Gil Shwed, founder and CEO of cybersecurity company Check Point, was recently asked to explain the company’s impressive results during the COVID-19 crisis. In response, he said that “the high profits are not only the result of our activity but mainly due to a sharp decline in the flights and entertainment expenses.” In fact, many companies began noticing the high cost of attending events abroad when such conferences were no longer available.
The price tag isn’t the only key advantage to virtual events, which create an innovative and easy way to gather a global audience, as well as track and measure its behavior. Still, physical events have a few advantages that virtual ones would like to offer as well. One is the ability to gather a group of professionals from all around the world in a single room. Sure, many of them are likely to be jet-lagged, but they will all be there, sharing a moment in time.
Then again, virtual events have a much wider reach potential. For that to happen, we have to get people to join sessions happening at inconvenient hours. And remember, the goal is to get business communities from different geographical areas to connect. Here are a few ways to harness technology for the cause and get everyone in the same place simultaneously, even if oceans apart.
Focus on the right time zone
The virtual space isn’t divided into time zones, but you’ll still have to decide on one when building your agenda. The intuitive approach would be to go for the time zone where the physical event would have taken place, or, alternatively, choose one of those generally considered leading markets, such as the US Pacific. But, doing either of these would probably get many people to sign up and attend the event but might be missing the point.
You should consider the most relevant and lucrative market for your specific field. People will flock to your event if the business partners and customers they’re after are likely to be there, even if they come from relatively smaller markets. After the event, analyze the attendance and engagement rates by region to see if your assumptions were correct and use your findings to make your next virtual conference even better.
Divide and conquer your content
If people from different time zones signed up to your event, it would be wise to create an agenda that offers something for everyone during their routine schedule. At the same time, you should encourage them to attend sessions at less convenient times. Divide your content so that keynote speakers appear at different hours, offer limited access to specific sessions to make them more exciting, and use a solid content management system for the task. Use a “follow the sun” model that presents keynote speakers numerous times at different hours, combining live and simulated live capabilities.
Technology enables you to include both human and automated on-demand translation and captioning capabilities. This will make your event more accessible compared to physical ones and allow attendees from different countries to enjoy the content in their native language.
It’s also important to make your content accessible on any device so that participants will be able to join sessions no matter where they are, including on-the-go. Strong streaming capabilities should be part of any solution you end up using.
Event planners will tell you that attendance often depends on branding, and virtual environments are no different in that sense. Brand your event as a global, insightful experience and turn the hassle of logging-in late at night into a unique and thrilling “midnight session”. You can send a physical goody bag, personalized based on the time of day at which attendees will join the session to increase the participation rate. Make it Instagram-worthy, and you could also increase your social media exposure.
The after-party is just as important
Simply because someone could not attend a session doesn’t mean they’re not interested in the content delivered and the networking opportunities surrounding it. One of the benefits of virtual events is being able to create a content and networking hub for participants to enjoy long after (and before) the official agenda.
Content that is recorded and broadcasted at different times can still feel like a live experience thanks to added chatting features, for instance. Remember that the conference isn’t over when the last lecture is done and you can use a variety of communication channels to build a long-lasting community around your event. Ultimately, people will join sessions at all hours of the day and night if the networking opportunities are worth it.
Research finds that about 80% of virtual event attendees are focused on acquiring knowledge. The next top focal point is – as you may have guessed – networking. Build a virtual event that maximizes the opportunity to gain both, and time differences will become nothing but a footnote in your success story. If you’re not sure how to execute all the above or need help with video solutions for your next virtual event, our virtual event specialists would be happy to help.