April 8, 2020

5 must-ask questions before you take your event virtual

Daniella Siebert

In the upheaval of COVID-19, every business is pivoting. The experiential world has been hit especially hard, with what seems like every 2020 event, big or small, being canceled or postponed.

When it comes to experiences, how do we find safe and effective alternatives to in-person events?

It’s tempting to immediately rally the troops to take everything online, but not every event lends itself to a virtual experience. For example, a continuing education seminar could readily shift to a livestream or webinar, but a hands-on workshop might not transition as easily.

So, before you start researching the latest live-streaming platform to transform your in-person plan into an online experience, hit pause and ask yourself these five questions.

1. Can my content or activities translate to a virtual experience? Make a list of, at minimum, your core content and any in-person activities you were planning. It might seem like a no-brainer to turn your PowerPoints into on-screen presentations and simply pre-record your keynote, but not all activities can shift smoothly. If not, can they evolve? You need a clear and compelling story to keep the virtual audience engaged.

2. Do I have the technology to deliver a seamless experience for my audience? Consider the size of your audience. Do you need to upgrade your tech to support thousands of attendees? Also consider what tech your audience has at their disposal. Will they already have what they need in order to get the most out of your experience?

3. What is my audience’s comfort level with attending a virtual event? If it is low, what can you do to help them feel more comfortable? Communicate more, earlier and often? Offer troubleshooting tips or pre-event trial support?

4. Can an online experience still deliver on my event’s goals? While your instinct might be to head straight to Amazon for a new web cam, it’s worth asking how moving to an online platform will deliver on your goals. Do they need to pivot? While most events can translate onto a digital platform, consider if there’s a critical experience that could be lost by not being physically together. In some cases, your time might be better served by refocusing your efforts on future in-person events. 

5. Do you have the internal resources to manage this shift in technology and content? Look at your content list again. Now add anything physical, like brochures, agendas and other handouts, that would typically be printed. While it might be possible to shift each of these to a digital format, does your team have the bandwidth? If not, do you have partners to support you?

Your first five steps to taking your event virtual

If you are ready to make the shift to an online event, start with these five steps.

1.Reassess your goals. Plan your event strategy and logistics according to these new goals. Your goals can scale based on your event‘s new direction. For example, what was a ticket sales goal can shift to views and registrations. Now that you aren’t limited by venue and budget, what could only be 1,000 people in a ballroom could now be 10,000. Or, can you further segment attendees in a way that wasn’t possible before? 

2. Gauge your audience’s comfort level. Reach out to your audience (or a sample of your audience) and gauge their comfort and desire for an online experience. For example, understand what technology they have access to or when in the day is optimal to tune in.

3. Determine your format. Will you pre-record, live stream, animate or do a combination? Your format will directly impact your audience experience; tailor it to your attendees and your content.

4. Take stock of all your content and promos. Take another look at your list of assets. Will handouts need to be turned into PDF downloads? Will keynotes need to be pre-recorded? Will physical giveaways need to become gift cards or free online memberships?

5. Find the right partner. Your team is stepping into brand new territory. Consider how your people and your brand will benefit from a fresh set of eyes and new perspective.

Through these unprecedented times, brands still need to reach audiences through engaging and interactive experiences. If you need a partner to help plan, create and implement an experience that immerses audiences in your brand and makes a lasting tangible impression, reach out to the treetree team.