When Does a Webinar Become a Virtual Event?

Chelsea Wilkinson
29 Sep 2016, 10:29:00

I have worked as a webcast event manager for several years, during that time I have created hundreds of different types of webcasts including a combination of audio, video, live and/or on demand formats. What I found most interesting, if not a little challenging at times, was making a webinar more than ‘just a webinar’. Quite often I have been asked - “What more can we do?” or “What other opportunities are available?” I would always reply with the same response “How long is a piece of string…?”

The truth is, with most webcasting platforms there are so many possibilities to reshape and reformat your webinars, what you need is the resources and time to put these together. During this exploration, what really stuck out to me were the possibilities in creating a virtual event.

For instance, have you ever wondered how you could turn your conference into a virtual event? You may be thinking is that even possible? Absolutely! In fact, some of the restrictions in creating conferences, like finding the right location, venue hire, catering and paying for their subsequent costs are non-existent when creating a virtual event; yet you still get the same benefits.

The opportunities for networking and attending various sessions are still very much apart of the experience. Furthermore, what a virtual event can offer that a conference cannot, is flexibility in getting key speakers to record their content and allowing your audience to attend at their convenience. This is just one of many examples of using a virtual event to distribute your content and engage with your market. 

Idea! Why not link an existing conference to a virtual event? Extend the life of your physical event by placing it online as well as offering exclusive content to on demand attendees, whilst also enlisting new viewers and enriching your ROI.

Continue reading below, for how to create a successful virtual event as well as a few things to consider for your virtual environment.

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How to create a successful virtual event

When it comes to producing a virtual event, you still need to put in the same amount of effort as you would when making any other event. Branding your environment and shaping the user experience is just as important as choosing the right venue. Having a support team in place will come in handy when it comes to these kind of considerations. Enlist the help of a project manager to oversee the completion of the event and ensuring each team member is aware of their roles and responsibilities during this process for the best results.

Time

One element in this process that can sometimes be underestimated, is leaving yourself enough time to produce the event. A virtual event takes considerably longer to put together than a standard webinar, as there are several considerations that need to be thought out and we want to make sure the event is created with the user in mind. The creation of the event itself is not the most time consuming part of the process, especially if you’re enlisting the services and expertise of a virtual event provider, but rather the pre-production and getting the content together does take a considerable amount of time.

First and foremost, content is king. Make sure you have a story and/or a purpose, you’ll be investing time and resources into creating this virtual event, so you’ll want your delegates to engage with the valuable content that you’ve put together. Only once you have established your key objectives and have a general outline of your content, can you really start to look at creating the event itself.

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An initial question you may ask is “What are the key takeaways you’d like your audience to have and what is the best way to achieve this?” Think about how you would like to navigate this environment if you were attending and then start to consider the elements needed to put this into place. A couple of key points to think about include:

Branding:

Does it look professional and is it clear to navigate? One of the many advantages to creating a virtual event are the branding opportunities, a virtual event is highly customisable with several opportunities to implement your own branding as well as various interactive tools. Try not to get too carried away, only use tools that are useful for your customer. Sometimes less is more.

Lot’s of individual session rooms:

A good virtual event will have several sessions, ideally a combination of pre-recorded and live sessions, launching over a period of a few hours or even days. These will typically be launched according to an agenda and should accompany a variety of other ‘rooms’. These can include but not limited to - a lobby, a networking room, an exhibition area and a resource library.

Tip! Keep the segments short, and offer breaks with chances to network.

If you're unsure on what is the best way to use these elements, always enlist the help of your provider. Your success is also theirs!

Next steps

Now you have these details in place and the event is being created, start marketing your event details well in advance of your launch date. Unlike buying a ticket to a physical event, there is less commitment to attend an online event, so go heavy on the marketing. A six week lead up is typically a good time to promote the event and a few reminders prior to the launch is a good way to ensure the registrations convert into attendees.

While your marketing is underway use this time to prepare your speakers and gather your content pieces together. Use this time to explore your virtual environment prior to launch and make sure everything is in place. 

Voila!

Your virtual event is ready for launch. On the day, let a team of expert event managers handle the distribution of your sessions, whilst you engage with the viewers. After you’ve finished, let your audience know it’ll be available for on demand viewing, for anyone who may have missed it or would like to review your stellar sessions again. Continue to engage your audiences after by adding some extra resources or a post event summary video, to get the most out of your audience engagement.

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