Guest Post by Samme Allen
Emcee – Moderator – Meeting Designer for Virtual and In-person Events
If you only read the first 3 points on this blog, this will be something. ☺
- Virtual meetings are here to stay
- Virtual meetings do NOT have to be boring
- Virtual meetings are a great way of driving engagement and revenues
Are you still with me? Cautiously optimistic or zoomed out? Let’s discuss.
Virtual meetings are here to stay.
We have seen some substantial changes in the way we meet, connect, exchange business information and build relationships over the past few months. With the current lockdowns, travel quarantines and lack of confidence in business travel (at least in the short term), we as organisers, registration and ticketing companies, technology platforms and meeting designers need to see this not as a barrier but as the massive opportunity it is.
The first thing we need to realize is that this is not all about the global pandemic the world has been battling these past few months, this is about building a sustainable business events model that is future-proofed.
The world of virtual meetings has been around for many years. Yes, folks, this isn’t new. We have many organisations who have been using technology to create hybrid, virtual and multi-hub meetings since the ’90s. In fact, my first moderator job was for a multi-hub meeting. It’s now time for the rest of us to catch up. Pharmaceutical and healthcare organisations are practised in this way of meeting and sharing best practice to help transform surgery, develop vaccines and improve the health of populations globally.
When we meet, we really can and do change the world. But whilst we aren’t currently meeting in person, we can still change the world via these experiences and interchanges online.
Virtual meetings do NOT have to be boring.
Firstly, if we remove the world VIRTUAL and replace with ONLINE, we immediately change the value proposition. These events are LIVE, and they are FACE TO FACE. The change is that we are not at a venue all together and our experience happens to be on a screen. This is not unusual for anyone in the modern world who has a television set. And just like tv productions, an online meeting designed well will not be boring, and it is not a webinar!
A webinar offers a top-down learning approach, a lecture which, before you even open the virtual door to entry, you have lost around 50% engagement from your participants. Online meetings can create positive engagement if designed well, with the participant at the forefront of that. There are many elements of an in-person meeting that can work online.
How do you get people excited before the event, how do you create engagement via social media, gamification and online interaction? Look for support and work with online meeting designers (like me ☺) to help you design a virtual meeting or event that will meet your objectives. But please remember you cannot directly replace an in-person event and put it online.
There are so many considerations, including (most importantly) the well-being of your participants, that careful thought and specific design need to be considered to ensure that you have that engagement. Can I say with confidence that virtual won’t be boring? Ask to see the evaluation scores of a recent networking event and awards ceremony we designed online. It scored better than the in-person event!
Virtual meetings are a great way of driving engagement and revenues.
Driving engagement that reinforces the business value and supports revenue streams is entirely possible via virtual events. We have talked about designing your event to create engagement but how do we monetise this? The wonderful positive outcome from creating virtual events is that they really don’t discriminate against those who can’t afford to travel (for time or for financial reasons)and that is an opportunity to really grow your audiences be that nationally, or globally.
Ticketing systems will provide support to develop that steady income stream and the platform to deliver your content. So whether you choose a flexible pricing model, or keep your ticket prices as they have been for an in-person event if you can prove and also communicate the outcomes of these meetings and events why should the value proposition drastically change?
Sponsorship and advertising are critical to any event and work very well at a virtual event. Having recently attended an event online (Global Meetings Industry Day) it struck me at how powerful the advertising & sponsorship can be. If you ever ask me at the end of an in-person conference who the sponsors are, I’m going to have to tell you I usually don’t know. I still remember the sponsors of this event, which was held on April 14.
Income streams from ticketing or sponsorship should only become a risk when you aren’t producing a quality event. You wouldn’t do that in-person so why start whilst our only ways to monetise at the moment are online?
Television advertising has been a huge income stream and if I share with you two names* that are making more money out of us all online that we can imagine, I hope you will have the belief and the confidence to design bold revenue streams for your online events. Whilst you aren’t hiring a venue there are costs involved in creating a professional online experience, and this has to be budgeted for.
You will have your ticketing and registration system to think about, your virtual platform (be that Zoom or the plethora of other options) which will both have an associated cost. You also should consider working with a technical support, a Zoom manager, security (yes, you need to manage attendees entering the event and avoid zoom bombers), DJ’s and VJ’s, moderators/Emcee, chat manager and photographer/screen grabber.
So, when your boss tells you that your budget should be lowered because you are planning a webinar and they are cheap, please share this with her or him.
*Amazon & Facebook ☺
Collaborate with the experts. I touched on this earlier and it is important to pull the right resources to deliver exceptional experiences online. A good tech team, a great MC, moderator or compere will support and drive that much aspired for energy and engagement throughout the virtual event.
A good registration and ticketing platform to make the user experience a positive one from the beginning and of course, a meeting platform that works for your objectives, not the other way around.
Many of us want to meet up for a glass of wine with colleagues and business friends and visit wonderful destinations around the world. But until that day comes back, let’s make the absolute best of creating experiences that can engage more people, let’s not harm our planet as much and let’s deliver revenue to keep our business thriving.
Samme Allen is an award-winning, in-demand virtual emcee, moderator and meeting designer working with global audiences from pharmaceutical companies, international associations and Fortune 100 organisations. A certified online meeting designer, Samme is experienced at supporting business objectives with innovative meeting designs, engaging agenda mapping and working with technology to facilitate those wow experiences that all attendees expect, both in-person and online.