During the COVID-19 lockdown, many of us (if not all) had to transfer our work, social encounters, and events to the virtual sphere. This trend continued to this day even though the lockdown is over and the pandemic is slowly staying behind us. Digital technologies have opened the door to an abundance of options for individuals, businesses, and organizations to reach people all over the world.
However, no other form of virtual gathering has received more attention than a virtual event. It is a way for an event to take place completely online instead of in person. For example, it can be a yoga class or something bigger, like a conference you are attending from your living room. To better understand the idea behind it, we have prepared a guide to virtual events and how they work you can use to organize or attend one.
Types of virtual events
Virtual events differ from one another by program, the number of attendees, topic, and many other things that would apply if held in the real world too. Because of this, there are many types of virtual events, the most common ones being:
- Webinars — this is an online seminar that has one or more lecturers addressing certain topic(s) in front of an audience. The purpose is to educate and the audience is invited to participate using emojis, chat, question tab, and other available features. Attendees can join from anywhere in the world if they paid for participation or were invited to attend.
- Virtual conferences — this type of virtual event has speakers that deliver keynotes and is divided into sessions over one or more days. Unfortunately, it lacks what the in-person conference prides itself on and that’s networking, although attendees can interact virtually.
- Live streams — while it can be said that all virtual events can be considered live streams, this type does deserve a separate mention. A live stream is an event that can be as big as launching a rocket to the Moon or as small as an influencer talking about a new product in real-time. The audience can chat among themselves but they can also ask questions to the event host.
- Hybrid events — when an event is simultaneously taking place in person and is streamed live it’s called a hybrid event. This is common practice with live shows, concerts, sports tournaments, and other live audience events.
- Virtual expos — a virtual exhibition is a way to hold presentations to an online audience regardless of where they are. The event is divided into rooms and attendees are free to roam between them and watch exhibitions.
Besides live broadcasts, each type can be available online for download or viewing. Certain events, like virtual conferences and webinars, are best left to the event management companies due to their complexity and scope. Since they rely on attendees from all over the world, it’s important to make sure that internet connection, software, and tech support are of the highest quality.
Reasons to host a virtual event
It all comes down to a clash of convenience and habit. In-person events are gatherings that everyone is used to and is expecting. On the other hand, virtual events are more convenient and more inclusive, bringing together people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend for various reasons. If you are not sure which one to host, think of the following reasons to have a virtual event:
- Lower expenses — in-person event depends on leasing a venue, organizing refreshments, preparing printed materials, renting audio and visual tech, hiring people to help with organization, decorating, etc. You can organize virtual events for smaller happenings and save money for bigger ones to be hosted in person.
- Accessible to all— it doesn’t matter where your attendees live since they can join the virtual event from any part of the world. This includes people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend due to financial limitations, restricted mobility, or inability to take days off work, for example.
- Data tracking — you can review the recordings, chats, reactions, and engagement during and after the virtual event. Software used for virtual events allows you to measure certain aspects that could help you understand your audience and improve the hosting of the next event.
- Flexibility — the virtual event offers the freedom to host it under your terms. This means you can have a larger audience, spend more money on fancy lecturers, or start the event at odd hours.
Creating content and hiring speakers
Virtual events may seem almost the same as their in-person counterpart, but the truth is that they differ in key aspects. Things that worked for in-person events may not necessarily have the same effect in the virtual environment.
In particular, you may need to adjust the content to keep attendees’ attention. Consider using videos, graphics, presentations, and other interactive resources to create engaging content that the audience can download before the event and use during the sessions.
However, captivating content needs equally interesting speakers that can keep your audience entertained and focused. Since your audience is most likely at home or any other spot where they are relaxed and comfortable, you need to make sure they are not tempted to leave.
A good speaker can motivate your audience to participate and interact, as well as prepare questions for the Q&A session. Moreover, attendees are more likely to apply for the next virtual event you host and leave positive reviews if the speaker and content were exciting and inspirational.
The bottom line
This guide provides basic insights into virtual events and how they work which you can use to create the best version for your audience. While being cost-effective makes them more attractive to organize, virtual gatherings come with several challenges. Namely, you may have to be more entertaining and engaging, so your attendees don’t lose interest.
Also, you need to make sure that the tech and software you are using don’t glitch and work perfectly. But in the end, hosting a virtual event is more inclusive and a better option if you want to reach more people from different parts of the world.