On February 17th, we hosted a “Virtual Events 101: How to Grow, Retain and Engage Your Membership” webinar. Presented by Grace Gittenger, a Digital Event Strategy and Event Marketing Consultant, and Reyna Caraveo, our Senior Events Manager, this webinar focused on the strategy behind successful virtual events. We discussed (among other things) the different virtual event formats, the team roles needed, and tactics to engage your audience.
Missed the webinar? You can listen here:
There were a lot of great questions asked throughout the webinar; so many, in fact, that we ran out of time to get to them all! But never fear, Grace and Reyna have answered all the questions brought up during the webinar which we are presenting here. Don’t see your question below? Contact us today and we’ll get back to you right away!
1. In terms of revenue, would I be better off postponing my in-person conference or taking it virtual?
Reyna Caraveo and Grace Gittenger: There’s definitely a range for virtual events. As you can imagine, for in-person events, you have hotel and travel costs, speaker costs, catering… all that ends up being more than a virtual cost. Taking the event virtual is a great option because you can not only monetize the on-demand content, but your overhead costs will also be much less. But you really have to think about your audience. If they are tech-savvy, a virtual event is a great option. But if what you’re trying to recreate requires a lot of networking, it’s hard to replicate in the virtual world. So, evaluate your audience, think about how long you can hold their attention. If your face-to-face conference is typically 3 days, maybe go down to a day and a half virtual event with really cool content. And lastly, be honest about the value you’re providing and the costs involved.
2. Is the overall cost typically a flat rate no matter how many attendees there end up being?
Reyna Caraveo and Grace Gittinger: In short, no. Just as with a physical (in-person) event, there are many variables involved in the scope of a virtual event, so the costs would not be a flat rate. Some variables that will shift your event costs depend on the platform you choose, the team roles hired (outsourced or in-house), and overall time spent to plan and execute the event. One thing to note is that sponsorships can help offset the costs of a virtual event just as they do with supporting physical events.
3. If a “medium” event is held, will the cost be the same whether 101 or 499 people attend?
Reyna Caraveo: For medium-sized virtual events, which are typically about 101-500 people, the costs are dependent on the production value (quality of content) and other associated costs, no matter the size within the range.
A 500 person event with a robust platform could come at a higher cost because most platforms charge a per-participant rate; however, a 200-person event with a robust production would also cost more than a low-quality content, 500-person event. There is not a one-size-fits-all structure when it comes to the format or size of a virtual event.
4. I’ve noticed a dramatic difference in cost from in-person to virtual events, which I completely understand. At the same time, EVERYTHING is virtual now. Given this supply and demand issue in favor of the attendees, how do you recommend smaller associations or chapters balance the will to host an event with the cost of putting it on if the budget is small?
Reyna Caraveo: Most associations, and their chapters, are non-profits with limited event budgets. Given the demand for virtual, not only to provide member benefits but to continue to be a thought leader in your industry and provide content, you will want to consider sponsorships for your event.
Early in the planning process, you will also need to identify your profit goals for the event and set a budget. Revenues earned from the event can go toward the costs for the virtual event (while still making a profit), as long as you work with your planning team and vendors on a billing agreement or payment plan.
5. Can you get by with 1-2 staff members to pull off a successful event?
Reyna Caraveo: We would not recommend this. If you want a successful and well-executed event, the more help you have to fulfill the roles we mentioned (refer to slides 6 &7) will be the most beneficial so each person is focused on specific tasks. For associations members especially and being primarily volunteer roles, having 1 or 2 people assigned to this job is a large responsibility and would require longer planning time than suggested.
6. What kind of time commitment would it be for a 100-person event?
Reyna Caraveo: Typically even a small in-person event requires a minimum of 50 hours of planning time. For a virtual event, it is as much, if not more, time involved because of the intricacies that go into a digital experience. There are mixed thoughts about this within the industry, but most have found that a successful virtual event takes more time to plan holistically than an in-person event due to the nature of the platform, learning curves, and additional vendors you may not have had for a physical event.
7. How does the novice find the right AV video people? As a beginner, where should they begin a search, and what are some of the things they should be looking for in the “right” AV company?
Reyna Caraveo: A great starting point, if you do not have a planning team to guide you, is looking directly at event industry resources such as The Vendry vendor marketplace or BizBash. Specific event industry marketers and organizations have this content available to refer to people looking for A/V teams.
It can get confusing when looking for the “right” A/V team if you are not familiar with the industry terminology. This is where a planning team can help you because they speak the same language and have experience vetting quality A/V companies. Most of the time, when looking for an A/V company, you will want to look for these 3 things:
- View past work and their portfolio, specifically for virtual events, to ensure the product (videos, graphics, etc.) is the quality you are looking for.
- Can they deliver on deadlines as promised?
- Is their team structure built for the level of work you are looking for? For example, fulfilling several team roles such as a technical manager, audio engineer, video engineer, etc.
8. You mentioned using virtual event content in different ways… where would you recommend we house the video for others to get access to it? And what kind of technical expertise would we need to do it?
Reyna Caraveo: If you have event content (videos) that can be repurposed on-demand, we highly recommend monetizing that content and opening it up to both members and non-members for purchase, but not posting it publicly where anyone can access for free. In order to sell the content, you will need a website page for it with the information, integrate a purchasing platform for the different buying options, and determine how the purchaser receives the content (such as a shared link in the confirmation email). The content itself will need to live somewhere a link can be shared and accessed like a restricted webpage, Vimeo, YouTube, Google Drive, etc.
9. What kind of technology would I need to host a virtual event?
Reyna Caraveo: At a bare minimum, you will need a virtual event platform, registration platform, and an email campaign platform aside from your website and marketing channels. In some cases, there are platforms that provide an all-in-one service to offer these.
10. What are the best ways to manage CEU from attendees signing in, attendance, and the distribution of certificates to attendees?
Reyna Caraveo: With associations, there are several options for granting CE credit and providing certificates to attendees, depending on the membership or virtual event platform you have in place. Certificates can easily be distributed post-event by either using the platform’s built-in feature or exporting the event attendance data from the virtual event to then mass issue certificates.
11. What type of networking do you recommend aside from Slack. For our members, it’s highly important to be able to interact with attendees.
Grace Gittinger: Networking is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to the virtual event space, simply because the physical human interaction cannot be replicated in a digital experience. However, some platforms offer networking features in which attendees can view other’s profiles (similar to social media) and collect information to connect with them on other online platforms. You can also build in dedicated networking time in the event agenda if you know that is something the event audience will participate in as a part of break-out sessions, virtual happy hour, etc.
12. What do you think about social sessions at the end of the conference day? Any thoughts about making it interesting for attendees?
Reyna Caraveo: Dedicated social times within a conference are definitely an option to allow for more networking opportunities. If this was an aspect you had at your in-person event, such as a happy hour, it would be good to consider for virtual if the audience expects it and the previous social hours were highly attended. Not all event audiences will participate in social sessions during or after an event, so it would be good to issue pre-event surveys to your members as well during the planning process.
13. Realistically, how many hours can an attendee spend per day in a virtual format?
Grace Gittinger: Most virtual events should be developed with digestible content about a total of 3 hours per day. If the content is more long-form or you are wanting to plan a full-day conference, ensure that you have breaks planned for those who can attend, a way for those who cannot attend the full day to receive the content, or consider breaking up the content as it appeals to different audiences such as Track A in the morning and Track B in the afternoon.
A special thanks to Grace and Reyna for a highly informative webinar!
Missed the webinar? You can listen here: