Virtual events offer global reach, optimal timeframes and the capacity to bring together thought leaders all over the world. As such, the need and preference for virtual events that offer the interactivity and connectivity of in-person events continue to rise, even as economies continue to reopen.
In a survey conducted by CensusWide for PromoLeaf, 1,000 conference-goers in the United States were asked whether they preferred real-life conferences or virtual conferences. An overwhelming majority — 72 per cent, specifically — said they preferred in-person conferences to virtual ones.
It’s understandable. People want — nay, need — to network. They want to meet potential partners, clients and suppliers. Networking is an essential component of attending events.
That being said, Qualtrics reports that 59 per cent of people worldwide would prefer virtual events over in-person events at the moment. Additionally, 29 per cent expect events to be held virtually for the next 12 months.
Looking at the picture leads to the realisation that people are still avoiding crowds. However, they do miss the interactivity of in-person events. This means a successful virtual event integrates the salient features of in-person events with the benefits of online events.
Specifically, winning digital events have the following features:
1. Build Your Badge
In-person event attendees have conspicuous badges. They do not exist only to confirm that someone belongs to the event. It also facilitates event networking.
The best online virtual events allow their attendees to build their badges. Your badge will have your picture, name, role, and company name on it, and it will serve as your virtual business card.
2. Connect With Event Participants
In-person events usually begin with participants milling around a big hall while waiting for the session or sessions to start. During this time, they would scrutinise the other participants, introduce themselves to those they find interesting, and exchange business cards with them.
A successful virtual event provides the same functionality. On the day of the event, before your event starts, your digital event platform should let you browse through the badges of the other participants. With a single click on a badge, you can send a particular attendee a connection request.
The participants’ privacy remains protected, of course. Their badges will only show their picture, name, role, and company name — information they have chosen to make public and ordinarily available on in-person event badges.
Additionally, once a connection is made between two event participants, they can chat and video call each other if they want. Their correspondence will be limited to the event space, of course, unless they choose to exchange contact information for correspondence beyond the confines of the virtual event environment.
3. Find Business Opportunities Through the Virtual Expo
One of the things that make in-person events so exciting is the business expo. It’s exciting, going from one booth to the next, asking questions, watching product demos, and reading the information presented on company brochures.
A great virtual event platform will not let you lose out on this experience. It will provide a virtual expo where you can browse through solutions providers’ badges. Clicking on a business participating in the expo will take you to the showcase of their products and services or load the company’s virtual demo room. If you want, you should also be able to talk live to solutions providers.
4. Go on One-on-One Meetings for Networking
Conferences are superb for networking. In face-to-face events, you could chat with new acquaintances over a cup of coffee to learn more about them and find a potential common ground to build a meaningful business relationship.
The best virtual conferences provide a similar albeit enhanced functionality. First, you should be able to divide your day into blocks of time and set your availability for possible one-on-one meeting requests. Next, you should be able to request meetings from event contacts and schedule meetings in advance, so you can better manage your time throughout the day.
You also shouldn’t have to leave the virtual event platform to go to your meeting. One click should be all you need to launch your networking meeting seamlessly.
5. Watch and Interact With Live Presentation Streams
The live stage presentations are the primary reason for going to conferences. The best virtual events, therefore, shine in this regard.
An excellent virtual event will not only let you watch a live stream but also interact in real-time with the event. This way, event participants feel less like spectators and more like involved participants.
Some of the other interactive features of virtual events are live polling, live question and answer sessions and live downloadable content. In this last feature specifically, participants will be prompted to download supplementary materials as they become relevant to the ongoing discussion.
6. Dive Deep Through Workshops and Roundtables
In-person conferences typically have both plenary sessions and more focused roundtable discussions. Virtual events should also have the same provision.
Specifically, virtual events that provide the most satisfying experiences will allow participants to branch off into small workshops and roundtable discussions while the main session is ongoing. There should also be self-service tools participants can use to initiate in-depth discussions on relevant subtopics.
7. Have Spontaneous Discussions in Virtual Networking Areas
Online events can mimic real-life events by providing a virtual environment event participants can explore in their downtime to find more networking opportunities. Virtual event environments can have provisions for a virtual lounge, café and bar, among others, where participants can hang out to signify their willingness to network with other participants.
In any of these virtual spaces, one can sit with fellow participants at a virtual table. The participants at the table can then have a casual discourse on a topic of common interest. Other participants can also come in and sit at the table to join in on the discussion.
8. Rewatch On-Demand
The rewatch on-demand feature is something that live events cannot readily provide and is a clear advantage of digital events. In virtual events, you can view the program at a later time if you missed anything or would like a refresher on a point the speaker said in their presentation.
Making Virtual Events Better
When the pandemic hit, event organisers had no choice but to push their events online because of travel restrictions, event attendance capacity limitations and the attendees’ reluctance to risk exposure.
However, this shift to virtual events has fuelled the development of virtual meeting technologies. Many of the best virtual event platforms, such as Aqmen365, have altered their events to be more accessible for the modern consumer. They have ensured that it is easily accessible by creating bite-sized content smaller than the traditional event or conference, while also having on-demand access.
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