We are delighted to welcome Cece Salomon-Lee, founder and Principal of PR Meets Marketing, and co-founder of The Virtual Buzz as our guest blogger today, who shares below her thoughts on best practices for how to effectively design and implement a virtual event.
2010 was the year that virtual events – or digital solutions for meetings and events – were embraced by the larger physical meetings and events industry. No longer seen as an either/or situation, going virtual is a way to further extend an organisation’s audience reach, expand brand awareness and drive business objectives forward.
Though the benefits of virtual are more widely accepted today, best practices for how to effectively design and implement a virtual event vary from organisation to organisation. Oftentimes, organisations will select a technology solution first, and then work backwards, resulting not only in a poor user experience, but also falling short of business expectations.
Rather, a virtual event is very similar to constructing a house – start with the design, estimate costs, and end with the building phase.
Design with objectives in mind
If you’re building a house from the ground up, would you ever put up the walls and roof before consulting with an architect? Probably not. You need to consider each room’s function, how the occupants will interact with the room, and the best layout to accomplish this. The same is also true for a virtual event.
To develop your virtual event design, invite key stakeholders to participate during the design phase, such as IT, marketing manager, and executive sponsor. Key questions to address include:
- What are the business objectives of my virtual event? Lead generation; customer appreciation; product launch; extend to global audience; etc.?
- Is this purely a virtual event or an augmentation for a physical event?
- What is the technology prowess of my audience? Novice or advanced?
- How do I want to engage my audience? Broadcast only or engagement with video chat and games?
- What is my budget?
- What is my timeline?
- What resources do I have to plan and staff this event?
- How many people will be attending?
- Private or public?
Estimating: engineer the costs
A virtual event strategy is equivalent to architectural designs for estimating the costs of your online event and even narrowing down which vendors to invite for your proposal. For example, you can eliminate providers who are unable to provide the full suite of solutions you’re seeking, such as social media integration and real-time language translation, or those who are too cost prohibitive based on your budget.
Furthermore, you are able to compare each proposal side by side and determine if there are any factors you haven’t considered. When comparing the proposals, consider these points:
- Did the vendor address each item in my proposal?
- What will the additional costs be if I add an additional webcast? Exhibit Booth? etc.
- Did the company augment my proposal positively? For example, the company recommends adding ask-the-expert video sessions for your product launch.
- How will the company staff my project?
Building: Construct to design
Once you’ve awarded your project, the next stage is overseeing the construction phase. To ensure that your virtual environment is built on time and to your design, don’t assume that the virtual event vendor will manage this on your behalf. Assign a project manager who will act as a liaison, monitor the timeline and track all milestones. Additionally, schedule a weekly meeting with your vendor to review progress and address any issues.
As founder and Principal of PR Meets Marketing, Cece Salomon-Lee has 15-plus years’ experience translating technology innovations into cohesive and successful campaigns that cross from public relations to marketing and virtual events. She has been an active participant in the emergence of the virtual events industry as co-founder of The Virtual Buzz and contributor to the Virtual Edge Institute.