward of technology
As we first dove into the wonderful world of virtual events, many of us made do with what we had. In that first month or so, we were reacting quickly to changing circumstances. There wasn’t time to thoroughly vet and implement new technology—so if you added anything you might not have as much faith in it as you’d like, and if you’re really unlucky you might have gotten boxed into having to just running your event through Zoom or something similar. Remote meeting software is great for remote meetings...but for an event with hundreds of potential participants, it’s not ideal.
And so, moving forward, it’s time to make some tech upgrades to your virtual event setup. Dig in deep and get your hands dirty to figure out which option best fits your needs. And there might be more than one answer—especially if your event is particularly ambitious or audacious, you might need a stack that works together well to get the job done.
We’ve found a couple of options that work well for us. The centerpiece of our own virtual event setup here at Element Three is Livestorm. For the events we do ourselves, like our Scared Confident webinars, we run things through Livestorm. One of the great things about it is its interactivity—in fact, as a content marketer, I love that I can go back later and not only rewatch our content, but I can also see things that attendees asked during the event...which means I can answer their questions in depth later on our blog.
We’ve also used Brandlive with client events. It’s a really great platform—and though it is a bit more costly than some other options, it’s worth it. It provides a sleek and comfortable experience for attendee and presenter alike, and it allows for high levels of interaction between all involved.
Is Livestorm or Brandlive the right option for you? Maybe, maybe not. Your event might have different goals than ours, you might have a different setup, you might have a different budget. Every virtual event is different, and you’ll want to choose the tech that suits your needs.
Especially if you’ve run a few events since the start of social distancing, you might have found something of a groove. You’ve figured out some things that work and you’re sticking with them. You’ve figured out what doesn’t and cut it from the program. That’s all basically natural, these are things we do when we’ve done any task multiple times.
The obvious benefit is improvement over time, but after a while it starts to plateau. If you’re just doing the exact same thing over and over again, at a certain point you run out of things to optimize. And it gets stale. Your regular attendees start to dwindle away. People lose interest. It’s time to change things up.
Don’t be afraid to innovate before things get stagnant. Sure, you might return to some of the growing pains you experienced when you were first starting out in the virtual event space, but all that you’ve learned so far will help mitigate the issues you encounter. And keeping your event slate dynamic and vital will pay dividends that far outweigh any concerns you might have about a slow start.
Don’t wait until people start getting bored with what you’re doing to change it up. Beat them to the punch, and give them something they aren’t expecting. It’ll keep them coming back for more.
Nail the details
This is probably the most important part, and honestly the hardest one to get right. Nothing’s ever really going to be perfect. Even the most seasoned event professionals get things wrong sometimes, and even with the biggest budgets sometimes things get missed. Remember a few years back when the power went out at the Super Bowl? It literally doesn’t get any bigger than that.
That said, there’s no excuse for simply ignoring important details. And with a few virtual events under our belt—whether you’ve run them yourself or you have sought out advice and lessons learned from those who have—the excuse “I didn’t think of it” holds a lot less water than it might have in April. There is plenty of knowledge out there and in your own head to help you get the job done.
It’s no longer March or April, when events that were about to happen had to be quickly converted from in-person to virtual. Take the time to go through every part of your event with a fine-toothed comb. You don’t need to rush it out—since you have a lot more freedom without having to reserve an event space or get your speakers on-site, you can hold your event pretty much whenever you want. Give yourself the time to make it awesome.
Give your attendees the best possible experience
In reality, that’s what it all comes down to. Fancy strategies and cool tech are great—and if implemented correctly, they’ll work. But they aren’t magic. If they don’t serve a real and critical importance, they won’t really make your event stand out—they’ll just be window dressing on a subpar presentation.
Every decision you make should be based around building the best possible experience for your attendees. Not making things easy on yourself, not repeating what works ad nauseum, not getting it done quickly, and not making do with the resources you have. It’s time to take virtual events up a notch.
Thomas fills a few roles at E3—writer, editor, and resident European soccer expert—but his chief responsibility is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content for the Element Three blog, he's captaining our kickball team, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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