In the unusual circumstances that arose as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), very quickly there were negative consequences in the implementation of projects that involved the creation of offline, in-person events. Such events were usually postponed and then canceled. This put at risk the goals of the projects and it was necessary to find a way that despite the circumstances, the projects are still realized, without compromise when it comes to quality.
In times like these, it’s critical to react quickly, think creatively, and be open to new choices and solutions. Adhering to this approach to the matter, clients who have had and still have the need to organize large offline events during the strict measures caused by the pandemic, we propose an all-in-one useful solution for situations if the introduction of strict measures of social distancing takes place again – organizing a quality online event.
Although probably many of you initially perceived online events merely as a necessary response to the current situation, experience has shown that it is still an advanced solution with numerous benefits. But how was it in the beginning? Let’s go in order.
Offline vs Online Events
At the outset, we can unbiasedly present the advantages of online events over offline events, which are familiar and safe to most clients, and a way to successfully organize conferences, workshops or to present and promote new services and products.
The advantages of offline events are quite clear – the charms of live networking, making new acquaintances, and refreshing the old ones with new encounters. There is also a psychological moment, especially important for offline events we come to from another city or more distant place – precisely because of the geographical distance, we will not easily decide to leave the event, even if the happening and content do not meet our expectations or interests. We are not ready to let our investment and involvement in the event – in the form of time, travel, preparation, maybe even registration fees, be in vain. Then, as advantages, there is the pleasant atmosphere that is influenced by the interior in which the event takes place, service, gifts for visitors, direct and spontaneous interaction between visitors and participants or exhibitors during breaks at the event, and the like.
However, these benefits do not exist or are a less important factor at online events. These usually imply comfort from a home armchair, i.e. a relaxed and less formal atmosphere. The online event can be ‘arrived’ at with one click, so it takes minimal effort to leave the event easily and quickly. There are no direct, conversational interactions that are an important and fond feature of offline events. Consequently, feelings of closeness, community dynamism gathered around the same goal or common themes of interest may be absent. How is then even possible to make a quality online event?
A Quality Online Event
The first step involves choosing a quality platform for streaming events, meaning finding a stable platform, which responds to the needs of the project and whose technical support is extremely attentive and ready to respond immediately in the event of any platform disturbance during the actual transmission of events online. Aspects of the platform that we should also consider are the complexity of the registration and application process, the platform’s interoperability with various devices, the stream’s stability for participants, the length of the online session, and the platform’s total number of lecturers and participants
In addition to technical considerations, the user experience your lecturers and participants will have should be considered while selecting a platform. A strong user experience will allow lecturers to concentrate on their content rather than the platform, allowing participants to easily enter the event and send subjects that interest them without experiencing difficulties related to technology.
The next step stems from “Content is king”, the now well-known motto by Bill Gates. In fact, it would be more correct to say that this is the step that precedes all the steps – and that is designing the content of the online event.
The Content of the Online Event
The content of the event must be of top quality and interesting so that a simple click of turning off the live event, instead of being completely forgotten, will provide you with loyal followers of the online event. To make sure that attendees do not easily leave your live event, it is crucial that quality, relevant topics are answered by skilled speakers and experts from the industry from which the content originates.
It often happens that experts from certain fields are known only to a small circle of visitors, however, if the goal of the event is to attract as many participants as possible and make them aware of a certain problem or topic, a great way is to include appropriate influencers or prominent public figures, which would then, with their popularity, attract a larger number of target groups by encouraging them to sign up and attend an online event.
One of the significant benefits of an online event is the greater availability of both lecturers, whom you can now more easily include in the event and discussion (even if they are somewhere remote), and participants, who, despite busy schedules, can follow your event wherever they are.
After preparing the agenda of the online event, it is important to plan an appropriate period of promotion on online channels that will provide the target group with all service information about the event (duration, method of registration, topics, and who are the lecturers and speakers). That can most usually be done via announcements on social media and/or paid ads on those platforms, as well as via well-structured and well-designed newsletters for which websites such as Benchmark can provide you with the necessary assistance. If the planned announcement of the online event is missing, it is very likely that you will face a low attendance at the event despite the fact that the content you offer reliably brings quality to the followers. The optimal duration of the promotion that can provide solid results is 3 weeks to a month.
“Speed Dating” Activities
In order to provide the participants of online events with the most pleasant atmosphere possible, it is necessary to compensate for the lack of sense of community that is characteristic of offline events through various animation mechanisms. Therefore, in the breaks between lectures, “speed dating” activities are welcome, which encourage online networking between event participants, then various polls and interesting quiz activations, and Q&A programs and panel discussions, which will awaken the dormant element of online event interactivity.
With quality content and speakers, encouraging interaction during online events, and good promotion, which will affect the volume of visits to online events, you are on the verge of realizing an online event whose mass and quality can not only match but also overcome offline events and their possible limitations.
The positive side of organizing an online event is that the costs of organizing the event itself, which is relieved of high production and inviting participants and speakers to the event, are much more favorable because e.g. there are no costs of renting studios, transportation, accommodation, hosting event participants, and the like.
Online Events in the Future
The pandemic has greatly accelerated the digitalization of all industries around the world, so it has had a strong impact on events as well. Various online conferences, webinars, and training exploded during this period, and the benefit of this accelerated development was felt by all – both lecturers, who opened completely new channels where they could say what they have to say, and participants, who had great a choice of topics and formats that they could send from the security of their homes. In the end, online events also contributed to the quality of the lectures themselves because it is not the place we came to keeping us going nor the catering that awaits us, but what we listen to and learn.
While we all hope for stabilization and a full return to the good, old normal from the new normal, the fact is that the practices that have been revealed to us in situations where we have been forced to use them – such as organizing online events – have certainly become good and desirable for the future before us.
In addition to the fact that online events are more favorable in terms of the total cost, they proved to be a positive experience because, specifically in the case of an organization, such types of events shift the focus strictly on content quality, without wasting energy on ‘packaging’, i.e. form and physical infrastructure (which is a common case when preparing an offline event).
Will the Online Events We Attend Today Disappear in the Future?
The pandemic has taught us to monitor and analyze the situation all the time, react quickly and adapt, and be open to new solutions. With that in mind, online events will most certainly not disappear but will continue to evolve and transform.
We already have the so-called hybrid events, where a virtually offline event (recorded in a studio) is streamed for participants who are online. This concept will certainly be further developed in the direction of greater integration of these two ‘worlds’. Whether future events will have both offline and online participants or not, or whether online lecturers, who for some reason cannot reach the venue, will be boldly included in offline events or not, remains to be seen.