Necessity, as we have seen, is truly the mother of invention. While digital events certainly existed before 2020-2021, strict shelter-in-place orders due to the pandemic created a migration online as in-person events became impossible. But when digitalizing events, it’s important to be smart and set yourself up for success–we’ve probably all experienced some half-baked digital events at this point. Of course, we’ve all visited our share of uninspired in-person events as well, so the good news is digital events are not destined for boredom or failure so long as you adjust wisely to the online format.
- What are Digital Events?
- Hosting a Digital Business Event Like A Pro
- How to Choose Digital Event Platforms and Services
- Kaltura Virtual Events
- Final Thoughts
What are Digital Events
In case you were living off the grid since 2019, digital events are interactive, staged, and experience-oriented events organized in a digital space (i.e., online) with a variety of tools and platforms.
The terms “digital events” and “virtual events” can be used almost interchangeably. However, “digital” refers more directly to the technology used to realize the event, where “virtual” is the way participants attend (i.e., not in person). When speaking of digital events, the implication is usually of something on a larger and more elaborate scale, whereas virtual events could be literally anything where participants attend without physical contact, like an online presentation. But we’re not here to split hairs, the goal is to bring you up to speed with best practices in this new, more online event world.
Hosting a Digital Business Event Like A Pro
Switching to a digital events paradigm provides a real opportunity for businesses and organizations to embrace change and new ways of doing things as well as experiment with exciting new technology.
The most important question to ask when switching to digital events is: “What are the critical aspects of our physical events we need to preserve and transfer to online events that will make our attendees feel the same (or at least similar) in a new medium?” Carefully consider your brand and what your audience expects of you. Be sure to personalize digital events, both for your brand and the attendees, as much as possible, and remember that post-event follow-ups go a long way to success and making events feel as close to an in-person experience as possible.
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind for putting on professional-grade digital events:
Keep it timely
When you’re unable to provide the added value/eminent distraction of an exotic location or spiffed-up event venue, it’s all the more important to keep your content highly relevant to what your audience wants. Don’t overemphasize brand building or your latest product offering (unless the audience specifically showed up for that), rather deliver the ideas, engagement, and connection your audience needs in the now and the rest should follow. Additionally, respect the challenges that attendees will still face being there virtually. Do your utmost to keep events on schedule, reasonably timed, and to the point.
While on one hand, it can be a plus to not need to travel and be able to save money, the fact that digital events don’t require everyone to be physically present simultaneously is a double-edged sword. It’s not the same as having to book an airplane and a hotel, but there are still potential obstacles. Maybe one of your or key guests is now in a radically different time zone from you, and the event schedule is awkward. Or attendees might be subject to the distractions of their home while attending virtually (like children, partners working from home, deliveries, and so forth) and more challenged to afford time and attention.
Video is the “face to face” of digital events
We’ve all needed to become a lot more comfortable with the video call… and that’s not a bad thing! It provides the context of reactions, expressions, and motion that are vital to in-person communication. When physically meeting is not an option, face-to-face video meetings are the next best thing.
As such, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for attendees, guests, and sponsors to engage in these kinds of conversations. Webinars and one-way streaming are totally appropriate for presenting information and demonstrations but consider breakout sessions for group meetings or collaborations where people can directly communicate with other people.
Keep it social!
Remember, a large amount of the value of many in-person events is to be able to have personal interactions. If you’re just watching video on a screen without any ability to comment or reply, or to engage anyone else face-to-face, then you’re creating something much less like an event or experience and much more like “watching instructional videos.”
You can even include more fun options for people to gather like “digital happy hours” (alcohol or nonalcoholic beverages optional) or other for-enjoyment activities. These are also excellent areas to involve your sponsors (for more about sponsors, see below).
Even if the main presentations will not be conducive to interaction, it’s a good idea to create virtual networking spaces where attendees, guests, and sponsors can all engage socially with one another through video conferencing or real-time text chat. Speaking of which, …
As we mentioned above, it’s wise to be conscious of the challenges that some attendees will face even in joining a digital event. Sometimes being “camera ready” is NOT top of mind for someone who nonetheless wants to participate in the event. This is where chat functionality is a real killer feature–make sure attending via video camera is not always mandatory and there’s an alternative way to make one’s voice heard.
The value of sponsorship
Sponsors can help you financially and creatively expand the scope of your digital event. Get creative and think of fun and engaging ways to bring in sponsors in addition to plastering brand logos everywhere! Since we’ve covered it elsewhere we won’t belabor the point in this post. Suffice it to say sponsorships are a real asset in creating a memorable digital event.
Take advantage of mobile
Providing a mobile event app is a great way to allow event visitors to take breaks and move around without entirely checking out of the event. It’s a great way to keep them connected and connecting with like-minded individuals who are also attending the digital event. Apps are also a fantastic opportunity to showcase sponsors’ brands and provide sponsor information alongside a virtual event program.
It’s about connections
As we pointed out in the “Keep it social!” section the interactions and sense of community are key to the experience of an in-person or digital event. Otherwise, there’s a lot less of a motive to attend, especially if you can watch the video coverage of major presentations on-demand later.
So be sure you dedicate time and energy creating opportunities for connection: the event audience should genuinely feel like they’ll be missing out on something if they register and then don’t log on. Additionally, you may want to provide opportunities for attendee-to-sponsor or attendee-to-attendee appointments where people can get to know each other more and engage in more detailed conversation.
Overall, have a good strategy (or strategies) to keep your attendees focused; engage their interests and attention and you can pull off an online event that will keep visitors talking for the days and weeks to come.
How to Choose Digital Event Platforms and Services
The type of digital event platform that’s right for you is going to vary widely based on the scope of your event. There’s no wrong or right answer, it’s just about what the best fit is for your style of digital events. That said, here are a few:
- Features Supporting the Goal of your Event. For example, a virtual fundraiser might want a platform with easy-to-use donation features.
- A Low Barrier to Entry. Don’t overwhelm your attendees with an overly complicated sign-in or navigation process; not everyone is equally technically savvy.
- Networking Functionality. We said it above, your event is just as much about the audience connecting with each other as your own brand.
- Good Technical Support. Enough said.
- Personalized Branding and Customization Options. Your platform will be your virtual venue, you don’t want it to look like a generic template. Make sure that you can personalize the look and feel and your audience’s experience.
- Quality Data Analytics. Good data will improve both your knowledge of your audience base and how you execute further digital events.
- It’s Within Your Budget. Also self-explanatory!
Kaltura Virtual Events
We’ll of course recommend our advanced virtual event solution Kaltura Virtual Events as your platform of choice. Kaltura Events makes sure nothing feels like anything less than a full effort. When it comes to digital events, we want to make sure all your events can be on-brand and simple to create and execute. Kaltura Virtual Events is fully featured to help your digital events through the planning stages into execution and follow-ups.
While in the planning and setup stages of your digital event, you can take advantage of our agenda-building capabilities as well as fully customizable landing pages and preset event templates. Our templates have robust features for individualized modification and are intended to keep you 100% on-brand, as well as make it possible to extend your reach by scaling up and adding tracks and content.
We have 5 basic templates to either be implemented as-is as well as reused or reworked: Interactive Webinar, Town Hall and Large Broadcast, Single Track, Multi-Day Multi-Track, and Flagship Event. Our Flagship Events template is particularly geared toward those “Once-a-year and one-of-a-kind” types of events and comes with the full advantages of our platform as well as excellent production support from our teams.
Additionally, we enable hyper-personalization for all attendees, including personalized agendas, selecting topics of interest during registration to content recommendations, customizable layouts, personal media collections, and other options to significantly individualize any digital events experience.
Finally, we also feature out-of-the-box integrations as a modular framework for your SaaS tools including conferencing clients, marketing automation platforms, and data analytics. Marketing automation features in particular empower your event to create personalized, customized and automated live marketing that puts you on track for follow-up campaigns.
While making in-person connections may be more complicated nowadays, well-curated digital events and experiences should carry the same sense of engagement and connection that well-planned in-person events provide. Put planning and effort into holding your audience’s attention and providing a “can’t miss” experience (even in an online format) and your digital events are sure to be winners.
Ready to launch your own digital event? Kaltura can help.