How to Incorporate Online Events into Your In-Person Events

While online events are gaining traction, there still are many reasons to have in-person events. Some sponsors prefer in-person booths, some attendees enjoy the chance to leave the office for a few days, and other reasons. However, you may still want the opportunity to reach a larger audience – sponsors who like the option of online downloads in their booths, attendees who prefer to learn from home or their offices, bosses who don’t want to pay for travel costs. 

You can combine the two very successfully to get the best of both worlds. Here are a few of our tips to do so.

1. Live stream your sessions

To make the online attendees feel like they’re really a part of the action, live stream your presentations during the in-person event. You can do this using any number of applications, such as YouTube Live (which now has taken over Google Hangouts), LiveStream, etc. Anything that gives you a live stream link will work successfully. 

Make sure that you have a good quality camera (a GoPro or a good smart phone camera will both work great) and that your audience can see both the slides and the presenter’s face. 

2. Make the slide decks available online.

This will benefit both your in-person and your online attendees. Whether they’re sitting in
the back of the room and forgot their glasses or they simply follow along better when they have the slides in front of them on their computer, always make sure you have slides available. 

This will be great for after the live portion of the event as well. Those who attended the sessions live will like having the deck to refer to in the future and those who missed the session will be able to look back and see what they missed.

3. Make the presentations available On Demand for both in-person and online attendees

Just about every in-person conference I’ve been to has more than one presentation going at a time. Because of this, it’s impossible for any attendee, no matter how meticulous, to
 see all of the content live. Your in-person attendees will be excited about the opportunity to be able to catch the presentations that they missed, and your online attendees will be more likely to view all of the presentations at their leisure. 

4. Allow your online and in-person attendees both to participate in Q&A

You can do this a couple of different ways. Your speaker/presenter can have an online chat room that they can refer to during the Q&A with the in-person crowd, so that they answer questions from both audiences; alternatively, you can ask your speaker to answer questions from the online audience after the event using a chat room. 

Either way, you’ll want your online audience to feel as much a part of the action as your in-person crowd. In-person attendees tend to try to catch the speaker after they are finished with their presentation, whether by the stage or in the lobby afterwards. Your online audience does not have that opportunity, so you need to make sure that they have the option to ask their questions as well. 

5. Work with your sponsors

You have more sponsor real estate, so to speak, utilizing an in-person and online event simultaneously. It’s quite easy for sponsors to send you materials for an online booth – typically online downloads, links to their site, online giveaways, and graphics. This opens up a lot of opportunities for different kinds of sponsorships. 

Your in-person sponsors may want to have both virtual and physical booths as well. You should approach them and see if they would be interested in having an online and a physical presence at your event. 

Keeping these few tips in mind, you can have a truly successful online event to accompany and broaden the audience for your in-person event!

Have any questions? Send me an email at caitlin@vconferenceonline.com and I’ll be happy to help out!

Virtual Events are Too Expensive!

The cost of virtual or online events is a really big factor when deciding whether or not to host an event this way. Marketing budgets are always pretty tight and approaching the Powers That Be for a budget boost or with a new idea can be nerve-wracking.

Luckily, I can set your mind at ease with just one sentence: online events are far more cost-effective.

If you’ve ever hosted an in-person event, you’ll know how tedious, frustrating, and expensive they are. Without exception, in-person events just end up with nickel-and-dime costs like coffee, lunches, security, space for the event, bathrooms, staff for check-in, and so much more. Sometimes you’ll even hear the dreaded phrase, “food and beverage, plus-plus.”

meeting-469574_1280

“Pens will be extra.”

With an online event, nearly all of those costs vanish. The online event platform becomes your venue. The security is built into the event and is mostly for the purchase of event admission and moderation in chat. Check-in desk is null and void because it’s done automatically with a login. Coffee is supplied by the attendee’s own office. They likely brought their own lunch (or you’ll have an hour break for them to go get it). There is no plus-plus with an online event.

Some platforms will cost a little extra for customer support chat. However, in-person events have the same thing – staffing. No in-person event allows for a self-service set-up (what venue would allow that?) and yet most online event platforms have some form of it to give you even further discounts.

In the age of technology, where we all carry a micro computer in our pocket and are in constant contact with our friends and coworkers, the convenience of an online event will also make it more profitable. You open the doors to a wider, international audience, inviting more success and leads (which is what we all want from these events anyway). It’s a busy world and if an attendee doesn’t have to take half a week off to fly to your conference and be unable to work for the whole time, they will jump at the chance.

Not only will an online event save you money, but it will likely make you more money as well. Take that to your boss.


Have any questions about hosting a virtual event and want a great platform that will help you every step of the way? Email us directly at sales@vconferenceonline.com 

Looking for a subscription-style virtual event platform? Check out our new pricing model here.

Keep Virtual Event Attendees Engaged

Keeping attendees engaged is a tough battle with an online event.  Let’s face it, distractions abound!  Email arrives, instant messages beckon, heck just typing a new URL in the browser is a threat to their attention to your event.

What can you do to retain attendees – to keep their attention and make the event all it can be for them and for you and your stakeholders?

One thing that has worked repeatedly is the use of between-session messaging and content.  As you move through your event, offer additional content between sessions.  Rather than just showing “the next session starts in 5 minutes” type messages, consider putting additional content, tips and other elements in the space between sessions.

Here are some great examples that work very well, time after time:

  • Interview the speakers – talk to them about real-life, ask for advice, talk about their pets.  Basically what you’re looking to do is to help your speakers be “real” to your audience, help your audience get to know the speaker.  These are very powerful and can be relatively short.  If you’re concerned about topics, pick a central 2 or 3 topics, then ask the same questions to each speaker.  This can be things like “what’s your favorite board game” or “what movies have you seen recently” or “are you a dog or a cat person?”  All of these are great ice-breakers and can can offer a bit of fun between sessions.
  • Add polls between sessions – ask questions of your attendees, see what you can learn, and then present, about your audience.  Perhaps even ask the same questions as those above.  Then you can get a feel for your audience and help them relate to the content presented.
  • Add contests – have treasure hunts in the virtual environment have treasure hunts in the sponsor’s and speaker’s web sites.  This is a great way to get people involved and learning all that’s available.  You can even score the activities (for every “X” you find, you gain 20 points) – then award a keychain or t-shirt to the winner by points.
  • Have chats on Twitter or in the chat tools – guide the chats to include materials just presented (the speaker may be able to provide interesting topics and questions) or on completely unrelated topics to help people get to know one-another.
  • Create news segments – talk about very recent headlines between sessions.  Make sure the headlines are related to the event.  Perhaps even just one or two headlines, then suggest people move to chat or social media you have integrated into the event to discuss the headline.  Be sure to give them your opinion (or the opinion of the person presenting the headlines) on the items.
  • Have a fun mini-session – this could be an exercise session, a yoga session, stretching that you can lead.  This can also be a completely spoof-based segment.  Remember, it’s only a few minutes maximum.  Have fun with it.

By doing these types of activities, attendee retention jumps by up to 80%.  These are real benefits and can substantially impact your event, the attendees involvement in your show and their impression overall for the event.

How Long Does It Take? (To create and start an virtual conference?)

This may be one of the most often asked questions about setting up an event: how much lead time do you need prior to getting an event up, running and online to allow it to be successful?

Unfortunately, the short answer is, “It depends.”

Fortunately, we can pretty reliably call out what specifically it depends on.  You’ll probably find that it comes down to a few key factors.  Each of these has a very real role in determining your event’s lead time.

The three areas are:

  • Required marketing
  • Speakers
  • Exhibitors

Typically setting up the platform, getting things rolling, setting up graphics, making choices on scheduling, etc. don’t impact your production timelines, especially not in a “critical path” kind of way, to any significant extent.  It’s usually these other areas that really deserve your planning and attention.

Required Marketing
If your audience is a closed audience, like an internal meeting or presentations where your staff is compelled or expected to attend, you don’t have many hurdles here.  On the other hand, if you’re in a position where you need to market to outside people to help them become registered and attend, you have more time requirements.

Typically we suggest about 60-90 days for externally marketing events.  What’s aggravating about all of this is that you won’t be taking registrations that whole time, but you will be talking to your audience, explaining about your event and pointing them to your micro-site.  This is where it’s key to have solid information on the site about sessions, speakers, what they expect from the event as an attendee, etc.  The maddening truth is that most people will register at the last possible minute.

You can help people decide by using contests (those registered before X date are eligible for…) and by having a complete site, but the fact is, most will register as late as possible.

Speakers
If you’ve worked on any type of event where you were working with speakers, you know: speakers are busy, busy folks.  You need to plan on providing as much information, guidance and scheduling deadlines as you can.  This is critical so they know all of what they need to know in order to participate, produce the session materials, etc.  Any type of delay to get additional information, or any additional steps, and you will quickly find it escalates into delays getting their content.

Respect your speakers.  Give them templates, help them understand both what is needed and how you’ll support them.  If possible, have them work with someone directly on the event team or on the platform team as they can quickly answer questions and keep the speaker moving forward.

One caveat – if your speakers are internal and you have more “control” over them, you can shorten times to deliver content.  The longer timeframes come from speakers that are either volunteer or paid presenters for your event.  They typically are pushed in many directions constantly and you are at their mercy when it comes to getting materials in.

Be sure you provide them as many resources and guidance as possible to keep them “in the flow.”  For internal speakers, many times this is a much easier process.  You often have leverage to set deadlines and present other requirements.

Exhibitors
Exhibitors present an interesting challenge for scheduling.  You need/want them for your event, whether they are external to your company or an internal department.  At the same time, they need similar assistance as your speakers do.

Many times exhibitors are working with many different areas of their own companies to provide materials.  They may have PDF documents, graphics, videos and people to coordinate and they’ll look to you for guidance on setting up the booth, providing information to attendees and selecting the right packages for sponsorships.  This (again) is a great time to get your platform provider involved and working with your sponsors.  Get as much assistance as possible so your exhibitors can make the most of their booth.

Often, exhibitors are so busy just doing business that they put off the setup of the booth to the last-minute.  If you, or the team you work with, can provide them quick choices, best practices and assistance, you can help vastly shorten the time to set up the booth, get it online and have it be excellent for the exhibitors.

Summary
Taking control and specifically addressing each of these areas can help control your timelines, your surprises and best of all, keep you sane in setting up the event.  Make sure you have a good vendor partner that can provide the help, best practices, tips and ideas to make each of these areas flow as smoothly as possible.

If you make it your goal to remove obstacles and provide unique and helpful input to each of these areas, you’ll take big steps toward having a great event and still maintaining your sanity.  Your attendees, speakers and exhibitors will thank you, as will your stakeholders in the event.

Producing Content – horses for courses

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison
Producer
vConferenceOnline

Producing Content – horses for courses

So I talked about the importance of video in creating an engaging presentation. So for this last article let’s get into some real world HOW.
You’ve decided “Josh is right, we should use video in our event.” Congratulations, you’ve made the right choice! Now how do you do it? Let’s set out some example scenarios:

Scenario 1: Your online only event has 6 different presenters. The budget won’t allow for in-studio professional video production. They all have slide deck presentations and want to stick to that plan. The presenters are all in different areas of the world, but you want to give the event a cohesive feel.

Solution:  Not a problem! We have a tool that allows presenters to record their desktops to include slides, full motion computer demonstrations and yes, their webcam! You arrange for a slide deck design treatment that they all use and you make suggestions for webcam placement and lighting in a simple to read document that we provided you. The speakers make quick test recordings and send them in for approval. Everyone agrees it looks and sounds good. They go about recording their full presentations and you smile with satisfaction in a job well done.

Scenario 2: Your in person event is going to include a bonus online event. You need to record and document all presentations and the keynotes. You’d like to offer the online event a week after the in person event for anyone who missed anything. Both in person attendees and non attendees.

Solution:  We discuss your needs and decide that you need a multi-camera production. Our crew designs a production equipment package and travels to your event to record the show. We work closely with your team to ensure that all required moments are captured and we setup the event online to allow for scheduled playback of these videos the following week. You just grew your event attendance, not to mention your event’s income.

Scenario 3: You’ve decided you want to take that same event to the people live over the internet!

Solution:  We add on a live streaming package to the already fully planned production package and you have created urgency and excitement for those that couldn’t attend in person.

Scenario 4: You are having an online event with your company’s top executives. This needs to be polished and professional. Production quality is very important. The event will be live with on-demand versions of the presentations available after the live event.

Solution:  We invite you out to our production studios in Tucson Arizona. Our producers work with you to decide show flow and set design. The required content and rehearsals are scheduled. Everyone knows what is happening when and where they should be. Our well designed studio gives your event that high end look you were after and your executives appreciate the chance to tee off at some of the world’s best golf courses after the event.

I could go on and on as there are many different scenarios. The point is that we can handle any of them and we help you along the way. That is a major separator for us as a platform provider.

I hope these quick articles have been informative, or at least entertaining. “Like TV”.