The live events industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors during the global pandemic. With social distancing measures implemented since late March, the UK saw a wave of event cancellations, including Wimbledon Tennis and Glastonbury Festival. On the global stage, the 2020 World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics were also reluctantly shelved until safer times.
With organisers of annual consumer events calling a brief hiatus, business leaders also had to cancel their 2020 events calendar of AGMs, Sales Conferences, trade shows, team building events, away days, and meetings.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the events industry.
The wave of home working encouraged an already increasing number of hosted, virtual events in the place of physical, in-person meetings, conferences and other business events.
Online events have been on the rise throughout the last decade as a result of improved connectivity and developments in advanced video conferencing technologies. The pandemic accelerated that shift, and while the experience is definitely not the same, video conferencing and interactive web tools provide a viable alternative in many cases.
If you’d like to take advantage of the opportunity to migrate real-world events to a virtual platform, or to set a completely new online event, follow this blog for guidance on how to do that successfully. We’ve put together a list of actionable steps to help you embrace the technology, and to help you upskill your speakers and colleagues to take the status of your live events from ‘cancelled until further notice’ to ‘register now’.
Identify your attendees
Knowing your audience is key when planning any event, but getting it right is particularly important when hosting events in a virtual environment.
Switching from in-person interactive events to an online platform can be particularly tricky unless you plan ahead and account for audience behaviours.
In a home-working environment, delegates will find it much easier to bow out of an online event due to multiple distractions or other commitments, and the more faceless environment sometimes means attendees feel slightly less pressure to show up on the day.
Getting it right for your audience is therefore even more critical. Communication is key here and understanding your attendee’s behaviours and preferred platforms is essential.
For example, if your potential delegates are members of a sales team, avoid Fridays or Monday mornings when KPI catch-ups or weekly sales updates might be taking place. If your attendees are news desk journalists, avoid early mornings, when important news updates will be hitting their inboxes and distractions will be rife.
Choosing a platform that suits your audience is just as important as choosing the right timings for your event.
On a consumer level, live streaming platforms such as Instagram Live or YouTube Livestream have proven popular in recent months, particularly for streaming events such as pub quizzes or virtual parties.
On a business level, adopting one single core, feature-rich platform, which allows delegates real flexibility, is the ideal way to run your event from start to finish. For more details on how this works, or to find out whether RingCentral Video is right for your event attendees, book a live demo with one of our team.
Plan your format
With a wide scope of event formats ranging from symposiums and conferences to seminars, trade events, board meetings and interactive briefings, it’s important to identify how you can transfer your live event format into something that works seamlessly in an online environment.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect platform to deliver a more ‘one-way’ company update with a passive audience or a webinar with a Q&A session, knowing your event content will help you in pinning down which format you should adopt.
Here’s a rundown of some of the key options:
Webinars are a great way to deliver broadcasted content to a niche audience. Generally, webinar attendees will be a ‘captive’ audience with a key int
erest in the topic you present. While webinars present mostly one-way communications, it’s often the case that Q&A sessions will take place, usually at the end of the session. Event planners can choose whether these questions should be in a written format, where speakers can see and select the questions they wish to answer in a controlled manner, or alternatively, speakers can open the floor for discussion and unmute attendees during question time. Webinars work well as an online alternative to a live breakfast seminar.
If you’d planned an AGM or a large-scale conference with different sessions, speakers and break-out sessions, here’s where virtual conferencing plays its hand. Virtual conferences are an ideal solution for pivoting an event where multiple sessions would take place at one time.
With virtual conferencing, event managers can set up different virtual ‘rooms’ to host different sessions. This means, exactly like a physically hosted conference in a dedicated conference centre, your delegates can pick and choose the keynote sessions or breakout topics, tailoring their virtual conference experience to meet their desired takeaways from the event.
Company update meetings
For event content which features more one-way communications, you may opt for a business update or ‘town hall’ style format. Stemming from political meetings in North America where local politicians would deliver information on regional legislations or regulations, town hall meetings encompass the event format of a one-way, single speaker event. These broadcast-style, low-interaction events are best for internal or stakeholder updates and announcements which don’t require much discussion. These (mostly internal) meetings are often hosted to inform staff of key updates such as office closures, internal product launches or share price and revenue updates. While attendees are mostly passive for these, event planners or speakers can choose to include a section for questions should they wish, asking delegates to unmute during the short Q&A section in a virtual environment.
Fool-proofing your technology
When it comes to delivering a video conference, there’s nothing more cringeworthy than your tech letting you down at the critical moment.
Here’s how you can ensure your technology is up to the challenge of a large live audience:
Believe in your bandwidth
To put it simply, the better your bandwidth, the more likely you are to be able to host a glitch-free video conference.
Here are a few of the basic requirements for hosting a seamless video event experience.
- For one-to-one video calling, ensure you have 600kbps (up/down) for HQ video and 2 Mbps (up/down) for HD video
- For group video calls: 600kbps/2 Mbps (up/down) for HQ video
- For group audio conferencing: up to 60 kbps
Prepping your attendees in terms of their own tech requirements is also important in order to reduce the chance of being associated with any bad video conferencing experiences.
Here are a few suggested bandwidth requirements for your virtual delegates:
- For one-to-one video calling: 600kbps (down) for HQ video and 1.2 Mbps (down) for HD video
- Screen sharing only (no video thumbnail): 50-75kbps (down)
- Screen sharing with a video thumbnail: 50-150kbps (down)
Don’t overlook the importance of your microphone
Microphone quality should be a key consideration when hosting an online, broadcast event (whether live or recorded). Many PCs will have an inbuilt microphone, but you may well find these a little sub-par when it comes to broadcast-worthy sound quality.
Test your mic ahead of the live event, and try out the sound quality in a range of eventualities in order to ensure your microphones capabilities are fail-safe.
If you’re on the lookout for a new microphone for broadcasting purposes, the Logitech P710e or Plantronics Calisto 600 are good options, and both can be integrated with RingCentral Video which means easy setup and great sound quality for your event attendees.
Verify your video equipment
From pitch-perfect sound quality to a pixel-free picture, your video equipment is just as important as your microphone. Fault-test your video calls with colleagues and friends to make sure that your delegates will see you in as high definition as possible and ensure that your video quality remains crystal clear throughout your event. Don’t forget to strength-test your internet by doing a test run with large numbers of participants too.
Be aware that your speaker’s PC or laptop may not have the best webcam, so if you’re in the market for a new and improved camera which is compatible with RingCentral Video, check out the Logitech C930e or Huddly.
Drive more delegates by keeping things simple
Virtual events are, in theory, much easier to attend than physical live events (not to mention more cost-effective). So now is the time to make the most of your audience’s availability, making the sign-up process as easy as possible to drive more delegates.
Keep it simple
While you’re eradicating the hassle of travelling to your meeting venue, your delegates want to know that the virtual event process will be painless and easy. Using a platform that doesn’t require multiple application instalments or time-consuming setting amendments makes it much easier to attract and keep hold of your virtual delegates so that they show up on the day.
RingCentral Video allows you to generate a URL for your video conference, meaning your attendees can join your event with just one click:
This link also auto-populates bespoke dial-in codes which means your attendees can dial in and listen in real-time if they’re not in front of a screen.
Practice makes perfect
When it comes to the ‘lights, camera, action’ moment, your speaker will want to feel as well prepared as possible. Confidence is key in delivering any event session, whether you’re the guest speaker, compere, or the keynote, the same rules apply with live online events.
In fact, there’s something to be said for being even better prepared, because taking your physical event online, means you have to act as producer and director, all in an unfamiliar, non-physical environment.
Get to know your technology. Acquainting yourself with the basic audio-visual features is key, then move on to mastering the more advanced settings. Don’t be afraid to play around with new capabilities that might help to make your event even better in an online world.
With RingCentral Video, hosting a video meeting is made easy via a user-friendly settings dashboard, from which you can optimise content sharing for single or dual monitor display, mute microphones to minimise background sound, check screen sharing quality with GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and edit your attendees’ joining experience according to your requirements.
Engage your registrants and reduce the drop-out rate
There is often a disparity between the number of potential attendees who register for an event and those who turn up on the day. This challenge isn’t exclusive to physical events and ‘drop-out’ number can be just as high with virtual events too.
If event attendees sign-up early to your event, it’s easy for them to forget about it further down the line. Promote your live event throughout the preceding weeks to drive registrant numbers as well as actual attendee numbers on the day. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Encourage colleagues to share information about the event on social media, enabling you to reach a larger audience pool
- Ensure your pre-event communications include calendar notes so delegates get a reminder on the day of your event
- Send pre-event e-shots to registrants and potential attendees with daily or weekly countdown messaging to increase the sense of urgency and drive registrations
- Post information about your event in industry-relevant LinkedIn groups
- Post with relevant hashtags on Twitter and follow relevant prospective attendees to invite
- Advertise in industry press publications to increase the overall reach
- Participate in similar topic discussions on Reddit to engage with a wider audience
Record and share your live event
One of the best aspects of running a virtual event in the place of a physical one is the ease with which you can record and share your event content.
Hiring a videographer for an in-person live event can be costly and logistically challenging on the day, where platforms like RingCentral Video make it easy to record every session in one easy step by enabling the recording feature. This means that when your event comes to an end, your event recording will be automatically saved.
Recording your live event gives your attendees access to all your content on-demand.
The record feature is particularly popular with attendees who missed a particular session or missed the event completely, allowing them to get the entire event experience as if it were live.
Distributing your recorded content post-event also presents a great opportunity to follow-up with your attendees, or run a lead generation campaign using the recording as ‘gated content’ for data capture, use in marketing material as a YouTube clip, or simply to keep in contact with an invested audience via email.
Thanks to video platforms, you don’t have to cancel your entire business events calendar. By embracing this ‘new normal’ and adopting some of the emerging video conferencing technologies, events can continue to take place and, what’s more, you might even discover they’re even better in an online format.
Now is the time to make the most of technology in delivering your live events. Get in touch or take RingCentral Video for a test drive and start running your events online.