A virtual event is defined as “an online event that involves people interacting in a virtual environment on the web, rather than meeting in a physical location”. This could be anything from a live streamed concert to a virtual trade show. Over time, with the help of various technological innovations, virtual events have become more interactive and engaging. Today, virtual events can serve as a life-line to get through a pandemic, a cost-saving alternative, or a revenue increasing addition to in-person events.
Setting up a virtual event is no easy task, but luckily there are many resources out there like EventHub’s Virtual Expo product. Bookmark this article as a resource for everything you need to know about virtual events. Whether you are convincing your organization to add virtual, setting up the online event yourself, or needing help with marketing your event, this is the virtual event resource and guidebook you need.
What Has Changed
History of Virtual Events
The history of virtual events can be traced all the way back to the invention of the internet. Without this technological innovation, virtual anything would not exist as we know it. As everyday communication became more frequent and possible over the internet, the interactions online began to mirror that of the physical world. The first live stream concert occurred in 1993 when Xerox PARC streamed the band “Severe Tire Damage” to test a new technology they were working on. In 2000 the first virtual tradeshow, ExpoExchange, was held. After that, many virtual events began popping up all over the internet but not in extremely large numbers.
Then in 2020, many event organizers and hosts were forced to pivot to virtual events to overcome coronavirus challenges. The pandemic that has shut down the world has lasted through most of 2020, with many in-person events canceled/postponed until the following year. However, many did not just take the year off. By leveraging technology, event organizers were able to pivot and host some sort of virtual event.
Key Statistics To Know
- Virtual Events increased in 2020 by 1,000%.
- Twitch users watch 1.645 billion hours of live streaming per month.
- Facebook and Instagram saw a 40% spike in usage in March of 2020.
- Global Digital ad spend in 2020 declined by 4.9%.
Types of Virtual Events
Much like in-person events, virtual events come in all shapes and sizes. Through technological advances just about any kind of event can go virtual.
Some of the most popular virtual events are:
Ticketed vs Free Events
In today’s digital ecosystem there are various ways a virtual event could be hosted. It can be as simple as a live streamed concert on YouTube or as complicated as an interactive virtual reality trade show. Events can be hosted for free, or require that a ticket be purchased or attendee registration be completed.
Social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram have become extremely popular for hosting free live stream events. These websites offer a very simple virtual event. One video feed is outputted and users can interact with each other in the text chat. Anyone with the link can join and often times the platform will inform followers that the event page is going live. For events with large social followings, this is a great way to take advantage of an already existing audience.
However, the problem with hosting a stream on social media is that events miss out on key audience data. It is also harder to download the stream to use for later or repurpose the content. The other problem is that it gives valuable content away for free.
Another option is to require the purchase of a ticket or at the very least collect registrations. Event attendee data is critical for future sponsorships. By selling tickets or requiring RSVP’s event can gather that important information. Most ticketing companies have now integrated some form of live streaming or webinar hosting into their platform.
Setting up Your Own Event
Questions To Ask
Event organizers really need to think about the overall attendee experience when it comes to creating a virtual event. Here are some questions that event organizers should consider asking themselves when planning their virtual event:
- What kind of virtual event will it be (concert, race expo, trade show, pride event, comedy night, etc.)?
- How many attendees expected?
- What is the desired interaction between the host and the viewers?
- What is the desired interaction between viewers and other viewers?
- How many hosts will there be?
- Will it be one continuous event or multiple sessions?
- Will there be smaller break-out sessions or only large group sessions?
- Are there sponsors or vendors that will need to be integrated into the event?
- Will it be free or ticketed?
Investigate Audience Needs
Knowing audience expectations and needs is critical to a virtual event, especially if an event is charging for access. In a world where so much content can be found for free online, event organizers must create a unique and engaging event in order to charge for it. That can be anything from an exclusive experience to a chance to interact with peers.
There is no one size fits all solution for creating a virtual event that attendees love. This is where surveying your audience or polling them on social media can be helpful when it comes to planning.
Create The Event
Once the overall attendee experience has been mapped out, then it is time to choose the right platform. If looking to host a simple one stream event, a platform like Twitch or YouTube may suffice. However, if looking to connect vendors or sponsors, entertainment, and guests then a virtual expo may be a better platform to host on.
What is a Virtual Expo?
What humans crave most is connection. While the digital space is not a substitution for the real world, more virtual event platforms are finding ways to foster more collaboration, engagement, and communication between people. There are many tools out there to assist event planners when taking their event virtual.
A Virtual Expo enables event organizers to integrate their vendors and sponsors into their entertainment programming. It also facilitates meaningful and engaging interactions to occur in real-time. This helps the online event feel more like a real, in-person event. It combines many tools into one convenient platform. Attendees can view main stage programming, discover sponsor products and services, and interact live with vendors within virtual booths.
How to Live Stream Like a Pro
Once a platform has been selected and the virtual event planning is in motion, it is time to focus on the main programming. If you are planning to host a live stream, then some equipment will be needed.
Here are some simple tricks that can greatly improve the audio/visual quality:
- Utilize wired headphones over wireless ones to improve audio.
- Capitalize on naturally lighting if possible.
- Leverage moving blankets to help soundproof the room.
- Plug your computer directly into your internet router.
Learning some more lighting and audio techniques can enhance the quality of your stream even more. For those wanting even more, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is a production tool that allows for more advanced video production. In addition, content creation tools, like Canva and Filmora Pro, can help even the most novice of event organizers create professional-looking and high-quality assets for their virtual event.
One of the advantages of virtual events is that they do not require travel time. Since attendees do not have to prepare as much for a virtual event, the ticket sales timeline is much shorter than that of an in-person event. Leverage traditional event marketing tools like social media, email, content creation, and paid advertising.
As mentioned above in the key facts, global ad spend is down. However, that can be used to an event marketers’ advantage. Since ads work on a bidding system, less spending means the cost of advertising has gone down. This means virtual events can reach larger audiences with a smaller budget. Less competition means less noise to cut through.
Virtual sponsorships can come in many forms. Determining digital assets when it comes to selling sponsorships can be tricky but not impossible. Here are some examples of digital assets that a virtual event can leverage:
- Email- Ticket Email, How to View, Newsletter, etc.
- Social Media- Facebook Event, LinkedIn Group, Instagram Stories, etc.
- Website- Sponsor page, interactive landing pages, etc.
- Virtual Expo- Integrate them directly into the event interface and interactions.
- Stream Space-A logo placed somewhere on the screen for a set amount of time.
- Commercial- Video ads during the stream.
Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual Expo is a great example of how an event can integrate sponsors into their virtual event. They have set up a place where participants can explore not only their vendors but their sponsors as well. By hosting “featured” booths at the top of the event expo page, they are giving essential exposure to their larger sponsors. This is an excellent example of ways that virtual events can create digital assets.
Virtual events experience tremendous growth over the past year. This upward trend slowly gives emergence to more hybrid events, ones that are hosting in-person but also live-streamed to a larger viewing audience.
Curious about setting up a Virtual Expo for your event? Learn more about Event Hub’s Virtual Expo.