How do you create a meaningful and unique “virtual” event ?

The current pandemic is a scary time for experiential and events agencies – and the brands that rely on them. Even though a lot of agencies claim to be able to offer amazing virtual experiences in place of public gatherings, the brutal truth is that most cannot, or are feeling their way, at best.

At ACA Live, we’ve taken a step back. We’re currently researching and learning best practice for running virtual events and seeking out the best partners – because clients want to be able to maintain the energy and interpersonal connectivity that only events can bring.

And with that in mind, we’ve given some thought to what brands need to consider when it comes to running virtual events in the short – and perhaps medium – term:

Approach the strategy like a live event

You need to create something unique that differentiates your experience from the thousands of others out there, but the fundamentals are the same whether your performers, speakers or other key elements are on a stage or a screen. Who are your audience? What is the message? Once the content is established, only then do you look for the most appropriate platform to use.

Be prepared for a challenged brief

Many clients may not have experience with virtual events, so a good agency will be ready to push back and look at the brief through a different lens. People behave differently online than in a crowd.

Virtual events can easily lose the human connection that’s one of the best benefits of live events. To mitigate that, how will you keep the event engaging and get the audience involved?

Avoid streaming fatigue

Taking the routine option won’t work once the novelty has worn off. People who have happily done pub quizzes every week on Zoom are bored of them now.

You can’t just replicate something and expect it to have legs longer term, so try to figure out an offering that still has the energy and impact of in-person experiences. Live streaming needs to be used in a meaningful way throughout the event, not be the beginning and end.

Structure and production values matter

Whether it’s a keynote, a learning session, a product demo, deeply interactive content or the destination, it’s critical to provide flawless execution that captures attention and engages the audience. You can also add value with on-demand content to keep people coming back. 

Also, a virtual event isn’t just about going live and talking. It needs a structure and to be curated to deliver a great attendee experience. Examine in detail how to include interactivity and make it two-way with chats, polls and Q&As to help your attendees connect with speakers. 

Take notes from broadcast

In some ways, virtual events are like TV shows – and there’s already been discussion that post-lockdown we’ll see more of these ‘hybrid’ events. While it’s an extremely fragmented space, the fact remains that brands will need to consider and enact elements of broadcast into their event plans to ensure reach and, in many cases, substantiate ROI.

Take advantage of the measurement opportunity

Speaking of ROI, many metrics of event success are easier to measure when the event is virtual. It’s like an event app that covers every attendee and tracks every behaviour. For example, alert checkers can see who is active on the stream, as opposed to those who’ve left their device open and walked away. This can give excellent engagement statistics.

Know what you want

But perhaps most importantly, think of virtual events as another weapon in the arsenal. Done right, they can deliver impressive results – and they’re likely to remain with us for some time as lockdown eases.

If you’re interested in learning more about what ACA Live has learnt and are doing, please get in touch with us at hello@acalive.co.uk. Virtual events may not be able to replicate the emotional electricity of a live experience, but they’re a valuable tool for reaching people who are often stuck at home and yearning for connection.