virtualevents2022

Top 10 Types of Virtual Events to Host in 2022

Virtual events can be challenging. They require a different mindset, strategy, and logistics. Discover the most popular formats of virtual events, their benefits, and best practices and let us guide you through the ins and outs of organizing and hosting virtual events, starting with the different types of events. We like to say that humanity takes centerstage at virtual events. It’s important to know what those stages can look like.

What Are Virtual Events?

Gone are the days when we define a virtual event as the online version of a physical event. Now we are on track to seeing physical versions of virtual events. Indeed virtual has a life and culture of its own. From a planning perspective, there are many intuitive differences between in-person and virtual events. Only one has a travel & lodging budget, for example.

But two areas where planners invest most in virtual events are technology (often in the form of an all-in-one event platform) and production (the quality of produced video & other storytelling media; connectivity & seamlessness). Virtual experiences don’t have to mirror in-person ones to be memorable. They must only make sense within the world that they inhabit. Of course, most of us want to do more than just make sense. We want to excel, to be best-in-class. Any conversation about what that looks like will include production and platform/technology, very prominently.

True, physical events have aspects that cannot be replicated with all the production and technology in the world. But virtual events tune in to a medium that society has already internalized. The digital space is one with social habits, patterns, wearable devices, behaviors and norms. Virtual events evolved in this microcosm. 

The COVID pandemic was a catalyst for virtual events. In-person events were put on ice. But virtual events blossomed in a perfect storm with innovation and chance. Technology advanced. Creativity flourished. Movements were born and history was made.

Humanity inhabits two spaces. The physical and virtual. Why keep your sights on one just as the other takes flight? It’s not about Zoom fatigue. It’s about shared experiences from different parts of the world. Uniquely experienced. It’s about feeling the dignity, humor and purpose of a moment. And it’s worth it.

Types of Virtual Events

IIDA NC’s Pioneers in Design: Liz Ogbu (2021)

Webinars

Webinars are among the most popular virtual event types. They are applicable for every industry. Webinars are typically held as presentations or as virtual team meetings in real-time. 

To encourage attendee engagement, webinar hosts typically use Q&A sessions or polls. This and other audience data like view times, chat engagements and activity participation make webinars highly valuable resources for community engagement. In fact, many organizations have learned things about their donors, supporters and customers from webinars alone.

Webinars are also cheap and easy to self-produce. But the more that people discover the marketing potential of recorded webinar content, the more likely they are to increase their investment on production.

NARAL Activist Summit (2020)

Virtual Conferences

Virtual conferences aim to replicate the multi-dimensional format of in-person conferences, so hosts need a virtual event platform that can handle sessions in various formats as well as increased interactivity. Like a physical conference, an online conference also features main stages, simultaneous break-out rooms, networking opportunities, vendor areas, and contests. Real-time functionality (text/video chat; social activities) has greater importance in conferences, as attendees go there to network as much as anything. 

LAEP’s Transform Education for Black Lives: Turning Knowledge into Action from Diapers to Diploma (2021)

Virtual Summits

Compared to online conferences, virtual summits typically feature a single host or moderator who’s responsible for guiding conversations between interviewees, guest speakers, keynote speakers, and panelists. The focus of summits is a singular message and a call to action. Having this focused goal means that it’s best to use a virtual platform with fewer interactive features than the one typically used for virtual conferences. 

A well-financed virtual summit might invest a greater portion of its budget in video production — pre-recorded and live stream. These video assets become invaluable in keeping audiences engaged after the event.

Buffalo Urban League’s Gala (2021)

Virtual Fundraisers & Galas

Virtual fundraising events & galas have already carved out a distinct role in virtual events. Throwing a formal party for a good cause is a great excuse for attendees to dress up, even if they’re not leaving the house. They provide a welcome break from the monotony of yoga pants and hoodies known all too well under quarantine. 

Since galas usually coincide with year-end holidays, they beg the opportunity for virtual swag like gourmet chocolates or a bottle of wine, or even something they interact with during the event. They can enjoy these gifts during the virtual gala, helping them feel that they are a part of something special.

Other fundraising activities that you can host online include virtual auctions, raffles, and exclusive film screenings, to name a few. The great thing about hosting these in the virtual space is that there is no limit to the number of events you can host. When you’re engaging with your supporters and donors more continuously in this way, you can hone and test creative calls to action. You will learn what moves your audience, and know when to ask vs. avoid donor fatigue.

SBC Digital Summit (2020)

Virtual Expos & Trade Shows

Virtual iterations of expos and trade shows shine a spotlight on the businesses and investors who participate in these events. They also create ecosystems to engage with consumers, exhibit their innovations and gain exposure to media. With the right platform, virtual attendees can connect with the exhibitors and companies, which achieves the event’s goal. 

Among the most popular expos and trade shows in the past year include the SBC Digital Summit. The event generated a lot of excitement because they featured an advanced digital platform which allowed them to create an immersive experience for over 10,000 attendees. Guests were able to explore the virtual venue which came complete with a 3D auditorium, breakout rooms, lobby, networking lounge, and exhibition booths.

Soul Talk with Wura’s Rephidim: The Lord is My Banner (2020)

Podcasts & Internet Radio

Podcasts and internet radio are not always lumped in with virtual events, but they’re not unlikely cousins. Radio program production spans so many of the same areas as its virtual event counterpart. It involves mixing audio sources, switching, connection bandwidth & speed, to name a few parallels. Organizations with a history in radio program production are usually a stride ahead of their competitors on honing their message. Working in radio forces you to look at your message and listen to yourself daily. For these reasons, people with radio production experience can adapt to virtual event production very quickly. 

Radio production is also friendly to novices with a willingness & luxury to learn. It allows producers to experiment with different formats without the entanglement of most design processes.

Some podcasts already have a huge following as the format allows for on-demand listening to a wide range of audio content. If you have an existing webcast or webinar, you can repurpose the audio on those formats and make it available to your target audience as a podcast that they can download and listen to at a convenient time.

IAHV’s To India With Love: Help India Breathe Again (2021)

Virtual Music Festivals & Concerts

Music festivals and concerts are known for their electrifying energy. Virtual alternatives to live music experiences may never fully compare. But some aspects happen to succeed in the virtual space, and festivals around the world are adapting to these. This is not just because virtual implies an “endless venue.” Festival planners around the world are now focusing on the community-building potential of virtual festivals and concerts. Workshops, break-out sessions, virtual craft kiosks, mini courses in hula hooping or banjo picking. It’s almost as if the industry has decided to have more fun with the things that used to be periphery distractions. 

An example is Tomorrowland 2020, the ultimate music festival for lovers of techno and electronica. While previous in-person iterations of the event garnered a hundred thousand attendees, the virtual version attracted over a million music lovers. This smashing success is proof that there is a viable future for virtual music festivals and concerts.

Virtual Fitness Classes

To say that the pandemic forced gyms into extinction and fitness lovers back to their Richard Simmons tapes would be untrue, mostly. Virtual fitness classes and clubs thrived and evolved in recent years. They were well on their way in that direction well before the pandemic. Wearable fitness technology and in-home systems like the Peloton were developing their own community niches. Social media influencers had well-established audiences in their lifestyle, nutritional and activity/athletic specialties. 

Many people are attracted to virtual fitness classes because they offer an energy that one cannot experience alone. It gives a sense of community, even if only through a screen. From yoga, to spinning, to cross-training, as long as you have access to a good video chat platform, virtual fitness classes can be just as engaging—and a lot less self-conscious—as working out in fitness studios.

Speed Networking

Speed networking is a structured engagement that allows participants to meet as many people as possible in a short amount of time. These concise, structured meetings happen one-on-one to allow individuals to briefly exchange information and reactions. After the session, participants can decide with whom they want to follow up. Given what it is, speed networking serves as a tactic or segment within a larger event, like a conference. They are usually scheduled to help diversify the event’s agenda of heavier or more substantial topics. It’s a great way to meet potential business contacts, clients, jobs, or leads without enduring the awkwardness typical at in-person networking events. 

GitLab’s Virtual Commit (2021)

Masterclasses, Workshops & Remote Learning

The spectrum of event types that falls within the remote learning category is a broad one. For some, “remote learning” and “online classes” conjures the image of a faceless, impersonal experience. Something created as a means to an end. Compare this with Chef Gordon Ramsay, in a pristine, chromey studio kitchen teaching people how to break down a whole chicken in his “Cooking 1” session on MasterClass.com. The class includes a biographical mini-documentary about Ramsay’s journey to becoming a chef.

It might be an overkill for a community college to invest this level of production on one of its adjunct faculty. Not everyone is Gordon Ramsay. But the point is that production value goes a long way. 

What Are Some Virtual Event Ideas?

With these event types defined, here are some ideas and tips that will help your event stand out: 

Understand your audience

Virtual swag or gift bags are an eco-friendly way to brighten each event attendees’ day. This is your chance to increase awareness of your brand, organization, or cause without adding to the clutter in event participants’ homes.

Depending on your goal for the event, you can put together a free ebook, coupons, vouchers, or access to a free trial of software. You can send these to each of the attendees via email before, during, or after the event. 

Build an immersive virtual environment

One of the best things about attending an in-person event is experiencing the event’s ambiance. You can adapt that experience to your virtual event by building an immersive virtual venue. There are a wide range of event platform functionalities that can be built around and added to that venue.

For example, when the International Foundation for Electoral Systems held its Virtual US Election Program 2020, the event lobby linked out to a separate online platform that powered a photo and video contest. At the AFL-CIO’s MLK Human Rights Conference in 2021, attendees were able to exit the main stage and engage in one-on-one or group chat with fellow union members. These are just two of many examples, but the possibilities are endless. 

Invest in speaker & moderator talent

The venue and vibe of a virtual event is worth nothing if it cannot deliver on its message and content. Your hosts, moderators, and speakers need to be able to deliver their message clearly and be as engaging as possible. This ensures that you have your attendees’ attention in an environment where it’s so easy to get distracted. When looking for talent, you need to look for people who can own the virtual room and connect through the screen. For example, a nonprofit organization that tackles political issues might consider hiring a like-minded network news political commentator who shares that organization’s political beliefs. 

Feature well-produced, on-demand content

People usually think of pre-recorded video as a component of a virtual event’s day-of production. It’s a convenient way of integrating speakers whose schedules conflict with the live stream sessions. Pre-recorded video can also be used for promotion and made available to select individuals, like early registrants, donors or repeat customers. Furthermore, pre-recording ensures that you don’t have to deal with technical difficulties, such as connectivity issues.

Why Should You Host Virtual Events Now?

The COVID pandemic disrupted many industries and services, but society never lost cause or purpose. It took on new forms and found new pathways thanks in no small part to virtual events. 

Virtual events are also quickly becoming an integral element of an organization’s marketing arsenal. For businesses and nonprofits that have been able to scale their production, virtual events have earned a place alongside social media and email marketing. It’s one of the best ways to help your organization or brand achieve its goals without incurring high financial or logistical burdens.

In a post-pandemic world, in-person events or hybrid events may resume. However, virtual events are more accessible to more people. Brands and organizations will continue to rely on virtual events to address future concerns, ranging from reach to accessibility and budget constraints.

Best Practices for Hosting a Virtual Event

In 2020 alone, popular ticketing platform Eventbrite reported hosting over one million online events. This means that curating a unique experience that’s perfect for your target audience is vital. Below, we outline some tips and best practices that can help you elevate your next virtual event. 

Be relevant

Hosting a virtual event that doesn’t capture your target audience is a waste of time and resources. You must, first and foremost, create an event that grabs your target audience’s attention. The best way to do this is by ensuring that you deliver useful content for your potential as well as existing customers/supporters. Every decision that is made along the production timeline, from logo design to platform add-ons, should be in the service of your target audience. 

Choose the right platform

Your virtual event platform is the vessel that delivers your content. Not only should it be equipped with the design and functionality that your audience needs, but it should be a right-sized solution to the occasion. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to overinvest in video production than in platform. With the former, you at least have a reusable marketing asset (the video). Conduct whatever research you may, but know that production partners like ourselves have a deep knowledge base on platforms. 

The right ticket price

Although online events have fewer overhead costs than in-person events, don’t undervalue the experience you’re providing. Ticket prices for online events vary depending on the industry, so looking at how others in your field price their tickets is a good strategy. If you’re hosting a virtual fundraiser, you can opt for sliding scale or donation-based pricing so that more people can attend and you can hit your goal faster. 

Employ targeted marketing tactics

The beauty of doing events online is that you can refine your marketing strategy to reach more of the right people. You can install tracking pixels in your website so you can offer information to tailor-fit to a potential customer or target virtual event attendees. Make sure to include boosted social media or online marketing at least a week before your event. This taps into the scarcity mindset that pushes most people to purchase things. 

Surround yourself with the right people

An excellent plan alone does not mean that your virtual event will be successful. You also need help from the right team. At We & Goliath, we combine smart strategy with innovative technology to create memorable virtual experiences. We have a team of expert consultants that can help you realize your dream virtual event. 

Keep the conversation going even after the event

Planning for ways to keep your event, organization, or brand at the top of your target audience’s mind is equally important. You can keep the virtual conversation going by repurposing content from your online event. You can upload highlight clips to your social media pages and create new content based on that event. The possibilities are endless. 

How do You Make a Virtual Event Fun?

Making a virtual event fun is not simply about including certain activities, although that helps when done in a way that is thoughtful to your audience. Hosting a fun virtual event is all about keeping all the elements in balance, such as content for virtual events, type of virtual event, platform choice, contingency plan for technical issues, getting the right talents, and employing a targeted digital marketing strategy, among others.

If you’re ready to host a fun and memorable virtual event, schedule a free consultation with us today

tnvemb

The NEW Virtual Event Management Basics

Live events are making a comeback in a HUGE way, and they’re not looking to stop anytime soon. At the start of the pandemic, all of us in every corner of the events industry had to make a quick left turn to keep things moving, and we learned a lot along the way. Now that people are craving location-based events more than ever, how do we continue to leverage virtual meeting platforms to keep our attendees engaged and excited? How do we keep virtual events enticing? And which best virtual event management practices can we use to bridge between online and in-person? 

How to Empower Your Virtual Event

One of the easiest ways to launch your virtual event to the next level is by hiring a virtual event company. Preferably one with a digital marketing background, because they know how audiences think and behave in digital spaces. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure they have a history with live events, too, so they have the best grasp of both sides of the coin. Yes, that describes We & Goliath and might be self-promotional, but that’s the kind of agency we would hire if we were in a client’s shoes.

Whoever you hire, make sure they are imparting knowledge to you and your team. You should walk out of your first engagement with a noticeably expanded literacy in virtual event production. At its most basic, this should include a clear understanding of the virtual event platform you’ll be using and why.

Whether for a webinar, conference, virtual exhibition, or virtual festival, virtual event planning follows a similar pattern as in-person event planning. However, some of the variables might change.

If you decide to hire a virtual event company, you can expect a close relationship with your account executive or project manager—or both. Since “close” does not necessarily imply “good,” try to meet & assess the would-be point of contact for your production agency. Make sure they’re someone with whom you could see yourself working.

This individual will be overseeing and executing plans on the event’s day, and will likely have a hand in coordinating directly with speakers, attendees, sponsors and exhibitors. Virtual event management involves meticulous planning of the overall event and individual sessions to focus on sustainable and positive ways to increase social media integration and audience engagement. This ensures that your virtual event will be successful and have greater mileage.

Besides this point of contact (AE/PM), you should also expect to have a strategist assigned to your event. They are responsible for the bigger picture of production (e.g., they need to make prompt and sound judgments on what technology to invest in) as well as promotion before, during and after the event. They should have a deeper understanding of how to leverage social media, email automation & marketing, and advertisements. They also engage with clients early on in the process, helping the client organize goals, objectives, and assets, and how your event will be best distinguished from others.

Of course, every agency has its own spin on the names of these roles. An account executive could be called a “Delight Specialist,” while fancy project manager titles can contain words like “Ninja” or “Scrum Jedi.” In another context a strategist could be called something generic like “Enrollment Officer.” This is why it’s best to think of your partners in terms of their roles. Don’t be afraid to say, “That’s great, but which one of you would be my production point of contact? And my strategist?” And if they can’t answer the latter question, hire someone else.

Event technology is also one of the (if not the) top expenses you will need to determine when hosting a virtual event. Your virtual event management company or event planners will help you determine which software or platform is appropriate for your particular event.

Why host a virtual event?

Virtual events offer various advantages for your organization while also achieving your organization’s goals, including building loyalty for your brand or product, driving leads and revenue, or getting a message about an initiative across to your target audience.

Chief among these advantages is accessibility. Online events make it easier to accommodate guests who are unable to attend in-person. This also means that your virtual event allows you to reach more people, even those who live on the other side of the globe.

Another advantage you gain from hosting virtual events is that they are dramatically cheaper than the in-person option. This is true not only for the event host, but for the attendees, speakers, and performers who would otherwise have to travel. And if your organization is successful at pulling off a few virtual events, you’ll be perched for greater success should you try to host hybrid events — the new gold standard of events!

The accessibility of virtual events makes it perfect for when there is no other option. Whether due to extreme weather or a global pandemic, online events allow you to push through with your plans.

How to Plan a Virtual Event

A virtual event is built around attendee engagement, data, and of course, content. The quality of your video production as well as connectivity will be important. To ensure that your virtual event is seamless, you might want to consider a mix of live and pre-recorded content.

Some of the elements you need to consider for a virtual event include the event website, email marketing, event registration logistics, pre-recorded content, live video or audio, and interactive video conferencing, among others. Below we breakdown the four universal elements across any virtual event type.

Event website

This is where all your content can live: from event promotion to registration to FAQs and post-event content, like downloadable slides from the event or a recorded replay of the whole thing! Creating the appropriate design and feel for your event website can help entice your target audience to register. 

Registration

Registration tools are critical for the success of your virtual event. Registration tools are vital because they can provide you or your virtual event management consultant important information about your guests, such as preferences, personal information, and future engagement details. Some registration tools also make it possible for your attendees to pay if required. Simply put, an effective online registration tool should allow your attendees to register easily and provide you with the data you need to plan a successful event. 

Email marketing

Cultivating an email list is one of the best ways to communicate with your registered attendees throughout all the stages of your virtual event, from pre-event and during the event to post-event feedback surveys. It’s best to use an email marketing tool that can deliver personalized and branded emails while providing click-through metrics and open rates. 

Mobile event apps

Mobile event apps or online event guides create a home base for your attendees to refer during the virtual event. These apps are also helpful when you’re hosting in-person or hybrid events. They can contain the event’s agenda with links to sessions, putting essential content at attendees’ fingertips. 

More comprehensive event apps make it easier for your attendees to network with like-minded people via messaging tools. Furthermore, some mobile event apps also provide you with data on attendee engagement and session popularity—helpful when you need to plan future events.

Virtual Event Types

Better understanding of the different online event types can help you drill down into the nuances of specific event planning and make the occasion more meaningful to your attendees. Below, we breakdown the common virtual event types. 

Rise Up for Justice’s Black Lives and Our Collective Future (2020)

Webinars

Webinars are similar to in-person seminars, where the flow of information is typically one way. It usually lasts for a defined (and typically short) period of time and accommodates attendees from around the world to experience one or more speakers present the content.

Webinars sometimes utilize interactive video conferencing tools that allow for question and answer sessions and the capacity to broadcast pre-recorded videos as well as to present live to camera. Most webinar presentations are also offered as on-demand content long after the virtual event is over. This is a popular format for internal and external trainings. 

Centre for Sport and Human Rights’ Sporting Chance Forum (2021)

Virtual conferences

Virtual conferences revolve around a complex agenda that often includes keynote/plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and more. This virtual event model supports multiple sessions and can also include community engagement tools. Virtual conferences allow attendees to view keynote presentations in real-time, build their own agenda from on-demand content, as well as interact with other attendees, sometimes rivaling in-person events for lead capture and networking opportunities. 

AB-InBev’s Creative X Awards (2021)

Hybrid events

We’ll explore hybrid events more in-depth in later episodes, but this is the point where live and virtual events meet. This could be as simple as live streaming a general session with equal parts live and virtual attendees, or as complex as incorporating virtual presenters from around the world live on stage at your in-person conference. 

Story of Stuff’s Reclaim Nestlé’s Troubled Waters (2021)

External events

External virtual events refer to events held for people outside of your organization, like industry conferences. External virtual events require higher video production levels, which provides attendees an almost similar experience to in-person events. 

Buffalo Urban League’s Annual Gala (2021)

Internal events

This refers to virtual events that you hold for people within your organization, like virtual team building activities, department meetings, sales kick-offs, town halls, and company-wide events, among others. 

What’s the Difference Between a Webcast, Live Stream, Broadcast & Simulcast

Dipping your toes in the world of virtual events requires you to be familiar with the different types of broadcasting content. Determining which type your virtual event will be is necessary to determine the appropriate virtual event platform. 

Broadcast

Broadcasting refers to one-to-many message transmission. This is the type of transmission used by TV and radio. Technically speaking, any webinar or virtual event is, at its core, a form of broadcast.

Simulcast

Simulcasting is the broadcasting of your message across more than one medium, like transmitting content through TV and social media at the same time. In the virtual event space, people will often simulcast across Facebook Live and YouTube or even LinkedIn and Instagram. 

Webcast

Webcasting is transmitting content over the internet using streaming media technology to reach many people simultaneously. This content format can be distributed live or on-demand. It is essentially broadcasting but via the Internet. 

Live Stream

This refers to online streaming media, which is simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real-time. In larger virtual conferences and summits which feature prominent speakers with conflicting schedules, event producers will sometimes mix live stream footage with pre-recorded video. 

How to Make Exhibitors & Sponsors Happy with a Virtual Event

The concerns of exhibitors, vendors, and sponsors are the same in a virtual event as with an in-person event: they want to achieve excellent returns on their investment. To do this, you have to be a good listener. You need to find out what their concerns are about the problems their customers and sponsors face. So, you also need to consider the varied needs of their target audience.

You also need to ensure that they get adequate exposure. You can offer a tiered package and have them host a session during the event. This ensures that their target audience will still receive their message even after the event through on-demand content.

Encourage them to tell their stories to you, so you can provide them with appropriate solutions and help them level up their game.

Virtual event management is both an art and a science. While the elements are pretty similar to that of an in-person event, you still need to be open to accommodate your attendees and your event sponsors’ various needs. Only then will you be able to put together a virtual event that does not only send the appropriate message to your target audience but is also memorable for your attendees.