The Fatal Flaws of Virtual Eventsby Harry Prince, 15 February 2021
From refusing to use self-scan checkouts to calling someone when it could be a text, people find ways to resist automation in all walks of society. The events industry is no different.
We’ve come a long way from communicating by ravens. Even the miracle of the fax machine seems barbaric to us now. And though people like a personal touch, the number of virtual events has increased 1000% in the last year.
The events industry has no idea in which direction and just how much the virtual event concept will dictate the scene in years to come. But we do know it’s here to stay. 93% of event professionals say that they will invest in virtual events.
In light of this, we’ve compiled a guide to the common flaws of virtual events. Keep them in mind when planning your own. If you get it right, they can be really great!
What is a Virtual Event?
So what is a virtual event? Or, an iVent, as it’s known to some. Put simply, it’s a replication of physical meetings to the online theatre, existing within the event industry.
As long as you have a phone, a laptop, or a tablet – and access to the internet, of course – you can take part in global events from the comfort of your own home or office. Maybe even a plane, train, or automobile!
Virtual events still need to adhere to the same parameters of success as conventional conventions, though. They should entertain, educate, and engage your attendees.
There are four different kinds of virtual events: webinars, virtual conferences, internal hybrid events, and external hybrid events.
1. Webinars: Webinars generally last between 45 and 80 minutes. These are the least common type of virtual event, accounting for just 2% of all virtual events.
You’ll find that a lot of top marketers will use simulive webinar features. This allows them to record speeches or lectures first as well as interacting live.
Webinars allow people from all over the world to learn and participate, with more than one speaker presenting content. Companies can also charge for the privilege if it’s a coveted speaker.
It’s an alternative way to host Q&A sessions, and due to their one-off nature, they can be very well attended. But you’d better hope your attendee is interested in the topic because the drop off rate is high.
2. Virtual Conferences: Like real-life conferences, virtual conferences are built around a real-time, packed agenda of events. These are the most common virtual events, accounting for 43% of them!
Things like keynote speeches, workshops, breakout sessions, screenings, and others are available through tech-tools.
Though these conferences lack their counterparts’ networking capabilities, they allow attendees to pick and choose what is right for them while going about their day. During live conferences, you’ll usually see people killing time until the next thing.
3. Internal Hybrid Events: Internal Hybrid Events are useful in-house options for all manner of organisations: companies, town halls, department meetings, you name it.
If you have remote colleagues, it’s a great way to stay in touch and communicate important ideas or commands. It allows people to imbibe what they need while still getting on with their day.
That being said, it’s hard to cultivate good team spirit over a webcam. Luckily there are several hybrid event management platforms. Agorify is a good example of a service that is active in the event tech market. Their latest pivotal exhibitors features, truly embody the easy usage of the service.
4. External Hybrid Events: External Hybrid Events follow the same principle as Internal Hybrid Events, except they exist outside of internal organisations. As convenient as they might seem, it’s harder to network and chase leads than in person.
There are two common gripes about these events. Firstly, they are too long. Secondly, they can be too expensive for what feels like little in return.
We see that these gripes aren’t unheeded. Although 57% of virtual events last one day, sessions are usually between 4 to 6 hours. And for a stay-at-home event, it costs an average of €56 to register one attendee.
The World is Round
People bigging up virtual events are quick to tell you how global they are. But time differences can prove problematic.
We don’t mean to be cynical. The global reach of virtual meetings is a huge plus. But take into account what time it might be on the other side of the world when planning your event.
If it’s too early in the day or too late at night, you risk losing your attendees’ engagement.
Not to mention, language barriers could be accentuated due to the awkward nature of virtual communication.
You Need a Plan B
It’s tough to admit, but we’ve become quite dependent on technology. A technological failure on your big day could scupper the whole event. All of your virtual event ideas are precious. Protect them.
Usually, we’re sure most of your guests will be understanding. But it could leave a bitter taste if it has a knock-on effect on their schedule.
You can never tell when things will fail, but you can cover your bases by having a back-up plan. Assure your guests beforehand by letting them know what it is, should the worst happen.
And if fate comes for the back-up plan, then we’re not sure what to tell you… Plan C?
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Don’t Give Them a Chance to Get Bored
We’re not saying you should treat your audience like children. But we are saying that it is harder to engage people during virtual conferences than in real life. 61% of the time spent at a virtual conference is considered dwell time. That is far too long to leave your guests hanging.
First of all, body language is vital for human communication. That’s harder to articulate and decipher behind a webcam. So you need to compensate for that.
You can start by addressing people by their names when they ask questions and engage participants who have thus far been quiet. This makes everyone feel involved, and, if people think they’re a moment away from being asked something, they’re less likely to be looking at memes on Twitter.
The biggest criticisms of these events are that people miss meeting people, and they can feel like some sort of homework exercise. Engaging people by name, and asking them directly to participate with ideas, comments, or small talk will go a long way towards replicating the live meetings they yearn for.
There’s a famous rule that says only 7% of what you say is important for communicating. 38% comes from your tone, and 55% is communicated through your body language.
What we lose, in essence, is critical social cues. With no eye contact, it’s hard to pick up on them. This can lead to interruptions, reduced productivity, and unnatural conversation flows.
A trick to minimize this? Host a pleasantry session before you get down to business. Introduce and check-in with everyone so people can put names to faces and build familiarity.
Similarly, background noises can kill your online events. It’s the small, persistent noises that cut most in the end. The noises you don’t even notice until it’s already been driving you mad for 10 minutes. Remind that colleague to turn their microphone off.
Or invest in a virtual meeting solution. Then the awkward noises will be a thing of the past. The market is now teaming with quality products like iMeet®, which empower you with muting capabilities for the unaware disturbers of peace.
Whether you like it or not, virtual meetings have arrived, and are very much part of the event industry. Whether full-on or hybrid, virtual events can be good if done right.
And speaking of doing it right, you could give your next virtual event extra depth through the use of augmented reality. Check out our guide on what it is, and how to harness augmented reality.
That being said, their popularity is sure to fall away after the global pandemic retreats into history, and the real thing can reign once again!
Featured image: Fatal Flaws via unsplash
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