It's ok. I've grown tired of hearing about virtual events too. I've hosted and participated in more this past year than in my 15+ year career combined. As we stand today, marketers and event planners wrestle with if and how to continue to incorporate virtual aspects when the world outside is slowing moving back to in-person.
Based on my completely not tracked and non-scientific observations, I've made up my own rule that one good hour of content takes 40 hours of planning and execution (divided among the many players involved or dumped upon the few responsible for success). It's probably more than 40 hours. And note I said "good" content.
For many, the onslaught of webinars and virtual events due to the pandemic was the first time the big concept of digital marketing made sense. In reality, it was the only marketing many of us could do, and for many, many months.
At our firm I believe we presented over 60 advisory webinars on top of several major virtual events in 2020. Add the 40+ we've already done in 2021 and I've learned a thing or two, albeit the hard way.
1. Script it out....all the way out
In live events you have a detailed "run of show" or event plan; why not do the same for the virtual event. How often do speakers go off on tangents or linger too long on one point or topic. Plan out a solid intro and closing, just like a great speech or performance, to tell the audience what they will hear and then what they just heard. I've seen this simple format ignored countless times. It changes the way you feel about how you spent your time.
2. Choose your hosts and speakers wisely
With the scripting, the best events have the best host and organizer. Again to keep things on track but also breathe life and energy into the engagement. Vet your speakers; demand or encourage them to share what they have prepared ahead of time. If they can't commit to that you may want to consider another speaker. You do not want to be surprised along with the audience on what your speakers say. It's your reputation that will remain no matter how big a name or figure you land.
3. Technology and presentation dealbreakers
How...many...times...do we see badness. Bad connections, bad visuals or backgrounds (dirty piles laundry in a bed room, yup it happened). BAD AUDIO (the worst to me - many people listen while they multitask). Now connectivity issues do happen, but there's no excuse at this point to deliver a poor event since we've all messed up so many times before. And please let's figure out the screensharing and Powerpoint screens before hand and also make sure we can read the text!
4. All hands on deck
When possible, have multiple people serving different roles for each event; reviewing and feeding any questions or live chat; watching as a guest to clue in on any tech issues; making sure someone hit record!
5. All events should not be virtual...but don't let webinars die! Find alternatives.
It was painful to watch a variety of successful in-person events try to find footing and engagement as virtual events. Whether the events go hybrid or fully back live, I'm still encouraged by webinars as a solid advisory and sales tactic, with maybe some new twists that put the audience in the center.
The idea of brand channels gained steam along with the content marketing movement of the earlier 2000s, but today is different because - like I mentioned earlier - everyone is more familiar with consuming digital content and virtual-type events. Rethink your internal media strategy and branded content, such as on-demand libraries, a first dip into business podcasts or something completely unique that fits the needs of your organization's audience.
Bonus lesson: give your audience something they can't get anywhere else. For most of 2020 we were tethered to our screens and in some ways begging for engagement and participation in web events. In 2021, other pieces of the former life have crept back in, and we're ignoring or missing virtual events. Maybe a special content piece as a parting gift, or a bonus speaker or redemption code for something cool.
How are you managing the shift from live events, to virtual events, and back now live plus maybe a little virtual, and whatever is next?