Tips on building your virtual event
Platform, performance and testing are vital in the virtual world.
The term “virtual event” may be the most uttered phrase in marketing in 2020. But no matter if you’re planning a corporate event, a concert, or karaoke happy hour, the technology and logistics behind the virtual event is vital for its success. It doesn’t reward a casual approach.
“Now that we are nearly five months into our new virtual world, I am finding that both companies and people are getting more relaxed with their personas and brands, and I am definitely against that trend,” said Gelie Akhenblit, CEO and founder of NetworkingPhoenix.com, which hosts a weekly Friday networking event, and has added over 42,000 community profiles since being established in 2008. “All consumer marketing needs to be transparent and personalized so it can be taken seriously.”
The virtual event experience ranges from the Zoom call that everyone has grown to love (or hate), to more sophisticated platforms customized for live events with large audiences, replicating real-life sightlines, and designed with data-generating audience interaction in mind.
Still in a Zoom-only world? No worries, we even have tips to enhance one of the most basic (but popular) virtual event platforms.
Make room for Zoom
If you asked many Americans before February what Zoom was, the answerr might have been the 1977 Commodores hit song sung by Lionel Richie rather than the enterprise video communications platform which has seized the spotlight from competitors like Webex and GoToMeeting.
For those companies keeping it Zoom-only for FY21, build your entire (or most) of your planned 2020-21 program now, with dates and times, to avoid scheduling conflicts as many employees balance remote work with at-home schooling, parental caregiving and maybe even a second or third job.
Corporate events and marketing activities made for Zoom include:
- Earnings calls;
- Focus groups;
- New product announcements;
- Real-time brand activation with Zoom attendees; and even
- Taste testing (with pre-purchased product or mailed product in advance).
No matter what the event is, for the International Association of Women (IAW), utilizing the Zoom breakout rooms is mandatory to drive community and conversation. Content for breakout rooms is prepared in advance, as well as all links, documents and presentations to be managed—preferably by an event team rather than the presenter.
“With less face-to-face interaction it is difficult to make the connections you need,” said IAW VP of Marketing and Membership Experience Megan Bozzuto. “You have to pay attention to what is going on in the chat rooms in real-time and use that to create dialogue of value to your audience.”
Virtual events with a 360 view
Live concerts and sporting events need a platform more enhanced than Zoom, and one of the innovative option is the 360VUZ app. The virtual video mobile app transports users across events and experiences worldwide, and was named Entrepreneur magazine’s 2019 App of the Year.
360VUZ has 5 million users worldwide, and the app’s capability to market directly to these users is a key value proposition. 360VUZ features a proprietary software platform that gives event attendees multiple 360-degree views of an event from different cameras and different angles viewed on the 360VUZ app, or via headset that is now compatible with most mobile devices.
Users can simply view 360VUZ videos or virtual events by downloading the 360VUZ app from the App Store or Google Play free of charge and they can watch events and exclusive immersive experiences, such as following behind-the-scenes action with their favorite players in the National Basketball Association.
360VU has surpassed 20 million views per month and offers high-profile virtual events like the Oscars, the Emmy Awards, and L.A. Fashion Week.
“Our platform was the subscription model mixed with video innovation and a chat function that really adds to the experience,” said 360VUZ Founder and CEO Kahled Zaatarah. “Everything on our platform is based on a sponsored event combined with a virtual experience which becomes an instant global marketing campaign.”
360VUZ also offers:
- Live branded ‘360’ virtual reality events;
- Broadcast channels;
- Live 360 social sharing; and
- Gyroscope-supported services.
“We have captured over 4,000 events and experiences since we first started,” said Zaatarah. “We have an audience across the world and that is a marketer’s dream.”
Picking a platform
One common mistake many virtual event hosts have is feeling that they need to fall in love with one platform from day one, but there are good reasons there are a wide variety of options out there. Try several different platforms until you find one that meets the chat room functionality, visual needs, registration and data aggregation requirements while fitting your budget.
The Association of Supply Chain Management (ASCM), preparing for their virtual annual conference in September, ASCM Connect, has already committed to using multiple platforms:
- eShow (registration);
- Cvent (event app);
- GoToWebinar (streaming); and
- Salesforce Community Cloud (community chat).
“Historically we have used the conference app as a content resource and focused our attendee experience efforts around what was happening in the onsite event,” said ASCM Director of Customer Experience, Learning and Development John Stultz. “Now that we are pivoting to a virtual offering we intend to significantly increase the usage of elements and resources from the app to create a more engaging experience for all attendees.”
To prepare for the September virtual conference ASCM produced a pilot event in July to test technology platforms and validate functionality and features for ASCM Connect.
No matter what your event, proper testing of your event-hosting platform, well in advance of the event production date, is the best way to achieve a flawless virtual event, with no unpleasant technical surprises.
“Do not assume your audience is tech-savvy and will be able to navigate your platform,” said Bozzuto of IAW. “New technology and cumbersome registration processes can be a turn off for many people. Educate your audience on how to connect during your event to ensure they get the maximum benefit of the content and the experience.”