How To Take Your Events Online (Virtual Events) – Webinar Best Practices

How to take your events online is one of the most commonly asked questions during times of Covid-19 and Coronavirus. We discuss how to do it and what to look out for, in order to get it right. Don’t rush in, but use the evolving situation as a chance to innovate. Check out our other videos on Webinarexperts.co.uk or subscribe to our videos on YouTube.

Video Transcript – How To Take Your Events Online (Virtual Events):

[Thom Gornall]:
Hi, and welcome to another WebinarExperts.co.uk video. This week we’re talking about the impact of Coronavirus on events and conferences around the world. Virtual events have been around for some time. However, with a number of high profile conferences being canceled due to the fears over the COVID-19 Coronavirus, the topic has rapidly been gathering momentum. Lev, does that surprise you?

[Lev Cribb]:
Yeah, we’ve seen a number of cancellations around the world, the Geneva Motor Show, Zendesk, Shopify, Adobe Summit, all of those been canceled, and it was very similar scenario 10 years ago when the Icelandic volcano erupted.

[Thom Gornall]:
Can you, can you name that one for us?

[Lev Cribb]:
I would dearly love to. I just can’t. I tried so many times and it was a very similar situation then. So it doesn’t surprise me that the momentum is there for virtual events. It doesn’t surprise me that these events have been canceled. So, at the time there was the inability to travel. Now it’s obviously the risk of infection, the fear of infection that’s keeping people at home and doing less travel, so no it doesn’t surprise me at all.

[Thom Gornall]:
From a tech perspective, are there any parallels with 10 years ago?

[Lev Cribb]:
We live in a very different time now, technology wise. Remote working, home working, remote conferencing is a lot more commonplace. You know, web conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams and so on, are much more intuitive, much easier now than 10 years ago. So, in that sense we are in a different time, and what that means also is that setting up virtual events 10 years ago would have been a lot more involved, a lot more complicated, and also from a mindset perspective would have been very differently perceived.

Today that’s very different. There are calls for them now as there were then. I think what we’ll see is that there’s going to be a lot easier and better, more innovative ways of setting these events up and then being adopted as well.

[Thom Gornall]:
Do you think this will have a lasting effect on the ongoing use of virtual events?

[Lev Cribb]:
Well, I think one of the parallels we’ll see, talking about parallels compared to 10 years ago is that there will be an uplift, but there will also be a reduction when the world gets on top of COVID19, so I think we will see that reduction afterwards. It will go back towards business as usual as it was done before. That said, I think with the pervasiveness of remote working of virtual events and so on, in the mindset of people anyway these days, I think there will be a taste for those companies who have replaced their physical events with virtual events to do more of them, because if they’ve been forced into this experience, they’ve now experienced how to do it and they see some of the benefits. So, I do think that there will be a taste for innovation around how these can be done, and I think that will be very different to how it’s been done before. So, I think there is some future for virtual events and how they evolve as part of this experience that we’re going through.

[Thom Gornall]:
Could you elaborate a little bit on the innovation side of things? What do you think might happen?

[Lev Cribb]:
Yeah, so traditionally the virtual trade shows have been sort of these 2D experiences. I think what we’ll see as part of what we’re going through now is this need to innovate, is for companies to look at how can we do that? And initially they were quite involved. I think where we’re moving towards to now and I think what we’ll see as a result of that is people will look at how can we do this? How can we build streams? How we can create this user experience? How can we make something quickly that is very effective, that looks nice with the technology that’s available today? So, I think as a result of that, I think the virtual events space, we’ll see the shift in innovation as well, as to what will a virtual event look like, how is it executed, and I think that will look very different to traditional virtual events that we’ve seen before.

[Thom Gornall]:
Cool. So, can you give us your advice for anyone wanting to start? You know, what your six top tips on anyone wanting to start off with the virtual events?

[Lev Cribb]:
How do you know there were six?

[Thom Gornall]:
Oh, I’m very good.

[Lev Cribb]:
No, I did post about this on LinkedIn not too long ago. So, virtual events, it’s easy to think that virtual events are just because they’re online, they’re just quick to do. You should have the same diligent planning approach as you would have for physical events. There is the same amount of content. There’s the same amount of logistics behind it. It just so happens that it’s online as opposed to physical. So, that is that is the first step.

The second step is what suitable tools you already have within your company, and what do you have? Check your software, software subscriptions, see what there is perhaps in different parts of the organization. Check in with HR and learning and development. Often they have tools that might well be suitable for virtual events. So, do check what you have already, because using something you already have will be much quicker than bringing a new vendor on board. And then check what experience exists within the organization of running virtual events. Just because your team hasn’t done one before, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people within the team that may have experienced it elsewhere, or within other teams within the organization who may have done that, or again, who have people who’ve experienced running virtual events before. So that’s just another point, just check what is available, ask around, and see. Gather that information to see what is available.

And then of course, act. You need to act quickly now, it’s likely that you’ve been caught out by this. If you have to cancel your event, you do need to serve up something else, you have your other timelines and campaigns to think about as well. So act, begin executing, begin planning, don’t cut corners. It’s very important that you look at what is the best quality output for and most convenient item for your audience rather than what’s most convenient for you. So, do make it a great quality experience for your audience as well. And some of these conferences that have been canceled were paid events. Don’t try and come up with a convoluted online payment model for a virtual event. It’s not business as usual as we said. You still need to appeal to a large audience. You still need to bring them in. This is different to what they expected that was going to happen with you, so you need to take a look at bringing the volume in of people. Putting a gated payment gateway in front of that is likely that you’ll then have a significant reduction in attendees.

And then of course have a followup plan afterwards. Engage your audience. Don’t just run a stream or multiple streams of virtual events and then say, right, we’ve done it. Actually have a plan to follow up afterwards as well.

[Thom Gornall]:
Okay, cool. So, we talked about virtual events, but what’s the role of webinars specifically in this and how do you separate and define the two?

[Lev Cribb]:
So, webinars, depending on your definition of what a webinar or webcast is, will play a good role in this. That said, I think there will be the need for perhaps ungated live streams. We mentioned ungating your virtual events.

What you might find is a hybrid model where you have your keynotes where you want most people to attend as ungated live streams, but then maybe the breakout sessions or the different multi-language sessions go into gated webinars where you then have different level of engagement and that will be, I think, a model that will see this kind of hybrid approach. And again, that comes down then to the innovation of each company and how they want to create the experience for their audience as well. So yeah, try not to fully get your keynotes and make it so difficult to join. Given the situation that you’re in, what you want to do is engage your audience, bring them in, listen to your messaging, and I think webinars will play a role in that as well.

[Thom Gornall]:
Brilliant. I really appreciate that, Lev. Thanks for joining us today. If you’ve got any questions on virtual events or webinars and how they can work for your business at this time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Otherwise, subscribe to us over on YouTube and LinkedIn, and make sure you follow us on Twitter (“WebinarExp) as well. Thanks very much.

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