Virtual meetings are here to stay — start planning now!
By now, we all know why virtual events are the future. It’s not the pandemic. It’s convenient, and let’s face it, way cheaper. But planning virtual events can be a nightmare.
Too many people from varied locations on separate bandwidths log on to at least 5 platforms. You need to take notes, there’s the video with a talking head and your head in the corner, IM chat with other participants, a feedback app and finally an analytics app. We just listed 5 log-ins. For global virtual events, the list of smart apps gets longer. At the end of an exhausting session of blinking and clicking around, most participants miss that room full of people drinking coffee.
The problem is, no matter how clumsy they may be now, virtual events are here to stay well beyond winter 2020–21. This post is squarely aimed at event planners. No second hand data, no stale statistics you can Google anyway. You want your meeting to be great and enjoy the process. We think we have a neat solution. Everyone loves lists and sub headers, so here goes.
Beat your drum
Contacting star / legacy speakers is not enough. Planning a successful virtual event begins with community building from day one. Let the world know about the event and speakers through social media, blogs and virtual forums. We still tend to give importance to hard copies. An email is a notification beep on a mobile, not the solemn envelope from the courier. Try to get your event planning app partner to help you further with managing responses and alerts at the pre-conference stage. Participants look forward to their own choice of sessions, and ideally your app should help them in bookmarking sessions in advance.
Love your partners
They are giving you the moolah and branding, they are the kings. Push in snippets about each partner along with their logo at the bottom of the epage or tab in your meeting microsite. Why? Most participants don’t want to waste time clicking hyperlinks to walk out of your site to visit the partners. Worse still, they may not walk back to you! If you want a show-and-tell, we have a ready example of partner profiling in a virtual meeting planning app.
Nothing beats the face to face meetings. After all, people are here to talk business. Your virtual meeting platform should allow participants to book virtual ‘tables’ and talk to each other over matters of mutual interest. This is key to successful virtual conferences. Planning a successful virtual event needs the kind of thinking you put in earlier in choosing a venue. Are you giving participants a chance to actually network, one-on-one? That’s what will make your event tick and help turn conversion to retention.
Tech troubleshooting team
Have a small but dedicated team ready for technical troubleshooting. They should use social media, IM, mobile and the virtual event platform to track session progress, making sure everything is running smoothly. Nothing like it if your virtual meeting platform provides you with that support.
One stop shop
How much can you cover with a single log-in? That is the best way to judge a virtual meeting app. A free app is severely limited. On the other hand, budget is a major factor. A good app provides virtual event planners with end-to-end solutions, from pre-ticket networking to post-event follow up. We think we are particularly good at this, no bones about it. Here’s our brag sheet, with real examples from real events. We are a small company with a lightweight, reasonably priced, comprehensive app. Each of us have worked on virtual events as marketer, techie or designer. We know the pain points and have tried to address all of them as a one stop shop virtual event planner.
Quick microsite with customisation
Can you build your meeting site in minutes? Yes, if you have a good app and very good homework done. A virtual meeting site needs to be easy to navigate, engaging and worth remembering. Our customisation policy is simple: we cut the coat according to the cloth. We can personalise each element, or you can choose from our templates. Just like hybrid events combine a bit of both worlds, you take the call on the extent of customisation you need. The speed will surprise you though. No matter which virtual meeting you choose, building a comprehensive site easily will automatically speed up your productivity.
Content management in the virtual world
No one sits glued to their computer from 9 am to 6 pm, listening to other people talk. Not when they are at home or even at work. The conference hall ensured a captive audience, quite literally. But the hall is gone, along with its massive overhead cost. Any successful virtual event includes content managed in a way to maximize participation. Instead of two days with 8 hours of meeting, you may want to divide the content in 2 hour chunks, four days a week, for two weeks. Cumbersome? Scheduling parallel tracks and simply changing room settings might help in breaking the boredom. And of course, there’s gamification.
Virtual goody bags
Even seasoned meeting attendees are missing goody bags. They had that element of expected excitement, like toys from a corporate Santa. The closest substitute is gamification. It’s fun, addictive and stops the audience from doodling or walking away for a quick break. The question is, would grown-ups actually increase business communication for the sake of free headphones and backpacks? Well, yes! Check out some fun gamification ideas from real people here.
Finally, the numbers
The success of a virtual conference should ultimately translate to numbers. Half the trick always lies in following up. Going virtual from the beginning makes it smoother to call, mail and talk online to people who were already happy with the experience you provided. All good meeting planners keep emphasising on community, and there’s a good reason for it. Building and maintaining a strong community of professionals is key to networking and business; that’s what actually matters, right? Apart from using all the networking utilities to the hilt, make sure you choose a meeting app that helps you track the analytics. If you are keen on reading more on money matters, check out our piece on it.
All this was good. But if you have read till this point, you may want handy stuff, like a step-by-step virtual event planning checklist. Follow the link to it. We are coming up next with a full list of features that top virtual meeting apps should have. Please post your queries, thoughts and virtual meeting pain points as comments, we promise to respond asap.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org