The world presents us with new challenges every year. That might be adverse weather conditions, public safety disturbances, or as we are currently experiencing – a global health pandemic.

Thankfully, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel as lockdown restrictions begin to lift. We are becoming increasingly hopeful that autumn events can continue to be planned, albeit with tweaks here and there to ensure the safety of attendees.

But what if your event is sooner? What if you need to take your live event virtual in a matter of weeks or days?

It can most definitely be done and at scale too! Companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Adobe have transformed their summits and conferences into virtual success stories within a very short time period.

As long as you have a plan and a great events partner, you can take any event or conference and make it digital, while still creating an experience to remember for your delegates.

There is some work involved though and while your event can by flipped to virtual quickly, there is more to it that simply putting a camera in front of your speakers and switching on a Zoom call.

To convert a live event into a truly brilliant virtual or hybrid event, you should consider the following best practices…

1.Review Your Objectives

As discussed in this post about virtual event best practices everything you plan for your event should centre around its objectives.

Making your event virtual can mean you need to make some pretty big changes to the format, content and schedule of your event so it’s important to review your objectives before you do this.

Oftentimes your objectives won’t need to change at all when taking your live event virtual, but you might need to make changes in order to achieve those objectives.

For example, perhaps you were looking to launch a new product to your staff. You planned to show them exactly how it works and get feedback to help with further R&D.

For a live event a live Q+A might work well but online, this can easily turn into a free-for-all and is almost impossible to manage. In this case, you could consider using polling, voting or breaking out into smaller focus groups to get feedback.

Ultimately, your event objectives shouldn’t need to change but it is almost certain that your event structure will need to change in order for you to reach those all-important objectives.

2. Reconsider Your plan

Now that your attendees don’t need to travel anywhere to join your event, there might be some parts of your plan you wish to reconsider.

Taking your event online means you can open it up internationally which of course means you will need to look at optimum timings for your delegates that are in different time zones.

Equally, you don’t need to avoid rush hour arrivals or finishing at certain times. As your virtual event is likely shorter than the live one you had planned, you may also find that you’re able to schedule your event for a different day or time for optimum results.

A recent survey by Communique showed that Wednesdays were the most popular day to hold a virtual event with 12pm being the optimum time. As you probably know, this is quite different to the typical time you might look to hold a similar live event.

As always, everything should refer back to your objectives, what you want to get out of your event and who your event is aimed at.

3. Break Things Up

While taking your existing event content and simply delivering it via Zoom or similar technology is tempting, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

You may have planned for your live event to be spread across a whole day with the average presentation set to last for around 90 minutes to two hours.

In the digital world that just won’t wash. In fact, you’ll struggle to keep your audience’s attention for longer than 45 minutes at a time so you definitely need to consider breaking up your content and adding some more interactive elements.

As things start slowly to return to normal and event planners begin to use hybrid events as the new normal, segmenting content is still important to bear in mind. How attendees consume information is different in each environment, so when you have both an online and an in-person audience you need to cater to both to keep their attention.

Using voting systems and polls are a great way to keep your audience engaged while also gathering data on how your audience feels about your chosen topic. Using this information in your presentations can add an extra level of information as your audience can start to see how others’ opinions match up to theirs.

Equally, Q+As can be a brilliant way to tie presentations together or break up your content. Ask your attendees to submit their questions before your event via an online form or Twitter so you can field questions and ensure the most popular ones get answered.

Alternatively, you could ask for delegates to submit their questions live. This will of course mean the questions are based more around the content that has been covered but also means you have less control over which questions are answered. It’s recommended that you have an experienced events partner on hand to help you with this.

Using pre-recorded video amongst live presentations is also a brilliant way to break up your event while getting your message across quickly and effectively. Content like this works brilliantly for product launches, company announcements or brand strategies.

4. Host Your Event

This might sound obvious but often when you spend so much time planning and organising an event before re-planning to make it virtual, one of the key things that gets forgotten is actually hosting it!

Your opening speech/engagement will set the tone for the rest of your event and without a strong opening you’ll struggle to keep your audience engaged for its entirety. It’s a bit like laying the foundations for a house!

Your opener needs to be punchy, to the point and above all – engaging. I’ve been to virtual events in the past where hosts have been chatting about what they had for lunch that day, not even realising there were attendees present! It doesn’t bode well at all.

Pre-recording an opening video can be a brilliant way to open up a virtual or hybrid event. It means you can get your message across, keep your audience engaged and you don’t need to worry about getting tongue-tied or forgetting key points. You can deliver a perfect opening speech every single time!

Your speakers also need to be prepared to ‘host’ their sections of your event. Show some personality, use humour and even ask the audience rhetorical questions to get them thinking!

A common misconception is that because your speakers are behind a camera, they can get away with putting in less effort. In actuality, the pressure is on for them to create a memorable experience from their presentation alone. There won’t be fancy lighting and special effects to help them out here!

Again, this is where an experienced events partner can help. At UKSV we can coach you and your speakers to deliver outstanding presentations that your audience will remember and love. Talk to us about that here!

So, your event can be taken from live to virtual, or a mixture of both, in a matter of weeks or days when needed, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Consider these four steps when making the switch to ensure you get the most out of your event and are still able to meet your objectives.

UKSV are here to help you do just that. Our experienced team will support you with the everything from speaker coaching, digital support or planning your event from the ground up. We’re here to turn transform your wild ideas into an amazing reality.

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