We think that we can speak for every industry, when we say that 2020 has been a whirlwind! No one could have predicted what 2020 had in store, but with difficult times often come a lot of lessons learned. And our team has learned A LOT – particularly when it comes to the virtual events landscape. Throughout the last nine months, the #REDSQUAD has researched a ton, sat on countless digital event platform demos and trainings, and prepared internal resources to support each other – all in an effort to learn as much as we could and equip us with the skills and knowledge to dominate the digital event space and support existing and new clients.
To wrap up this unforgettable year, we surveyed our team to get their top takeaways of virtual events in 2020. Check them out:
1. Virtual events are not easier or less work
Just because an event is now online does not make it easier because you’re not “onsite.” If anything, virtual events require more work because you need to coordinate hundreds (or even thousands) of people who are all in different locations as opposed to one physical venue. Additionally, some virtual events require more staffing for event day as staff are limited to one computer and cannot as easily monitor or manage multiple rooms of a conference.
2. In-person events do not seamlessly transition into a virtual format
You cannot simply “copy and paste” an in-person event into a digital format. Many elements of your event will need to be tweaked to ensure its successful in virtual form. The first being the schedule – it’s important to keep sessions short, build in time for breaks, and keep the programming to a few hours (attendees’ attention span in the virtual world is much shorter). It’s also important to create engaging content, distractions are a click away, so ensure content is relevant and exciting.
3. You can never be too prepared
Dry-runs are your best friend for a virtual event. You can’t assume that things will run smoothly on the first try (they likely will not). Hosting test sessions for key stakeholders is incredibly valuable – even for the most tech-savvy of them all. While describing how to use the platform in an email is helpful, logging onto the event platform with speakers or sponsors will give them the opportunity to get comfortable with the functions and ask their questions. It also provides the opportunity to test their audio, video, and internet connection so that any changes can be made, prior to the event starting. It may seem superfluous to your team, speakers, suppliers or other stakeholders, but in the end, it will benefit all parties involved.
4. Technology is both your best friend and worst enemy
This takeaway goes hand-in-hand with number three. Technology is your best friend for virtual events! It enables your event to exist online, however it can also be your worst enemy. It’s an incredible tool because technology is constantly changing and evolving. If you take the time to learn about new platforms, apps, or add-ons, you can ensure your events stay relevant and exciting.
Yet, technology can also be your enemy because no matter how much you prepare and despite the testing, things may go wrong due to internet issues, user error, or other things out of your control. It’s important to expect it, have a contingency plan in place, and move past it.
5. Networking is still king
If there is one thing we have heard from thousands of attendees over the last nine months, it is that networking is still king. Attendees are longing for connecting more than ever as they sit behind a computer, and work from home for the foreseeable future. Make a concerted effort to provide networking opportunities throughout your event such as ice breakers, networking lounges, speed networking, etc.
While we recognize networking in the virtual world will never be the same as a handshake or hug while waiting in the lineup for a drink or the buffet, there are so many advances in the virtual space that make it a great way to connect with others – you may just have to get a little more creative.
While these are some great lessons, we know that 2021 will come with more to learn and to adapt to. As such, stay tuned for part two of this blog post where the #REDSQUAD makes their predictions for what 2021 may have in store for the events world. Do you have a major takeaway from 2020? Let us know in the comments!
Are you planning a virtual or hybrid event in 2021? Check out Redstone’s digital and hybrid event services for how we can help you!
Kaitlyn McGuirk, MPC
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