Companies are continuing to invest in virtual meetings because they’ve seen how the format can deliver a huge impact, especially for:
- Conferences and seminars
- Corporate events and large meetings
- Sales meetings and field updates
- Leadership summits
- Fundraisers and galas
- Panel discussions and interviews
- Expos and tradeshows
If this is your first time planning a virtual event, we strongly recommend bringing on an expert partner to do some of the heavy lifting. In particular, you want an event production company that has experience navigating the virtual event world and knows what’s trending.
They can help you keep your event within budget, manage all event partners directly, design the event’s look and feel, handle the show’s logistics, provide technical support and, most importantly, help you achieve your goals.
Here’s what to look for when choosing the right virtual event partner for your brand.
Virtual event strategy
Just because a virtual event can include certain elements doesn’t mean it should. The best and most effective virtual event partners will always start with your why:
- What’s the purpose of your meeting?
- Who do you need to reach?
- What are the most important things they need to know?
- What do you want them to do afterward?
Partners who are clear on your “why” avoid miscommunication and errors. (Because face it, even a hysterically funny comic doesn’t belong at an all-hands meeting following a tough quarter.)
Ideally, your partner should start with a clear strategy, meet your audience where they’re at and craft compelling content to achieve your goals.
Virtual event design
Virtual events can be as simple or as robust as they need to be. Maybe you can achieve your goals in a single-day event with a general session and a couple of breakouts. Nothing wrong with keeping a virtual meeting short and sweet – as long as it’s informative.
Or, maybe you need a multi-day conference with general sessions, breakouts, panel discussions, sponsor and exhibit halls, and post-event reporting and analytics.
Either way, you want a partner that designs events to keep your audience front-and-center and puts your brand in the right light. (And if you’re a publicly-traded company, the event needs to do right by your shareholders as well).
Ask potential partners how they ensure an event runs smoothly and the content is well presented. Find out how they inject some WOW into the experience. (Because people’s attention spans are shorter and you’re competing with TikTok and text messages.)
Finally, ask how they create emotion. Can they design events that lead to the goosebumps or lumps in throats you want?
Virtual event planning & logistics
Now, it’s time to get into the details. Planning a well-executed virtual event is not for the faint of heart. You need an event production company that can expertly manage dozens of moving parts that typically fall into these two categories:
- Managing your live stream – or what we like to think of as your virtual event’s “stage.” You’ll want to ask potential partners about their experience:
- Producing and editing pre-recorded content
- Incorporating video into a live stream
- Switching between different content formats
- Prepping and supporting speakers to deliver remarks from a variety of locations
- Managing critical meeting elements like sound, lighting and cameras
- Creating event graphics
- Managing your virtual event platform – or what we call your event’s “venue.” This is usually a website where your attendees view your live stream and participate like they would at an onsite location. Be sure to ask potential partners about their experience:
- Managing virtual event registration (including how it integrates with other elements of the meeting)
- Incorporating virtual “exhibit halls” or “sponsor booths”
- Coordinating breakout sessions
- Delivering on-demand content
- Weaving in engagement elements like quizzes, polls, live Q&A, or gamification
- Providing an option for post-event reporting or analytics
You want a partner with experience and expertise in managing your live stream and your event platform so you can deliver the best experience for your audience. And has experience managing budgets across all of it.
Virtual event production level
A Zoom call isn’t a virtual event. (It had to be said.) Your audience wants and deserves a higher level of production than that. Unfortunately, this is where less experienced virtual event planning partners can fall short.
To connect with your audience in an age of distraction, you need a virtual event that’s just as polished and engaging as an in-person event. Ask potential partners whether they:
- Have the expertise and crew to execute a top-notch production that brings your vision to life.
- Prepare your executives or other speakers for a virtual-stage experience so they nail their role.
- Find and manage engaging speakers and other entertainment that helps you achieve your meeting objectives.
- Produce pre-recorded content in a controlled studio environment (this is much safer than doing it live).
- Create video, presentations, graphics, or backdrops designed for the virtual world.
You need to make sure the event production company you choose can bring all of these elements together and deliver them flawlessly.
In the past, audiences were more lenient with less-than-perfect streaming and virtual productions. They were quick to forgive if speakers froze or links were broken.
Now? Not so much.
Your audience has higher expectations for user experience and lower patience for technical glitches. They want an exceptional and engaging digital experience – especially if you’re an industry leader or a Fortune 500 brand.
To get there, you want a virtual event production company with experience working in various formats – like event apps, meeting engagement tools, breakout and networking software, and streaming platforms – designed to deliver a seamless user experience.
Testing and rehearsals
When you’re in the event business, it’s hard to overstate the importance of testing and rehearsals. We know that things can and do go wrong. We also know it’s our responsibility to anticipate and plan for every possible contingency. This is where experience matters.
You’ll want your partner to thoroughly test every piece of equipment they’ll use during the event. And you’ll want them to do a full event rehearsal with speakers. Ask questions about how they get everyone involved on the same page, work out potential kinks and readjust where needed before you have a live audience watching.
One final area to consider is event marketing. While this may seem small, it’s changed dramatically over the last two years.
This is important because seeing something on a screen all day in a virtual format is different from arriving at an onsite event where you have signage, posters, banners and printed agendas.
Ask vendors and partners how they’ll brand your event and bring in elements that work for both an in-person and virtual format if needed.
For example, how is your event branded? And how will you pull that branding through to an event website and online meeting graphics? What if the event is hybrid? How will branding be consistent across an online and onsite experience?
Even when the pandemic is in our rear-view mirrors, we won’t return to all live events all the time. It’s expensive and not always possible to bring everyone together. Plus, there are some distinct advantages to virtual events that live events just can’t deliver (ahem: global reach). In other words, virtual events are here to stay, so choosing the right event production company for your event is crucial in delivering an exceptional experience.
Need help executing your next virtual event? Contact us.