The humble webinar has come a long way. From virtual summits to online demos and hybrid events, the possibilities are seemingly endless! Virtual event programming doesn't have to be a study in digital fatigue for attendees. Here are eight types of virtual events we see trending into 2021, from the familiar to the innovative and totally unique.
Virtual classrooms and training sessions boomed once in-person formats were canceled and now have become part of our everyday lives. These types of events are easily scheduled and executed without the need to continually create new content and agendas. Once established training/teaching presentation materials are created, they are repeatable and require minimum updating and upkeep. One thing to add to your plans for multi-session/day training events is to keep each one to approximately one hour, and schedule longer breaks in between each. A recent Spark survey of event attendees found that fewer than 7% believed virtual events should be longer than an hour. By scheduling breaks and limiting the length, you will help your attendees combat virtual meeting fatigue.
2. Virtual Summits/Conferences
We promise, it can be done! While it may seem exceedingly complicated to coordinate and launch virtual summits successfully, we're seeing more companies moving their big conferences to digital. Want to know how? EventBuilder hosted a webinar on January 28th, 2021, led by our CTO, Robin Houser, where she covered how to host a virtual summit, including types, monetization, attendee engagement, planning, and more. Check out the recording any time and glean some amazing tips!
3. Hybrid Events
With vaccine rollouts underway, experts are projecting a gradual return to "normal" life. Hybrid events will likely see a huge spike once that begins to happen. DO NOT WAIT. Start working on your hybrid events strategy now! According to a Spark survey, 79% of companies surveyed expect to host hybrid events in 2021 and continue the practice into the future. Hybrid events will allow the excitement and "buzz" an in-person event can bring, while expanding the reach and accessibility for your virtual attendees.
4. AMA's/panel discussions
Bringing thought leaders and subject-matter experts for Ask Me Anything sessions and panel discussion-style events offers a robust Q&A experience and opportunities for audiences to engage and learn. These events are where your seasoned moderators will become invaluable, helping to regulate the incoming questions and monitoring the timing and flow. For larger audiences, the Teams Live Event experience can be a good fit here.
5. Team Building and Party Experiences
In-person company and team-building events have been sitting on the sidelines for most of the 2020, so their virtual replacements had to get creative. We've seen people's creativity and ingenuity as they innovate and make their virtual events exciting and fun. We've seen virtual wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, white elephant gift exchanges, online sketch artists, karaoke, and even virtual escape rooms.
We hear again and again that effective networking has been a struggle with COVID-era virtual events. Microsoft Teams recently rolled out the much-anticipated Breakout Rooms feature, giving event organizers an opportunity to facilitate meet-and-greet events for professionals. Our advice? Plan ahead and limit the number of registrants to keep things manageable, and set up your registration questions to help you shape the breakout conversations around your participants. As part of your event plan, set up room guidelines, timing (60 to 90 minutes max), and prepare both ice breakers and deeper topics to encourage relevant conversation and meaningful connections. Keep it lively and moving by making it a "speed networking" event, and even add event and breakout room sponsorship opportunities.
7. Immersive Experiences
Virtual events that include AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) are on the rise, with a projected market value of $72.7 billion by 2024. The technology to create accessible, immersive experiences for event attendees is enjoying an investment and development surge. AR events can be particularly useful for employee training and consumer shopping experiences. These types of events have the potential to completely transform virtual event attendee engagement, making them more interactive and appealing, particularly for an "almost there" experience.
Don't count them out! They're the comfort food of virtual events. Webinars are still relevant and useful, they aren't as complicated to put together like conferences can be, and they offer a familiar format for attendees. Our advice? Research current topics of interest for the audience you are trying to reach, and tailor your webinars and content around them. Post-event survey attendee data is a vital tool for helping you shape your webinar programming.
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