If 2020 were renamed the 'year of virtual events,' it won't be inappropriate. With the Covid-19 pandemic threat still looming heavily, the number of online events has more than doubled - with organizers giving participants access to live sessions and on-demand content. The prime focus is creating and maintaining a "connected experience" for everyone in these troubled times. It could be smoother sailing with everything related to virtual events, however. A recent survey found that nearly one-third of all event planners did not try hosting online conferences because they felt a virtual environment could not deliver the value that event attendees typically look for. Availability of the right technological infrastructure is also a factor, as is the task of keeping attendees uniformly engaged with the event. Eventify is the ultimate solution to all your challenges while planning an event. In what follows, we will look at the main challenges that event organizers face while planning a virtual event:
On average, 1 out of every 5 event planners avoids organizing virtual events simply because they need the infrastructure and the technical know-how required for the job. A fully online or a hybrid event has several components to take care of - from creating an optimum content flow and planning an effective attendee engagement strategy to selecting the best event tech platform/streaming tool and quick troubleshooting. Organizers who try to take down virtual events for the first time will likely face even more problems - with the lack of experience being a serious bottleneck. Ideally, an event planner should participate in a few online conferences to understand how things are handled, learn from them, and start planning their event. Or you can get Eventify for all event planning problems and solutions.
There is a reasonable number of event management platforms currently available. However, not all of them are equally adaptable for virtual events. The problems escalate when more tech support is forthcoming too. An organizer working on their very first remote conference is not likely to find everything intuitive - and what's more, (s)he might not be the best person to answer technical queries from participants unless they get external support from an event management app. With little or no support from the event tech vendor, it takes little time for the overall attendee experience to go southwards, automatically leading to bad publicity.
In the pandemic-ravaged world, virtual events are gaining precedence. But, the fact remains that these online conferences need to deliver the sort of exposure and networking value that an in-person event can give. Features like live polls, surveys, and Q&A only work up to an extent for virtual events - without offering the required peer-to-peer networking to participants. The absence of live engagement options is an important concern for nearly half of all event planners worldwide. To tackle this challenge, organizers should go for virtual event platforms with built-in live chat for your event solution and, preferably, with a social community-building feature. In addition, exhibitors, sponsors, and partners should also have the opportunity to connect with the participants seamlessly.
Replicating a live event's content strategy and flow for a virtual edition never works. Even if an attendee logs on to a live stream and wanders away (while the stream is going on), the organizer cannot track that. Creating too many sessions and staggering the event over several days are among the things that are likely to cause breaks in the attention span of the participants. Many virtual events are single-day affairs precisely for this reason. The organizer has to understand that people will be "attending" from their homes - and keeping these people invested is a challenge. The focus should be on creating and maintaining a proper narrative flow similar to television programs. The agenda should be divided into the right number of tracks/sessions - so that participants can easily 'take in' all the information.
Some people are happy to use mobile event apps to participate in a virtual conference. Others might join from their web browsers. Among the mobile users, there will be iPhone and Android users - using a wide variety of smartphones and tablets. The onus is on the organizers to ensure that the event app and the event web portal work smoothly on all devices and browsers. If there are any restrictions, that should be mentioned beforehand. Only some people are likely to be equally technically savvy - so the onboarding process must be as simple as possible. The point to remember here is that there are no physical check-ins and guidance available in a virtual setting; everything is in a DIY mode - and if people face difficulties, they will get flustered and angry.
Breakout sessions, coffee breaks, scheduled meetings, Q&A sessions - there are many ways in which the audience can participate in an in-person event. These opportunities are absent when the same event goes virtual. Many online event platforms host events that typically have one-way communication - with the live/recorded videos playing and the viewers needing more to do. To avoid such boring scenarios, it is imperative to "make people talk" - through live Q&A sessions, session feedback and opinion sections, polls, virtual breakout rooms, QR code scanning, social community, and more. It is also a good idea to track and record user activity logs (provided that the event tech vendor has that option) - to understand audience behavior.
Suppose a virtual event is coming up in a month, and a fully live version is scheduled next year (when, hopefully, the Covid situation would improve significantly). In that case, people can skip the virtual edition. To avoid this, event planners must deliver exclusive benefits for the participants who sign up for the online event. For example, certain live streams can be available only during the event days (with no recordings available later). Certain documents and resources can be provided to the virtual audience. Participants can also be offered exclusive discounts on the ticket prices to the live event next year. The bottom line is simple - people must be motivated to register for virtual conferences.
An event management platform might boast of the most advanced features, but it must be expected to partially replicate the live event experience. While this fact is not lost on most event planners, problems creep up when the participants' expectations need to be properly set. The entire schedule, features, and resources should be provided to the audience from the start - with a clear explanation of the available resources. Many event organizers also make the folly of worrying too much about technological limitations and neglecting the bigger picture of content strategies and audience engagement. The host should plan the web event and select a platform that would be the best fit, not the other way around.
Sponsors and partners are often rather reluctant to participate in virtual events, and there are genuine reasons for this. There are no exhibition stands, advertising standees, and banner ads at the event venue (well, there are no venues, for that matter!). This can be a major problem - with adequate sponsorships coming in, organizing the virtual event on a big enough scale might be feasible. The mobile app that is being used for hosting virtual events should allow sponsors to easily connect with all participants, as well as to advertise their latest products/services and grab eyeballs (once again, the social community feature comes in handy for this). The same goes for exhibitors.
This can be a tricky thing. There are specialized event app builders, ticketing platforms, Q&A platforms, and more such digital products, each claiming to provide best-in-class services. However, suppose an organizer uses multiple platforms for a virtual event. In that case, things are bound to become confusing - while the total expenses (because separate subscriptions will be required) will spiral upwards. Therefore, event planners should go for a platform that delivers end-to-end solutions with all the required functionalities under the hood. A single subscription should suffice for the event. Fewer expenses, fewer tech worries.
Organizations often promote virtual events as forced replacements for live events (pandemic-induced replacements). As such, the targeted audience can view these events as 'dumbed-down versions' of live events and may not be worth attending. Here, the organizers must get creative - highlighting the advantages of attending the virtual event and how participants can leverage the maximum value of these events. Social media channels - like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn - are best suited for this, while planners can also consider sending personalized bulk emails. Changing the perception about virtual events is important - they should be projected to be important in their own right (and not just a poor cousin of a live event).
At a virtual conference, all content and video assets (live sessions and recorded material) are premium content. As such, organizers must be wary of unauthorized access and take steps to rule out such possibilities. People who have signed up should be able to access the sessions they register for (imagine paying money for a virtual event, only for a blank screen to stare at you on D-day!). Event planners must select a tech vendor that ensures full data security and seamless access to registered users. It's also a good idea to ask where the event data is stored - during and after the event. There is a general feeling of 'disconnect' about a virtual event - there's no denying this. The buzzing environment of a live event - along with the face-to-face interactions and the consequent trust-building - are all absent. This, however, can be a deal-breaker. Professional event planners have to realize that virtual events are here to stay (at least for some time) - and if they plan carefully, have an eye for detail, and go with a reliable event management platform - they can overcome all the challenges above.