Virtual Events Guide – What to Adopt and What to Avoid

Virtual events saw a massive increase in use in 2020 by associations – and they’re here to stay.  

Even with the return to in-person events, virtual options and/or tools will undoubtedly remain part of the process. In fact, 65% of visitors and 57% of exhibitors expect that digital event technology will still have utility in the future. So, event professionals still have their virtual work cut out for them. No need to fear, though; we’ve created a list of what to adopt and what to avoid when planning. 

What to adopt 

  • Offer a variety of package and pricing options for event exhibitors/sponsors. When you limit their options, you’ll limit the number of sponsors and/or exhibitors you could attract. Virtual events offer more opportunities for paying partners such as digital branding, automated analytics, and the ability to reach your association members in multiple locations.  
  • Provide interactive opportunities for attendees to increase engagement. You wouldn’t want to go to the trouble of planning a virtual event only to have an audience of passive listeners. One of the drawbacks to online events can be distractions in attendees’ environments. So, present content that keeps the audience actively engaged. Options like Q&A sessions, polling, discussions with a panel, and quizzing can make the event feel more like a conversation. A virtual happy hour could be a more relaxed way for attendees to connect. Additionally, including interesting images, audio, and video elements can help keep the attention. 
  • Practice makes perfect, especially in a virtual world. With so many different platforms to choose from, it’s important to practice so you can prevent technological snafus on yours. If you have speakers or panelists, provide documentation and host practice sessions with them and ensure they understand their schedule, guidelines, and flow for the event. Test any interactive content you plan to present to ensure a smooth presentation.  
  • Utilize the technology that best fits your association size and needs. Do you need virtual conference planning solutions to manage speakers, sessions, and continuing accreditation? Or mobile solutions to engage or communicate with audiences and manage event agendas?  

What to avoid 

  • Avoid skimping on your standard level sponsorship/exhibitor packages. You’ll miss out on additional revenue and future partnerships if your standard level package has more limitations than opportunities. For higher-level sponsors or exhibitors, you can offer something extra such as exclusive access to email attendees, giveaways, and additional branding. 
  • Don’t miss an opportunity for attendees to collaborate. Take advantage of the many ways you can engage your audience. Live streaming virtual events via social media, utilizing the various open discussion forums offered on social media platforms, and gamification are just a few examples. Inviting attendees to engage with the event shows that their participation, and presence, is valued. 
  • Overloading the event schedule can cause burnout, especially when looking at a screen all day. While you should offer plenty of valuable content, trying to fit in too much in too small of a timeframe can overwhelm attendees, exhibitors, and your association. Ensure that you allocate time for breaks and free periods where attendees can explore other areas of the event. Consider extending the event over several days or offering on-demand sessions if there isn’t enough time for everything in one day. 
  • Spreading your association too thin can be detrimental to the event’s success. Your association doesn’t have to single-handedly utilize several different technology solutions, coordinate with sponsors/exhibitors, communicate with attendees, and manage the event itself. 

Take the next step. 

Let YM Careers help you host the best virtual event in your association’s industry. Virtual events are just scratching the surface of their full potential to generate member engagement and revenue. Watch our on-demand webinar on virtual events lessons – the good, the bad, and the ugly – then talk with an event specialist to get started.  

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