True story. Last week, a Touchcast client, planning to run both in-person and virtual events for the foreseeable future, called us in a bit of a quandary. She just found out that her in-person event, scheduled for six weeks from that day, was forced to go virtual due to local rules and regulations changing. She wanted to know if we could help. Spoiler alert: yes! But keep reading …
More frequently as of late, we’re finding that event planners of all stripes find themselves in limbo when the real world conspires to throw monkey-wrenches into their best-laid plans. It’s a limbo caused by shifting state and local mandates, differing degrees of risk-tolerance on the part of registrants, and a commitment that ‘the show must go on’, especially after the last eighteen months we’ve all had.
So - what happens when you find out it’s either a pivot to virtual, or you run the risk of forfeiting the brand equity you’ve earned over the years?
The first action is to take a deep breath. You’ll realize that much of the planning that went into your physical event - building the website, the speaker and sponsor roster, the invitations and registrations and your email and advertising strategies - put you in a far better position than were you to start from scratch. Your key here is to understand what you have to solve: running a virtual event that delivers a ‘wow’ experience. Of course, it should look great and put your speakers and their presentations in the best possible light, but it does have to be reliable and avoid any downtime. You don’t get to ‘wow’ when connections cut in and out.
Now - what conditions should be met to pivot to a virtual event? To be fair, not every event should pivot to virtual, but we think that if you meet many of the following criteria, you can proceed with confidence.
- How much time do you have to pivot? You’ll need at least four weeks, and more comfortably six weeks, to ensure your virtual event is a success.
- What type of event are you running? Presentation format, panel discussion, or fireside chat? You can do it. On the other hand, we recommend that an event heavily dependent on networking or face-to-face meetings is a better option to be postponed.
- What presentation types were you planning? If you’re planning a company town hall or a product launch, carry on. Likewise, events that utilize interviews, keynote presentations, or moderated panels are good fits for the move to virtual.
- What type of production are you looking to create? Suppose you’re looking to avoid another Zoom-like experience. In that case, we recommend looking for providers that bring professional production teams (designers, video editors, speaker coaches) that can balance all the creative, design and talent needs in such a timeframe.
Finally, it’s also essential to think about what success will mean to your organization post-pivot. Traditional event key performance indicators like attendance, engagement, and social media sharing can be retained, but the virtual realm offers you the ability to track other metrics, like content downloads, length of time spent watching per session, or more specific breakouts across attendees by title, company or industry.
Being nimble has its advantages, and taking stock of where you are and where you need to get to can pay big dividends. We’re all looking forward to the day where we can decide whether an event should be in-person or virtual, but for now, find a virtual event partner that will ease the transition for you.