Long before Covid, the virtual was an original format full of promise. The Covid crisis only underlined the need to add a layer of virtual in the event industry.
So here is our feedback and best practices (and pitfalls to avoid) that we give to our customers, after having successfully accompanied hundreds of virtual events.
There are three axes that will guarantee the success of your virtual event: dynamism, animation, and interaction.
This article was written thanks to the wise advice of Félix, Head of Customer Success at Digitevent.
The habits to take for your virtual events :
Here are 5 good practices that we have identified in our projects of the past year:
1 - GET INSPIRED BY THOSE WHO DO IT BEST: TELEVISION
Television and radio, if you think about it, have become, after decades of perfecting this format, experts in entertainment and information. Able to keep your attention for hours in front of a screen, they give you insight on how to do it:
Create short programs: TV programs last between 20 minutes and 1.5 hours for the longest ones. The average is 45 minutes. This is also the type of length you should aim for when you want to tackle a subject, which can be a "capsule" of a longer program. The main thing is that, like on TV, you avoid making things last longer.
We tend to forget it, but a participant who wants to leave your event can do so very easily (with one click) and will not come back. You have to take into account that staying in front of a screen is exhausting and requires more attention capacity than in person.
2 - CREATE DYNAMISM, JUST BEFORE THE EVENT
Creating momentum even before the event is crucial to ensure a good start to the event. We mentioned earlier that the start of your virtual event is very important to set the tone and make your participants want to stay for the whole duration.
Therefore, if your digital event has a built-in chat module (we highly recommend it), having participants greet each other and create an exchange before the start of the event can only be beneficial for you.
This has two advantages:
- Spectators become active participants. They are no longer alone in front of their screens.
- This will make at ease the shyest participants who will dare to introduce themselves, exchange, and ask questions during the rest of the event, without necessarily having to appear on the video.
In order for this to work, you need a few initial messages to be exchanged. Sometimes it can be difficult for participants to take the first step. So try to request recurring participants to your events (often the most invested) to break the ice. Anticipate the risk (small, but still) of no participant opened to speak and encourage your own colleagues to give you a boost by coming into the chat.
3 - CREATE AND ENTERTAIN
The invitation to interact allows participants to feel like actors of your event, and to enjoy participating in it.
Several entertainment tips for your virtual events:
First of all, don't hesitate to play a background sound a few minutes before the beginning of your event. This allows your participants to adjust their volume, and to make them aware of the beginning of the event.
On the same train of ideas, use an ice-breaker, such as a word cloud poll where everyone will want to participate. A very good example:
Another important point: take breaks! No one will listen to your event all the way through if there are no breaks. If only for your speakers, give them time to catch their breath. Make breaks between programs (advertising during TV formats is a good example).
During the pause time, display a screen with the remaining pause time, like on this website.
If during your video conference, you want to randomly designate someone to speak on a subject or give his or her point of view, you can use the first name wheel.
4 - CREATE INTERACTION
Try to re-engage your audiences with a quiz, a survey, or anything else that requires them to do a little thinking or action, about every 10 to 15 minutes. The attention span of a human behind a screen is about 3 minutes, but if they actively perform an action, you can of course multiply this attention span. In any case, participants are more likely to follow what you say to them after participating in the discussion.
Another tip for animating your events, straight out of human nature: no one likes to be last. Take advantage of this competitive spirit and create quizzes, with directly integrated tools (see all the interaction possibilities offered by Digitevent here) or with external tools (like Kahoot or Mural).
Participants are always motivated by the desire to have the right answers. Allow sufficient reaction time for each question so as not to frustrate your audience.
You'll see, everyone gets caught up in the game eventually. The result is a kind of ping-pong between your speakers and the different answers from the audience, often with laughter, and a relaxed and very pleasant atmosphere for all participants.
5 - MASTER THE ANTICIPATION AND DEVELOP YOUR PROGRAM IN ALL SERENITY
Preparation is a crucial step in any event.
If one of your speakers is in a room that resonates at the time of the event, the sound quality will be poor. Be sure to check the actual recording conditions (because resonance, for example, cannot be heard over the phone), the absence of feedback, and any other technical problems.
Be sure to ask the speakers not to change microphones at the last moment, not to plug in headphones (which could cause an automatic microphone change), and to be as consistent as possible with the rehearsals.
Starting to set up well in advance also greatly reduces the risk. We recommend being ready and operational one hour before the event start time. For phygital or hybrid events, this will help relax the speakers, the control room, and the entire recording studio.
Technical difficulties with hardware and software (hardware or browsers used) may also prevent your participants from following your event properly. Don't hesitate to call a technical on-call service by phone or chat module, so that your participants are not left behind.
If several of your speakers are located and filmed in the same place, ask for the help of a provider specialized in video capture to get a professional rendering. Video capture and production is a profession in its own right. The virtual is a relatively new format, so it is normal to fall into a few pitfalls at first.
Finally, always privilege quality over duration, and avoid keeping certain habits that will serve you badly.
By the way, speaking of those habits that will not serve you well...
Habits to lose at your next virtual events
On the contrary, certain habits of the "traditional" event are to be banished when it is virtual.
Here are some examples:
1 - WANTING TO TRANSPOSE A PHYSICAL EVENT INTO A VIRTUAL ONE
8:30 > 9:00 = Coffee and meetings
9h > 10h = Introduction of speakers and presentation
10:00 am > 10:30 am = Question and answer session
This type of program, rather usual in face-to-face, is absolutely to be banned in virtual events. The reason is simple: it gives no dynamism, no impact at the beginning of your digital event, we do not enter directly into the heart of the matter. It is therefore highly likely that participants will quickly leave your virtual event if it has this type of program.
In the "physical" event we were used to, the most difficult step was to get the participants to come to the event. The opposite is true for virtual events: the hardest part is to keep your audience there throughout the event.
You will therefore have to rethink the objective of your events: a virtual event must have a much more relevant content than a physical one to "compensate" for this lack of contact.
In short: Rethink your experience by taking into account your medium (the medium is the way your audience receives information).
2 - THINK THAT THERE WILL BE FEWER PARTICIPANTS BECAUSE OF THE VIRTUAL FORMAT
You should approach the virtual event as a challenge, with enthusiasm. Even as a novelty.
You have a unique chance to be creative and bring a lot of value to your prospects, seize it!
If you don't believe in it yourself, you will perform all the preparation tasks out of necessity and not out of envy. This will have the effect, in a kind of vicious circle, of curbing your creativity and your ability to create an event experience that stands out.
Show why your virtual event will be attractive, what the immediate benefits will be for your participants. Prove that you will bring value by showcasing your speakers and applying best practices to increase your participation rate.
The most successful events are those that are thought with the will to propose less, but to propose better... Without falling into the aforementioned shortcomings.
The virtual or hybrid event are complex formats to apprehend, which require a different rigor and technical specificities more complex than a physical event. As you don't master the subject well at the beginning, it will require more effort the first times (like when you get on a bike for the first time)...
Don't worry, you will improve over time.
We hope that this non-exhaustive list will have helped you to see more clearly in the organization of your next virtual and hybrid events.
PS: If you want to know more about virtual events, we have created a 17-page ebook on the subject :)