Is your annual event in danger of being canceled due to COVID-19 precautions? Let Meet Me In The Cloud Help you move your large event online.
Why Move Your Large Event Online?
Virtual events, webinars, online classes, or presentations – they have been around for years. But the emergence of the COVID-19 virus has created a tidal wave of movement toward digital and socially distant solutions.
But why should you move your large event online?
You could try and wait it out by postponing or canceling this year’s conference or gathering. That may feel like the safest option, but it does nothing for your event, your brand, or your bottom line this year.
There are dozens of online hosting platforms and other tools that could give life to your conference in new ways. Many people look forward to attending your event, and you don’t want to disappoint them. Let’s walk through some things to keep in mind as you move your large event online.
Choose and Set Up Virtual Hosting Platform
Virtual Hosting Platforms are online tools that carry your event load – think of it as your venue, agenda, lobby, and trade show all wrapped into one.
But how do you choose the right platform for your event? Do you just choose a platform at random from the first Top 7 Virtual Conference Platforms list you can find?
You should start by making a list of the top features you will need for your event. According to the article we mentioned above, there are more than 20 important features you may need, including but not limited to file-sharing capabilities, breakout rooms, in-app registration, and active speaker view.
Figure out what your must-haves are, and then start looking for platforms that can accommodate.
Rework Your Sessions
Your session topics and speakers may not have changed much in the move to virtual event hosting, but the way they’re presented has.
In-class handouts and other materials will have to be recreated and stored in your virtual platform or sent out ahead of time in an email or app file.
When reworking your sessions, think about the type of sessions and what the best way to present them would be as well. You can live stream, pre-record, or do both.
For example, a keynote address can very easily be pre-recorded, with the speaker available at the end of the video to answer questions. But a panel discussion, with audience participation or Q&A opportunities throughout, may do better as a live stream session, to foster participation from your attendees.
Take a long look at your agenda and work through each session individually, so you can provide the best content and opportunities for engagement among your attendees and expert speakers and presenters.
Think Through Vendor Logistics
If your large event has a trade show or vendor area, don’t worry! Much of this experience can be replicated in an online event hosting platform.
Each vendor can still have their own “space” on a virtual trade show floor. As the event organizer, it’s your job to talk to your vendors and see what options they may prefer, but it is ultimately your decision.
Vendors can decorate their virtual space with logos and brand messages, or even create welcome videos or chat messages to entice attendees to stay and talk.
The vendor area experience can be modified to be more interactive in some aspects, or it can be straightforward so those who wish to collaborate or interact on a later date can just exchange contact information. If the vendor area is more about networking and touching base with other industry pros, then text and video chat options are a must. But if you are hosting a virtual dance event, you may need to add more visual and demonstration components to your vendor areas.
Think Through Attendee Logistics
Attendee experience should be your top priority as you move your large event online. The energy and excitement created in a physical gathering is difficult to recreate in an online setting.
The nice thing about hosting a virtual event is that each attendee will have all session materials and information right at their fingertips. There’s no need for a site map and no chance that an instructor or speaker will run out of class materials if the turnout for a session is higher than expected. But your online event can be so much more than a string of insightful webinars.
Don’t forget about building those networking events into your virtual setting. If a speaker has an active group on Facebook, be sure to add that as an option in the class materials. You can host virtual meet and greets, breaking down your large event into smaller, niche topic rooms.
For example, are you hosting an affordable housing event with government employees, lawyers, bankers, and other vastly different professionals in attendance? You can create rooms with topics like “Asset Development”, “Maintenance”, “Property Management” and “Compliance” to offer attendees a place to find specific topics and professionals.
Communicate – Early and Often
As you make changes, be sure your whole audience – speakers, vendors, attendees, staff – is aware of the changes and opportunities available.
Before your event, communicate with each of your audiences listed above to ensure everyone knows what to expect when they log in. Is the event open to everyone? Do they need to register online to gain access to the event? Or is the event exclusive and invitation-only? This is the first distinction you’ll need to make for your audience.
You can film welcome and quick tip videos to help orient attendees and vendors as they start using your platform. Use it to send updates about changes and other online features and tasks that need to be completed before, during, or after the sessions.
But don’t stop there: this communication should continue throughout the event. Create places for attendee questions or concerns, set up polls to see how specific sessions performed. The marketing and informational communication help get everyone in the virtual door, but to keep them here, you’ll need to build ways to “check the temperature” of the event as it moves along.
Meet Me In The Cloud
Moving your large event to a virtual platform may not be easy, but in this new, socially distant world, the options are limited but the tools and expertise are rapidly increasing.
Need help moving your large event online? Meet Me In The Cloud has Webex event assist services that can help you transition smoothly. MMITC supports our customers with Pre-Session Planning, In-Session Support, and Post-Session Wrap-Up.