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How to successfully recreate an offline business event online

November 3, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has made it difficult to hold in-person events in 2020. In this article, Paul Rowlett from EverythingBranded shares his tips for successfully taking an offline business event online. You can still deliver an engaging and worthwhile experience!

Since the UK became subject to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions earlier this year, it has become nigh on impossible for event organisers to hold traditional gatherings that see attendees gathering in person. This has had a huge impact on the sector. According to Conference News, 22% of event businesses report that they’ve lost all or close-to-all of their revenue this year.

Because of these challenging circumstances, many organisers are looking to move events that were previously in-person to an online format. However, for those that specialise in organising regular business events, the process of creating an engaging virtual version is a totally new challenge that they must adapt to quickly, especially if they haven’t done it before.

If you need to replace your upcoming business events with an online version, you might be wondering where to start. Here are some tips that will help to make it a worthwhile and rewarding experience for everyone.

Consider how to present your business event online

Before you can begin planning your event, it’s best to think about the strengths of your offline event. Consider how these can be best presented online. This is a crucial step. It will help you ensure that your new version still offers the essential values and takeaways that made the occasion popular in the past. Planning the online edition around these attributes will make sure that they are at the heart of everything you do going forward.

You’ll need to think about what type of format will best suit your business event when it moves online. For instance, if you usually host a day event that features a series of talks, interspersed with opportunities for networking, then you will likely want to book in a schedule of webinars. Make sure the platform you’ve chosen can handle breakout sessions and the option for any delegates to chat privately one on one. This is just an example of how you may need to tailor your approach to capture the value of your regular offline events.

Deliver professional and engaging content

Your offline business events may be full of very high-quality content. But it’s worth bearing in mind that these likely won’t translate directly into an online format without some adaptation. For example, you may need to add in additional prompts for interaction to replace instances where this happens organically in person. Or, one of the speakers you regularly book may not be equipped to deliver a high-quality version of their talk online.

Virtual events are much more engaging when they’re designed to make the attendees active participants. A person who is sat at home on their laptop is probably more prone to distraction than when they are present at a venue. That may be because they have a pet demanding attention or the temptation to click on that social media tab. Aim to give your audience a way to participate, rather than being a passive listener.

If you can, try to incorporate the likes of interactive polls or quiz questions as part of your line-up. Allow people to ask questions in real time rather than at the end. Screen sharing is a feature that can be used to give demonstrations or show a process for the presenter. Give attendees the opportunity to show their work or illustrate their questions.

Provide networking opportunities for attendees

Some attendees may take part in your events for the content. There will also be many who go for the networking opportunities they provide. These occasions give people with common career interests the chance to make connections and build relationships. In a lot of cases it gives a platform to further their professional development. This aspect is probably the most difficult to replicate at an online event. There are, however, some approaches you can adopt to make it easier.

For one, be sure to enable person to person chats on any platform you’re hosting your event on. Allow time for this in your agenda. You can encourage networking by setting up scheduled discussions on certain topics, where like-minded attendees can interact. You can also build this into your sessions by setting up group tasks and having people enter breakout rooms to come up with a solution. They can then offer their input to the rest of the presentation to facilitate wider discussion.

Generate leads by offering virtual freebies at your business event

One of the best ways to generate leads at an in-person event is to get people to sign up to your mailing list or newsletter in exchange for promotional goodies. It’s a classic way of both expanding your customer scope and getting your brand name out there at the same time. However, with an online only event, there isn’t the same opportunity to target delegates with promo freebies traditionally.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t use the power of free to drive leads, however. There are plenty of creative ways to grab attendees’ attention and get them talking about your business by using some online giveaways. For instance, offering educational materials, information packs, exclusive videos, or discount codes for your services are all ways you can secure the chance to follow up with your event attendees after the event. This content is also a good way to get people invested in your products and services, especially if you offer training courses or accreditation. 

These tips should help you to successfully offer high-quality online versions of your in-person experiences. Do you want more advice? Check out Insure Our Event’s ultimate guide to virtual events. The blog will answer a lot of questions, including whether you need event insurance.

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