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Think fast and pivot! How to turn your next event into a virtual event

Posted by Michele Rogers on August 5, 2020 at 9:32 AM

Ross, Rachel and Chandler from Friends moving the couch

You’ve been working for months planning a magical in-person event, but the unexpected check-in of the COVID attendee has left you with big decisions – do you cancel your event or pivot into the virtual world of eventing?

Coronavirus has taken the event industry by storm leaving corporates and disorientated event professionals with the question of whether to cancel their events or do as the new buzz word in the industry suggests…. pivot into the world of virtual events

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of something that none of us have experienced before… and it looks to be the way that the industry will be for some time to come. Leaders across organisations understand the power of having an event touch point—whether in-person or virtual—as part of their larger marketing plan.

Developing your virtual event strategy

Our mindset around conferences and events is that of the “good old days” when we boarded a plane and prepared for a programme jam packed with keynote speakers, breakout sessions, networking events and entertainment. The value of face-to-face interaction will never go away, but now is the time when going virtual is a necessary part of your event strategy.

Laptop and smartphone launching the Zoom app

Case study: how Penquin took the Suzuki S-Presso launch digital in two days

On Sunday 15 March, President Ramaphosa announced that due to the increase in COVID infections there would be a ban on social gatherings of more than 50 people. The Penquin events team was at the time in Cape Town for the much-anticipated Media and Dealer launch of the new Suzuki S-Presso. 

The event was due to go live the following morning and guests were in the midst of checking into the hotel. After an emergency pow-wow with the client, a decision was made to take the event online.  Time however was not on their side with global launch dates set in stone! Behold - within 48 hours the event was live across all the Suzuki social media platforms. The event was a huge success, the ROI was higher than the in-person event would’ve delivered. Happy client! 

Accepting and adapting to the “new normal”

Veronica Wainstein, Penquin’s powerful Managing Director spoke live on Expresso Breakfast show about how our AWESOME agency has adapted to the new normal.

Like any event it is important to first and foremost to fully understand the objectives behind hosting the event. Here are a few guiding questions you may wish to answer: 

  • What kind of experience do I want the attendees to have – in other words why are you hosting this event? 
  • Is there a theme for this event? 
  • Where are your attendees located? This may not seem like an important factor to consider but at times some of the attendees may be located in areas with no WI-FI access. 
  • Do they have access to the event platform you are choosing to use?  
  • What kind of schedule does your virtual event follow? Is it the same or different from the traditional event?

The benefits of virtual events

The advantages of virtual events are plenty and often far outweigh those of an in-person event. These include:

  • wider audience reach
  • increased brand visibility
  • on demand event content
  • enhanced community engagement
  • reduced event production costs 
  • post event analytic and reporting stats

Pro tip to spice up your virtual events

Better yet, with the saving on production elements, one can rather look at adding little snippets of magic into the virtual event. Our recommendations would include virtual catering in the form of a gourmet box delivered to the attendee or a virtual UBER eats voucher, virtual gift vouchers or amplify your programme with a high-profile entertainer you would not usually be able to afford.

Boosting your virtual event engagement rate

The biggest challenge for many lies in the engagement factor. How do you ensure attendees are engaged and driven to participate? The answer is audience participation. This is a fundamental part of making a virtual event valuable. Invite attendees to participate throughout by using live polls and Q&A sessions. This will keep their attention and prevent them from clicking away, 

Based on the above objectives one can begin to draw up an event framework. The success of any virtual event lies in four key building blocks that compliment each other: Quality content, High production value, Human connection and the 4P strategy. 

Here are some helpful tips and tricks to assist with building your virtual event framework: 

Content is King

Content is king, and context is queen. Think about how the story flows – there should be a clear beginning, middle and end to your presentations. 

Production value

A high quality style production is a huge engagement factor, and this applies to both presentations and videos. Important elements to pay attention to is good quality lighting, good sound, animations between presenters, varying camera shots and visually appealing presentations. Presentations can be pre-recorded to allow for an aesthetically pleasing background, eliminate any technical glitches and you may find will allow for more relaxed presenters.

Human Connection

This is huge. It is as simple as using features such as Q&A with speakers, instant polling, breakout rooms and virtual networking rooms. Make your attendees feel like they have been heard and part of the event. 

The 4 P strategy

Define your Priorities, Make a Plan, Find the right People and then determine your Platform

    1. Priorities: when looking at event scope and the current limitations on hand you need to weigh up “what wows” and “what works” by asking yourself which elements are the “need to haves” and the “nice to haves”. 

    2. Plan: You have to think of the entire event from your attendee’s perspective. Sculpt the experience by focusing on every touchpoint an attendee will have from start to finish. To ensure that your well planned out programme runs smoothly hire a professional host to run the event, connect with the attendees and assist with smooth transitions between the various sessions. 

    3. People: A virtual events team is going to look very different to an in-person events team. This team needs to be comfortable within the virtual event space and have a good knowledge of elements such as television production, script writing, digital marketing and online entertainment.

    4. Platform: There are tons of platforms out there. The right platform is highly dependent on your priorities. Be prepared to test, test and test again. Think about internet bandwidth. Nobody wants the “please wait” loading message in the midst of a live event. Most importantly use a platform that you understand and have played around on to ensure you are fully aware of the functionalities and can make the best of the features. Our team at Penquin highly recommend the Microsoft Teams and Teams Live platform. It has incredible features and most importantly it is easily accessible.

The above is just a tip of the iceberg, so to make your planning seamless download our complimentary virtual event checklist:

Click here to download our Ultimate Guide to Hosting Virtual Events

At the end of the day planning a virtual event requires the same attention to detail that drives the planning for any traditional event. So, as you consider pivoting to a virtual event, do the necessary to ensure you identify and develop your virtual event strategy, have the proper technology infrastructure in place and be fully prepared. 

Better yet, why not contact Penquin and appoint our experienced event team to assist you in delivering an engaging, informative experience that attendees will remember for a long time to come. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Topics: Strategy, Events

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