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Hosting Successful Virtual Events

Image: Unsplash

By Deon Engelke | Inkanyezi Events

Virtual events appear set to remain a feature of the business landscape, whether the ramifications of social distancing on events like conferences and exhibitions remain an issue in society or not. This article explores five common virtual event issues with suggestions.

 

  1. CHOOSING THE MOST APPROPRIATE PLATFORM

The software, apps and platforms available though which to host an event range in sophistication, quality and price.  One of the most important considerations then is selecting the option that will best achieve your objective. There is no best solution, only the best solution for your event. Chinese organisers prefer the direct, no-frills approach. Our company has hosted numerous important trade engagements between Chinese and African buyers and suppliers through ‘plain old’ Zoom.  The free version of Zoom allows group meetings with screen sharing (which enables users to make and show audio-visual presentations) but is limited to 40 minutes. With Zoom Pro you can host group meetings with up to 100 people as long as you need. You can record meetings to your local device with a Basic license, but a Pro account also lets you record to the cloud, which makes sharing the recording simple and frees up space on your device. With a Pro license you can also live stream your Zoom Meetings to Facebook and YouTube, create Zoom Rooms or virtual breakaway venues and Zoom Video Webinars, among others.  Microsoft Meetings, Google Hangouts, Skype and Chinese favourite, Ding, have similar functionalities which also merit investigation. With respect to hosting tradeshows (exhibitions) there are hundreds of virtual solutions. None of them are cheap but many provide a poor level of functionality or a sub-optimal experience for exhibitors and visitors.  After years of research we stopped the search with the web-based Endless Fairs solution  (https://www.inkanyezi.co.za/endless-fairs/). Within one, superbly brandable venue, it offers exhibition display with rich exhibitor interaction, match-making and several conference streams with simultaneous translation (if required).  A bonus feature is the ability of visitors to interact or network, live and real-time.

  1. TECHNICAL QUALITY OF THE BROADCAST

Always consider your audience’s levels of access to the internet, bandwidth and reliability of signal.  Consider that many of your audience will attempt to participate via smartphone so the platform used must be phone friendly. Consider advertising a technical hotline (or instant chat) to assist users trouble-shoot so that you maximise participation. There is nothing more devastating for an organiser than a technical glitch.  This also means ensuring as far as possible that your event is timed to avoid power outages. No matter the complexity of the event, it makes sense to appoint a co-ordinator and do a full dry-run or rehearsal at least 24 hours before the actual event. Live streaming to a number of channels simultaneously like YouTube and facebook can be complex so choose your producer wisely, The success of your event and the perception of your brand in the virtual space is alot about technical proficiency.

  1. PREPARING QUALITY CONTENT

Virtual audiences are not confined to the auditorium seat, so are very quick to leave or log out.  This may mean contracting a company to create gripping visuals to insert into a smooth production which may include a blend of recorded and live footage. When capturing live footage for an event e.g. a conference or wedding, ensure that the production team has several cameras capturing different angles and that the producer is fully briefed on the way you want to have it come across to virtual audiences in combination with other prepared visuals and graphics.

  1. SPONSOR VALUE PROPOSITION

It is likely that you are seeking a sponsor/s for your event, in which case carefully consider how to package the value of your virtual event, this may include branding, logo use, the event’s distribution or viewership. Ensure then that your chosen platform can provide the kind of value you are selling.

  1. PARTICIPATION

There is such a thing as “virtual fatigue” – the tendency for online audiences to become bored or disinterested in the virtual space which offers anonymity and little interaction. Overcome this by hosting polls, or posing questions which are screened for all viewers, when possible.  Do not give airtime to guests whose audio or video quality is poor and finally consider how to incentivise participants to visit your expo or webinar.  Generating participants to a virtual event has become troublesome. Note that even though the event may now be virtual and possibly cost you as the organiser less, marketing the event remains important – possibly even more so.  For assistance on virtual events feel free to contact us by email:  [email protected]