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Virtual Events: What Have We Learned?

March 26, 2021

“A virtual event is not a trade-off or a concession- it’s an opportunity.”

Dries Mahieu, Client Service Director, The Oval Office

With a year of virtual events behind him (and many more on the horizon), we were thrilled to have Dries Mahieu present at our recent webinar, The Future of Experience. Dries is the Client Service Director at our partner agency The Oval Office (Belgium)- Experience Driven Communication. He shared his experience and learnings on producing successful virtual events.

What we’ve learned so far:

1) Lengthen the Event: You’re probably thinking “What?!” right about now and for good reason! Everyone is talking about shortening the events. So what do we mean? You can lengthen the entire event experience by creating impressions before, during and after the event. For example, you can send gift boxes or have food delivered to guests before or during the event, send a survey before the event and use data collected during the event, initiate photo challenges after the event, etc. The possibilities are endless!

2) Think Camera First: As event specialists, we’re used to thinking about the entire participant experience. With virtual events, we need to focus on the SMALL screen, the images people are actually seeing and experiencing. Don’t worry about cables laying around or what anything behind the camera looks like. Your main focus should be on thinking about the setting and screen angles.

3) Be Ready for Technology NOT to work: Despite your best efforts, you will likely experience a technology related hiccup or two during your event. Be prepared with an ABC plan: Accept, Breathe, and Communicate.

4) Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…this doesn’t only refer to testing your technology, but also testing out various settings, formats, camera angles, chat and poll features, etc.

5) Train Your Speakers: Provide your speakers with easy to follow guidelines, such as:
-Sit in a quiet room, notifications off, tabs closed
– Use an external mic or headphones
-Prepare a glass of water beforehand
-Check internet connection- use a cable connection if possible
-Register to the event platform and become familiar with it before the event
-Prepare and test settings prior to live event
-Align signals and non-verbal messaging that can be used during the presentation (ex: agree on a hand signal for “I can’t hear the moderator”)
-Stimulate creative settings or presentation style, for example using a service like StreamYard

6) Keep it Simple: You are likely working with a broad target group and everyone must be able to follow directions, click on different pages, make use of a variety of functions…Don’t make the platform too complicated

7) Make it Bigger: A virtual event is an opportunity to grow your story and your brand. Think of the first event as a starting base and look for ways to adapt and scale for future events. Track everything you do so you can leverage your second (and beyond) edition.

8) Avoid Content Fatigue: Content may be king, but the reality is that audiences have shorter attention spans. Everyone is tired of staring at their screens but memorable content can help combat online fatigue. Keeping in mind that shorter is often better, maintain a laser focus on your content, keep the script tight, and make use of pre-recorded content. Don’t forget to include well-timed breaks!

9) Keep Them Engaged: Engage early and often, and leverage networking. Aim for some type of engagement about every 15 minutes.  Provide time and a space for people to meet, offer different paths to create connections, and encourage attendees to share networking highlights on social media.
Tip: A few apps Dries likes for increasing engagement are Mural, Wonder and Piccles.

10) Add Some Fun: Even if your event is “formal,” it doesn’t have to be boring! People want to discover and experience new things. Consider adding competitions, virtual “happenings” like a happy hour or coffee break, live music, or even fun advertisements (think Super Bowl) to your event schedule.

and last but certainly not least….

11) Show Me the Money: Going virtual does not mean going cheap. While it’s true that a virtual event does not incur the typical  That  travel, accommodation and catering costs, other costs such as technical expertise, equipment, software, platforms, etc are added.


We hope you’ve found this  information useful! You can learn more from Dries, including his thoughts on the probability of virtual events’ survival post-Covid, by watching the full presentation replay here.
Note: Dries’s presentation begins around the 43:55 mark.

If you’re interested in learning more about how 27Names and our agencies can help you make your next event a success, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. We represent over 500 event, online and live communication experts across 20 different countries, all with unique and innovative ideas to elevate live and online events!

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