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Navigating the virtual highway

By Claire Bowley, Managing Director of Dynamic Conferences & Events

We are all too familiar with the buzzwords and phrases that have dominated communications in recent months – ‘unprecedented times’, ‘pivot to virtual’, ‘the new normal’ and ‘platform agnostic’.

Whilst we are starting to tire from the overuse of such language, the truth is these HAVE been extraordinary times and every single person has been on their own journey. In-person events will re-emerge, probably more compact and better focused – but in the meantime we will continue exploring the digital world.

Global circumstances have challenged us to take a completely new approach to events – we have experienced a whirlwind of platforms and rapidly embraced the endless opportunities that technology equips us with. The learning curve has been massively rewarding yet the absorption of new knowledge will only continue as we move into a new phase of event delivery.

So, what are we learning? At Dynamic Events we have a firm belief that Content, Connections and Community are vital components of any event – and even more critical for a virtual event. Getting the delivery and balance of these right is just as important as choosing the virtual platform – and this is where a partnership with a professional event management company is invaluable.

Humans are not configured to watch a screen for eight hours or process endless quantities of information. We need focused, concise, and stimulating content – and for virtual or hybrid conferences it is vital to deliver this in a variety of formats. Crucially, content should be active, not passive – allow your audience to engage through live polling, chat forums, document sharing and Q&A sessions.

Speakers have had to adapt quite considerably – presenting to a virtual audience is a totally different experience to standing on a stage. Not only can you not see your audience, you have to manage the technology and engagement tools, keep the invisible audience engaged, change your presentation style (arm waving and walking is not an option!) and you have to fit all the important content into a significantly reduced time slot. Thorough guidance and allowing time for rehearsal is crucial.

A virtual or hybrid conference is not just a live conference delivered digitally.  Essentially you need to think about it more like a television production.

A fundamental motivation for attending in-person events is to grow your network of valuable connections encouraging us to continue personal and business development. An effective virtual event will create networking opportunities as an integral part of the live programme.

Making new connections and nurturing existing relationships online does not have to be complex. It can be as simple as a live chat with colleagues in a virtual lounge, structured speed networking and facilitated roundtables or just providing a space, and time in your agenda, to reach out to those who are there.  Being able to connect is paramount.

Events bring communities together and a virtual event should be no different. We have a desire to be social and thrive on emotional connections, and this is heightened during a time when travel is still so restricted. It is essential to understand your audience, any shared and common interests, their objectives, and reasons for attending – armed with that knowledge, you can introduce intelligently curated sessions for small groups and the wider community. If nothing else, it shows you care about your community’s needs.

Trust is a critical to fostering your community – this is achieved when you are transparent and honest; deliver clear, timely and supportive communications and actively encourage feedback and respond to it.

The virtual platform is not the starting point – your event strategy IS. The first consideration should always be the objectives and desired outcomes, whether for the business, the audience or any other parties involved. Creating the entire event experience is more than simply the technology.

This is where the team at Dynamic Events can help; we are event managers who put your company first. Having built partnerships with a number of proven platforms, selected for their ability to deliver excellent engagement and networking opportunities, we are in a unique position to match our clients with the right virtual platform dependant on their event objectives and on their budget.

We then work with our clients to deliver the whole event experience; from helping with content, ensuring engagement and interaction, recording presentations, speaker training, sponsorship opportunities and offering live support and help during the event itself.

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