The Power of Virtual

Transitioning your live event to a virtual or hybrid event may seem like an overwhelming task to overcome at the moment, and you may have lots of questions about how it will work, what the benefits are and which virtual solution is best for you.

That’s why we have enlisted our whizz-kid Mike Dodsworth, who is our resident expert when it comes to all things virtual, hybrid and live stream to bring some clarity to the different solutions available to you, as we continue to move further into a virtual world.

What are the different options available?

“Depending on what you are trying to communicate and to whom there are many different options that may be suitable for you.

Live streaming and webinars – Quick, easy and versatile. Integrate with pre-existing systems, streaming platforms, social media or on a website.

Broadcasting – company addresses to panel discussions

Virtual events – Build a fully branded virtual event with avatars, think SIMS for the events industry.

Virtual roundtable – Hosted via a video link, like Zoom it can be fully virtual or mixed

Virtual workshops – Run educational events or training sessions to small or large audiences

On-demand events – record your broadcasts or webinars and upload to your website or streaming platform to make it available 24/7

Hybrid events – A perfect Balance of both virtual and live”

Mike D

Everyone is talking about hybrid events but what does that mean?

“A hybrid event is a fusion of a conventional live event and virtual elements which allows remote attendees to experience as closely as they can the live event without travelling to the venue.

Virtual attendees can enter the event through any smart mobile device, tablet and of course their desktop or laptop into a fully branded virtual world where they browse and interact freely around the virtual world complete with lobby, exhibition hall, and conference hall with real-time chat features.

In addition to this if one of your presenters is unable to travel or make the event in person, you can live stream them into both the live and virtual event complete with two-way communications allowing for Q&A’s to take place live.

Hosting roundtables and workshops is also achievable with a hybrid event. Ask remote users to sign-up to the sessions that coincide with the live ones, inviting them through a password protected video link, for example, Zoom.”

What are the benefits of virtual and hybrid events?

“Of course there is the first and foremost the safety of attendees and we should all be following the advice and social distancing guidelines set out by the Government, but in addition to this there is the sustainability factor that comes into play when you choose to go part or fully virtual, you are having a positive effect on the environment.

Moving towards a hybrid or virtual event means that you can go paperless, all documents and other resources can be accessed on the virtual event page, and you will be lowering your carbon footprint as fewer people are travelling to the venue to attend the event in person. From a business perspective, you will be cost-saving by lowering the number of people requiring accommodation, travel expenses, and catering.”

What are the risks with virtual and hybrid events?

“We have been asked about this a lot by clients, with the demand for finding a suitable alternative to face-to-face communications increasing day after day. The top risk for going virtual especially hybrid events is the internet connection. Make sure that the venue that you choose has the best possible internet connection so that you can stream in and out of the venue as well as supporting mobile devices of those delegates that are in attendance on the day. A bad internet connection could bring down the entire event both live and virtual.”

Another issue that is being asked about is will engagement and interaction suffer by taking an event virtual?

“Our advice is to make the virtual event world fully interactive so that everyone has the opportunity to connect, here are a few options to consider:

1. Engagement apps
Engagement apps are useful tools to connect delegates, speakers, exhibitors and organisers to one and another, to share information, ask questions and to network. You must give everyone the option on how they would like to communicate, for example; audio, text or video and keep the application active post-event to allow visitors the opportunity to connect further.

2. Avatars
Allow all of your guests to create an avatar of themselves and encourage speakers and exhibitors to do the same. Interacting with a virtual representation of the person you are speaking with is far easier than a holding picture where it could feel like you are talking to a machine.

3. Virtual hangout areas
Create designated hangout areas where attendees can go in-between session to network with other delegates. Also, you can create a virtual business dating area where the visitors can pre-book one-to-one meetings with presenters, exhibitors, demonstrators and each other.

4. Real exhibition experience
Customise virtual booths to imitate the feel of a live exhibition. The booths can feature Videos & Presentations, take-away documents, links to websites or social media platforms, live chat features; connecting using video, audio and text chat functions.”

What about team building, will this be possible in a virtual setting?

“When you are planning a team-building session, what is the first thing that you consider? Is it how you can bring a group of people together to improve on communication within the team and to formulate better working partnerships between colleagues? If it is, then you can certainly do this virtually. There are many options out there including virtual escape rooms, murder mystery games and we’ve even found a virtual Haka all of which can be integrated within your virtual event.”

What virtual platform would you suggest for a team collaboration meeting and why?

“We like to use Zoom as it allows for password-protected sessions, real-time messaging and content, multi-participant screen sharing, recording and transcriptions of the meetings and you can see the entire team at once.”

A client needs to make a company address to the national and international team where it can also be viewed after the address, what are their options?

“We’ve been working on a solution for this at our Manchester base where we have set up a broadcasting studio, complete with equipment and technical support which is fully contactless, in accordance with social distancing for companies that still need to make announcements.

TV-style broadcasting is perfect for internal, external, formal and informal communications. It can be used as a one-way and two-way link to your audience and can incorporate an interactive Q&A session and live polling package.

A broadcast can be integrated with pre-existing systems, or we can suggest a suitable platform that is password protected. It allows for multiple platform streaming and is fully compatible with all social platforms. As a bonus, you can record the broadcast and add it to a company intranet, website or other platforms for on-demand content.”

Final words from the editor…

It’s a strange world that we find ourselves in at the moment, the virtual world is certainly assisting us in continuing to connect with our team, clients, suppliers and of course our family. Virtual quizzes, Houseparty’s and video calling are getting every one of us through this time of isolation, and we are extremely grateful for it too.

We believe that face-to-face interactions are still the best way to connect and communicate with delegates, but we must change the way we work to enable us to provide a service that is both safe and effective for our clients.
Virtual meetings, broadcasting, virtual conferences and exhibitions, live streaming and hybrid events are phrases that you will hear for a long time and the demand for them will continue to grow even after lockdown and social distancing policies are lifted.