Will virtual events cause FOMO? What happens if our delegates don't speak English? What single bit of tech would you recommend for an awesome virtual event?
Bruce Rose is the expert on virtual events, which is why he was invited to Event Tech Live to talk about them. Whether you want to engage people halfway around the world, or you're looking to achieve something big on a smaller budget, virtual events may well be worth adding to your event toolbox.
Take a listen to our very own Head of Content as he tackles Event Tech Live's questions on virtual events. Tight for time? Check out the Q&As below. If you've got any more questions, send them through and we'll get him on the case.
Is there a single tech solution to embrace all features needed for a full-scale virtual event?
"The short answer is; absolutely. There are some out-of-the-box packages that some companies are working on. But I'm going to be a little bit sceptical; the all-in-one solutions have to be, by their nature, good enough for everyone. And because they're good enough for everyone, they're not going to get into the minutia of the particularities of a brief. They're not actually going to answer your objectives.
One of the last virtual events we did was targeted at executive leadership. The expectations from executive leadership are very different to your core business service's expectations. So we have to build a more premium environment around that.
To answer the question; yes there are. But if you're going into this expecting an out-the-box virtual event solution, my advice would be to make sure you can customise it to your needs; whether that's through content, styling, or everything from start-to-finish."
What do you do when the tech, links or platform go wrong?
"You have a plan for that. The big problem with a virtual event is that it's easy for things to go wrong. Maybe part of the website, maybe your gamification isn't working as it should. You need to address things quickly and make sure you take control over what you have. When you're working with a partner or a virtual events agency like Live Group, ask them what their back-ups are, and what the back-ups to their back-ups are.
Going into our events, we know we have multiple stream back-ups and tech back-ups, but if everything went wrong, we would just record the day as a live event and broadcast it afterward. Then we would do another event in a lower-budget studio to make best use of audience interaction.
Things will go wrong; but this is much like running an event and someone cut the power to the building, reacting is just part of how you plan these."
What's the one bit of tech you would recommend for a successful virtual event?
"An audience interaction platform! You need something that lets you talk to your audience and get them involved. It's really key. If you're not empowering people to talk to your speakers or each other, you've missed a trick. It's absolutely essential technology."
What do you do if some of your delegates don't speak English?
"Really valid question! We've run several virtual events with simultaneous translation in translation booths, so delegates can pick from one of four languages. There are even technology platforms available with auto-translations. If you're going to create a virtual event that's global, with everyone speaking different languages, you need something that's going to answer that. And this is where technology can help make things better and even more powerful."
Do you believe virtual events will generate Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)?
"FOMO's a weird beast! A question we hear a lot from people is, 'If I do a live stream of my event, no one will show up to the actual event'. But in reality, that's not how people work. There is a particular value proposition for attending events in person, and there is a particular value proposition when people are attending things virtually.
I don't think it's going to be FOMO that makes a difference here; but I do think global changes will. Take the climate crisis; it's going to become increasingly difficult for high-level people to justify their transport costs. Good virtual events will easily fill that niche."
Do latency and internet lag cause problems?
"They can. The biggest one is when you're doing any kind of live polling, if you've got a good streaming CDN, you can be dealing with a delay of around 40 seconds to 90 seconds. If you've got that, you need to make sure that you're building that in when you're planning interaction with your speakers.
When I'm dealing with a speaker that wants to introduce polls, I'm ensuring that within their talk, they're introducing their poll, then giving more of their talk, and then coming back to the results; so you're factoring the latency into everything. It is a limitation, it's not going to change, so it's just something to be mindful of."
What do speakers need to do differently when running a virtual event vs. a face-to-face event?
"Understand that talking to a camera is very different to talking to a lovely audience. They are two different skill-sets, and when you've got someone that's really good in front of a crowd, they might freeze up in front of a camera. But that's why you use the benefits of a studio - things like autocue, pre-planning and rehearsal days. Also, you must understand that the most boring thing they can do is be in a little box while there's a bit PowerPoint slide dominating the screen. It's not making the best use of a live production environment."
Do you build bespoke platforms for your events, or do you use existing tools?
"We build everything bespoke. We think that's the most important step to be able to get the most out of your virtual event, because we want to be able to control every little part of it. That's not to say that existing platforms or tools don't have their place, they absolutely do. But we like to have complete control."
How important is it to work with clients and speakers to show and develop the different skill-sets needed to lead and run virtual events?
"It's really important. While our lovely teams are working away on the website in the background, all of my time is devoted to working with the clients and speakers to understand what they need to do differently for a virtual event.
If we're ever in a situation where speakers are only grappling with the fact that they're running a virtual event a week in advance, I know we have a problem. I want to get the best out of them, so this is something I'm absolutely mindful of."
How do you address change management needs to shift client expectations of how an event should be executed, such as moving onsite to virtual?
"It comes from employee engagement. Some of the most valuable things we've done is introducing some of our new clients to some of our existing clients. It's all well and good me saying, 'Oh actually, virtual events are very different and you need to be thinking in a different mind-space and you need to take the learnings on board that we've taken on board'. But if we introduce them to existing clients, they begin to see it as a lot more credible, and they begin to take those learnings on board a lot more."
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