Virtual event, online, digital… these terms have become familiar to everyone since the beginning of the health crisis. But are you sure you understand what these terms mean? Do you know the differences between them and how to organise them? Here is a brief overview of the new world of organised events.
Digital event: definition
A digital event is an event that brings together a given audience online. It takes the codes of physical events and adds the many advantages of digital tools, such as the possibility of connecting from anywhere in the world….
To communicate, present, inform, gather, entertain… whatever the purpose, the main idea is always the same: to convene via the Internet. To meet together.
Originally, the only difference between a traditional event (“in person” as we say today) and a virtual event is that while the former requires the physical presence of participants, the latter takes place in an online environment that they can access from their computers, tablets and other devices.
The various solutions are now enhanced with features that make the tools more collaborative and further improve the consumer process and experience.
Like its “in person” big brother, the virtual event brings together many different types of events under its umbrella.
What are the different types of virtual events?
As the saying goes: “the sky is the limit”. Technical developments allow almost anything. The same events can be organised virtually as were held physically, of course… but also certain events that can only be organised digitally (immersive trade fairs, webinars etc.).
The list is therefore far from exhaustive, but the main ones are:
- Virtual trade fairs, allowing different exhibitors to develop their communication strategy across a wide audience
- Virtual conferences, or digital learning, during which one or more experts speak on a given subject, for communication and/or educational purposes
- Virtual seminars, allowing companies, associations or groups to combine their strengths, for example to develop team building as would a company evening event.
- Virtual gatherings, making it possible for meetings necessary for the smooth running of an association, a company or a group to take place. Digital transformation then makes it possible to manage one’s organisation remotely.
Why digitalise my events?
Nowadays the question may seem anachronistic. However, it deserves to be asked in order not to blindly sacrifice to any passing trend. “Everyone has his reasons” said Jean Renoir in “La Règle du jeu” (“The Rules of the Game”). Here are the three main ones that legitimise the existence of virtual events, even in the eyes of the most reticent:
1. Health reasons
Unless you have just arrived from a distant planet or have been hibernating since the end of 2019, then you will know that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on everyone’s habits.
In many countries around the world, lockdowns are like sequels of Rocky: there is no end to them. This is a tragedy for event agencies and a headache for companies, associations or groups that are required by law to bring together all or part of their members for meetings, boards of directors, executive committees and so on. When the law on the one hand requires you to convene and on the other prohibits you from doing so, what is the way forward? Faced with the impossibility or difficulty of meeting physically, having a strong digital strategy provides a credible alternative. All the more so as the crisis will inevitably leave its mark. Even after a permanent relaxation of the rules, the reluctance to meet in a crowd is changing our habits. However, there is no danger sitting in front of one’s own screen.
Especially since some solutions offer an astonishing sense of virtual presence. They use different methods, scientifically proven to be effective, such as photorealistic avatars that look like you and move around in attractive environments, or spatialized sound to talk with other visitors.
2. Economic reasons
Cancelling a trade fair, seminar or congress has a cost. And having to cancel several in a row can be an economic disaster for the organisers. As for the “postponement” option, it is terribly dependent on whether there are new outbreaks of the virus, and is therefore highly uncertain. Since autumn 2020, the French Union of Event Organisers has been sounding the alarm: due to the various lockdowns, postponements and cancellations can be counted in the hundreds. And the economic consequences for companies in the sector are estimated in billions of euros. The lack of visibility for the future makes digital even more attractive: an online event is not likely to be cancelled. So much so that some professionals, who still try to schedule ” in-person ” events, couple them with a remote version for greater security. Are these hybrid organisations capable of making the digital solution sustainable in the long term?
3. Environmental reasons
This is probably THE reason why the above question could be answered in the affirmative. Because it is not related to the different waves of the virus, lockdowns or restrictions, the ecological argument can sustain the organisation of remote events. Organising a traditional trade fair requires a lot of travel. Many of these journeys are made by carbon-based means of transport, which are therefore extremely polluting.
Since 2020, the Greenspector website has been calculating the comparative carbon footprints of different videoconferencing solutions and the same meetings held “in-person”. Its results are striking.
Applying the same calculation method to virtual events is even more so. Judge for yourself:
Carbon footprint of an event with 1000 people present, travelling an average of 100 km and spending an average of 5 hours at the event:
1000 people * 100 km * 100 g = 10 tons of CO2
Carbon footprint of the same event held virtually (with the Teemew solution):
1000 people * 300 minutes * 1 g = 300 kg of CO2 = 0.3 tonnes of CO2, more than 30 times less than in-person.
If the event hosts 100 people and they spend a little more than three hours in the event, the ratio is even more in favour of digital: 20 kg against 1 tonne of CO2.
En résumé : se réunir à distance pollue moins que de se déplacer.
How to organise my digital event ?
Imagine: you want to organise an event, whatever it may be. After having been forced to postpone your trade fair or seminar a number of times for various reasons, you decide to organise a digital event (or at the very least, to ensure that it is a hybrid version, half in-person, half digital). How do you go about it?
The preparation of your event
It is well known that preparation is more important than action. A good event, whether digital or in-person, is therefore a well-prepared event. The first step is, as you well know, to identify your needs, or the needs of your client.
Identify the purpose of the event: is it a convention, a meeting, a trade show? Is the objective to inform, communicate, entertain or mobilise? Once the foundations have been laid, the next step is to determine the number of visitors expected and the internal organisation of the event: if there are conferences, workshops and stands, determine their number, dates, content and speakers. Because there is no question of leaving them to fend for themselves in a digital world that they are discovering, training for this environment (see below) is essential to the company’s success.
Of course, beforehand, you will have contacted one of the companies that offer digital solutions and, above all, determined the date on which you want your event to be online. The shorter the deadline, the more organisation you will need. And you will then move towards a few “turnkey” solutions, even if it means sacrificing some of your desires on the altar of feasibility.
Because even if digital can make the impossible possible and a customised ecosystem by a designer will enhance your experience, don’t forget that the virtual world is no exception to the eternal rule: a customised solution always takes more time and costs more money than a turnkey solution.
The communication of your event
Once these foundations have been laid, the second step, which you are probably familiar with, is communication. An event that no one hears about is a failed event, no matter how attractive and interactive it is. How do you get the word out about your new expertise? In the most conventional way!
If you are active on social networks (and, professionally, it is in your interest to be so), practice social advertising, which consists in making sponsored posts on social networks. Post and share announcements telling your contacts that such and such a trade fair or conference will soon be taking place, either in 100% digital or in hybrid.
Complement this with an effective mailing campaign, which consists of inviting a number of your prospects or customers by email so that they can come and see the success of your solution in person (and thus get ideas for their own events). Finally, don’t hesitate to ask your partners to communicate as well.
Hosting your event
Now that the trade fair, conference or seminar has been organised, and you have communicated it effectively, it remains to ensure that it runs smoothly. That the jewel in the crown is ready.
You have thought of, imagined, designed and organised the content. But now you have to integrate it as well as possible into the virtual tool and teach the facilitators to use the tool so that everything runs smoothly. To do this, rely on the professionals you have called on.
Many companies in the world, and a few in France, offer digital solutions. The most responsible of them offer, before the event, to train exhibitors, organisers and speakers in the live hosting of events or in the integration and broadcasting of pre-recorded elements.
You can also train yourself (there is nothing like it for answering clients’ questions) by attending webinars, for example. Never forget that a virtual event has codes and tools that are very different from traditional organisation. If your expertise is essential (no one knows your client better than you), so is that of your technical partner.
How do I maintain relationships with my prospects after the event?
Let’s summarise: you have organised an online event for yourself or for a client. Everything went well, the conferences were a success, the stands were full, the public and a sense of success were there. What happens next?
Customer relations do not stop once the event is over. There are two main types of sales leads available to you.
- Potential customers: either they came to see the event online – and were therefore able to judge its success for themselves – or they heard about it through your effective communication. In either case, it is now up to you to remove the final barriers, listen to their needs and advise them effectively.
- The client for whom the event was organised or, if you are the organiser, the partners who attended it: if it is to their satisfaction, they may integrate the organisation of future digital or hybrid events into their planning. They may also be interested in setting up a long-term or even permanent virtual venue.
In addition to these prospects, there are all those visitors or exhibitors who will have appreciated the digital experience and all those who will have simply heard about it. Understanding that the event they have just attended (or of which they have become aware) constitutes a high-impact communication and marketing medium for the organising company, they start to wonder: and why not them?
As you can see, digital tools are revolutionising the world of events. Distance is no longer an obstacle to relationships with the appearance of a new perception: virtual presence.
Come and experience it for yourself and discover our digital event solution.
Come and experience this and discover our digital event solution.