Start preparing early, have plenty of staff assigned to specific areas, and have a back-up plan were just some of the hot tips put forth by the Red Velvet team of Anna Gryglewska and Jason Sick when discussing executing virtual events last Wednesday during the PCMA Gulf States on-line program.
Gryglewska and Sick, who have done several virtual events the last several months, provided attendees an array of information and suggestions for producing on-line meetings. The 30-minute+ session, which included attendee questions, was followed by a tantalizing cooking demonstration from Chef Peter Maffei. The program was sponsored by Kalahari Resorts.
“We do recommend you start planning your virtual event at least six months before your actual event time and date,” said Gryglewska, a project manager for Red Velvet. “So many people are so surprised that virtual events take a lot of time to plan. One thing we noticed, and our clients have gone on record saying, that planning a virtual event takes them a lot more time than planning their in-person event.”
Gryglewska notes that this is primarily due to the newness of these events and the learning curve involved with moving to this process.
The need for more bodies to oversee the details of a virtual event also tends to surprise some clients.
“It really takes a village to pull off a virtual event,” said Sick, a program producer for Red Velvet, who discovered this fact when executing their own internal virtual meeting. “So, we had our team of about 23 people that all had a specific duty for that event. That was only an hour-and-a-half event. If we would have had the event in person for that same number of attendees, we never would have needed that many people to do that event.”
The reasons for the added support, Sick says, are the new roles that exist in an on-line event. He said because of the complexity and time needed, it is hard to have any one person assist on more than one role. His examples included chat room monitoring, log-in assistance and speaker assistance, since many of these people don’t have the same level of experience with the technology.
Because of the technology and the inevitable issues that come when technology fails, Sick also said you need a back-up plan and a back-up for the back-up. Whether it is audio or video issues, have a plan should you have a technical problem, because there will be some.
Gryglewska and Sick also stressed the need to plan the outline of the meeting and how the content is going to be delivered first before selecting a platform to deliver it.
“Outline how you want your event to flow,” Gryglewska said. “Don’t replicate your in-person event to virtual. Attention spans of an attendee is much shorter. How many sessions? What type of content? Then figure out the platform.
“We have taken a crash course (on platforms) the last two months. There are an endless list of platforms to choose from,” continued Gryglewska who along with Sick provided the attendees of the program access to their grid of all the platforms and their capabilities they have studied thus far.
The two also shared results from a study done with virtual attendees who commented on their preferences when it came to session times, days and costs of sessions.
The results concluded that the ideal virtual session would be two hours long on a Wednesday morning and would include attendee interactivity. The preferred cost would be between $100 and $200. The study also said that a large majority preferred in-person meetings, including 85-percent of people 24-years-old and younger.
Both Gryglewska and Sick pointed out the fears that many planners have with going virtual which included the learning curve, the unknown costs – which Gryglewska pointed out is much higher than most planners think because of the technology needed – and the difficulty in securing buy-in from leadership.
However, they also pointed out the benefits which included the larger audience reach which most groups especially with a global meeting where people can participate who normally couldn’t make the meeting on site.
“My favorite benefit is the amount of rich data at virtual events,” Sick said. “It helps you know your audience much, much better. Helps you when planning your events in the future. Because you can tailor your next event based on the trends and behavior that your attendees had in that virtual event.”
Sick also noted the longevity of the materials and the sponsor benefits. Since the event is digital, the information is accessible for months and years afterwards and the sponsors can continue to have benefits long after the event is over.
Missed the program? Watch it OnDemand here!