Video Conferencing and Virtual Events
The rise in remote working has helped many organisations to become familiar with video conferences and virtual meetings. For many years, adoption of these technologies has been low, but the pandemic meant that there was no alternative, says Vaidyan. “Change management is always the most difficult part of using any new technology but as Margaret Thatcher would have said, TINA - there is no alternative.”
Since the company went fully remote, video adoption has rocketed and employees are more comfortable being on camera, says Hindocha.
This comfort is also seen among the company’s customers, says Hindocha. Before the pandemic, 8x8 was due to sponsor a series of monthly speaker events featuring customer stories. Recruiting customers to speak at events was challenging, because guests needed to travel to the event, and some felt unsure they could keep an audience engaged in a live setting for one or two hours.
“Speakers are a lot more willing to join a 20-minute virtual panel,” Hindocha says. “We are all sitting at home, craving a bit more engagement, and virtual events are a lot less commitment and time-consuming.” Next month 8x8 will be running a virtual event with customers from John Lewis and Halfords who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to attend events at short notice, she adds.
Speakers are a lot more willing to join a 20-minute virtual panel. We are all sitting at home, craving a bit more engagement, and virtual events are a lot less commitment and time-consuming. Next month 8x8 will be running a virtual event with customers from John Lewis and Halfords who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to attend events at short notice.
What makes a successful virtual event?
Many of the companies we spoke to for this ebook are now regularly hosting or participating in virtual events. Some of these are newly imagined versions of cancelled physical events, but many are new, allowing innovative companies to take advantage of the broader acceptance of virtual meetings and events.
In many cases, attendance at virtual events can be far higher than for a physical event, but only if the content is right, and the promotion is done well, Llewelyn believes. “We’ve seen events that had 400 physical registrations achieve 5,000 virtual attendees. If you’re a live event organisation you need to be committed to try digital transformation very quickly because otherwise, this isn’t going away in October, unfortunately.”
The flip side of this trend is that many business executives are inundated with opportunities to attend virtual round tables, watch webinars or download video content. It is essential that organisations think carefully about what content to create, and what purpose it will serve. There is little benefit in hosting a global webinar with live Q&A if there is not enough capacity to answer those questions or engage with the live chat from the audience.
The pandemic prompted lots of similarities between company messages, Couzins adds, and it’s more important than ever that content stands out. “Yes, we need to be supportive and help solve problems. But if that just means we’re going to be like everyone else, how are we different? Just being all about ‘these challenging times’ doesn’t help anyone and it’s so generic at this point,” he says.
Creating effective virtual event content means understanding the audience, and their current pain points. What information will be most useful to your audience, and what format is most likely to persuade them to engage with that content? Rather than bombarding an audience with a virtual slide show, Llewellyn says that his company has created a series of virtual ‘fireside chats’ that feature interviews with senior business leaders from the industry. “We might finish up with 10 slides on key takeaways, but the format has to be different to a live presentation,” he says.
At F5, the company is regularly hosting and attending virtual events and video conferences with positive results, from webinar-based Q&A sessions to CXO networking sessions. These virtual round tables work particularly well in terms of engaging c-suite executives, says English. “Sixty minute virtual round tables are a format that I’ve seen gain a lot of traction with over the past few months given their minimal time commitment from an attendees perspective. Small bespoke sessions of 4 to 5 attendees focusing on a specific solution area provides greet peer to peer networking for the CXOs & the associated halo effect for us as a vendor is a big plus” he says.
These virtual round tables work particularly well in terms of engaging c-suite executives. Sixty minute virtual round tables are a format that I’ve seen gain a lot of traction with over the past few months given their minimal time commitment from an attendees perspective. Small bespoke sessions of 4 to 5 attendees focusing on a specific solution area provides greet peer to peer networking for the CXOs & the associated halo effect for us as a vendor is a big plus.
The content created from these events can be packaged and used in various ways, since different audiences might have different requirements. For example, a live webinar might be used in a local market, but then packaged as a “simu-live” broadcast with a live Q&A for a global audience. Content can also be converted into on-demand video or podcasts. “The thing to be conscious of is that content needs to be compelling to get their attention. If it’s not slick, concise and audience specific, you’re not going to keep your audience,” English says.
Virtual events need to offer a true event experience, with high-quality speakers and pre/post-event delegate packs and follow-up. Events should serve a mix and match of content types, says Hindocha. “Hybrid event models may include a headline keynote with your CEO for 30 mins, followed by two days of content promotion, such as ebooks, on-demand sessions, and live streams they can log into if they fancy,” she says. she says.