When your livelihood relies on regular business events to keep the sales funnel fed, a virtual event might be a great option in today’s world. But how do you decide whether your business needs a webinar or a virtual live event to get the results you want?

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa

Let us keep close together, not wide apart

At this stage, nobody will claim the last 6 months haven’t been interesting. In Aotearoa, we’re lucky, for sure. As the above quote reminds us, when times are rough, it’s important to remember that there is strength in togetherness. But doing that, when physical closeness is not on the cards, comes with its challenges. 2020 has forced us to re-think what we know in many ways.

How do you stay close when you need to be apart?

Like the tourism industry, the businss event industry was hit hard. But more importantly, the struggles of the event industry have a trickle-down effect on many companies that rely on regular events for the smooth sailing of their business.

Your business may depend on events to connect with the company squad, clients or industry peers. It affects networking opportunity, the need to keep your industry knowledge current and ultimately the (in)ability to put your brand out there.

Times are a-changing

It is often said that with challenge comes opportunity. It’s about working with what you have, keeping an eye on the goals and looking at the glass half full.

Forbes states that virtual events have gone up a whopping 1000% since the start of Covid-19. Obviously, part of that was merely making the best out of a bum situation.

But never mind nasty viruses, travel bans and social distancing; as things turn out, there is something solid to say about the upside of virtual events no matter what the current global climate.

The upside of virtual events

Marketing software company Marketo gives us an insight into some of the significant advantages of virtual events: 

  • With no need to spend money on travel, catering, venues and accommodation, virtual events cost less—often, a lot less. 
  • It’s easier to manage a virtual event. When the need to relocate products, displays, and people drops away, it’s less complicated to deliver a virtual event than an in-person event.
  • They’re easier for attendees to fit into their lives and schedules. 
  • Virtual events give you a greater audience reach. A person is only willing to travel so far to attend an in-person event. But virtual events can attract attendees from all over the world. 
  • Introverts (who make up 40% of the world population) thrive in a world that allows them to interact from the safety of their desk. 
  • Virtual events can generate lots of data and insights, crucial in decision making for the future. A goldmine!

Choosing the right solution type for your desired results.

But it’s all fine and dandy to see the up-side in the shift towards virtual events. All that positive insight doesn’t mean much if you don’t choose the right event type for your desired outcome.

Which brings us to the question: what’s out there? What’s right for you and your organisation? And what are the defining features of a webinar or a virtual live event?

1.  Webinars

Webinars are the online alternative to an in-person presentation. They offer a perfect way to get a group of participants from around the world to listen in as one or more speakers present their content. While mainly set-up for listening, webinars allow for (moderated) Q&A interaction, chat or polls from the listeners.

Webinars typically last somewhere around the 60 minutes mark (give or take), although several webinars may be knitted together to create a larger event. Usually (but not always) webinars are presented live and offered on-demand after the fact.

Size wise, they are more suitable to a medium-sized group. The audience rarely exceed 500 heads, although that is not set in concrete.

Webinar Pros

  • Webinars suit educational and informative content.
  • They are fairly simple in concept and set-up.
  • The event itself doesn’t take up a lot of time.
  • They are very cost effective.
  • Especially when offered as a paid service, they boast a close to 100% virtual attendance.

Webinar Cons

  • They don’t offer a lot of opportunity for networking.
2.  Virtual Live Events

Virtual live events are not too different from in-person conferences, but taken online. They can go on for several days. Typically, a virtual live event includes multi-session content.  They are built around a live, sometimes complex agenda that can include webinars, keynotes, workshops, etc.

Virtual live events usually cater to a large audience size. How many? The sky is the limit, really.

Virtual Live Events Pros

  • Virtual live events are perfect alternatives to industry conferences, sales kick-offs, trade shows, exhibitions, etc. but without the physical bottlenecks.
  • They are great options if entertaining, educating and networking is your goal.
  • They allow for more networking opportunity than webinars. Virtual meeting spaces, a virtual cocktail hour, a virtual lobby (to meet in between sessions) and the use of breakout rooms are game changers. Also don’t forget to find out more about the ACE Event App here.
  • They are more engaging than webinars (although that’s not always the case).
  • Participants typically have a wide range of options in regards to how and when they want to participate. They can largely choose their own agenda.
  • You have complete user data and profile access.

Virtual Live Events Cons

  • Virtual live events are more complex to organise with the need for several community engagement tools (chats, event breakout rooms, virtual booths, etc) and potentially different event space.
  • Because of the more complex nature, they usually are also more expensive than webinars.

Virtual Live Event vs. Webinar: the bottom-line

Breaking it down, when you’re organising a webinar, your main concerns are getting engaging and knowledgeable speakers, butt-kicking content, a reliable internet connection and a good quality microphone (Interesting fact: the latter two are the biggest annoyances for virtual event attendees.) The addition of a virtual chat room, poll(s) and opportunity for Q+A provides a lot of added value.

When organising a virtual live event, you need all that and much more.  The options are wide open, especially when it comes to networking and the variety of what’s on offer to keep the attendees engaged. At the same time, as you step it up, complexity increases exponentially and the need for an outstanding user experience is everything. 

Our top recommendations when organising a webinar or virtual live event

When it comes to producing a virtual event, you still need to put in the same amount of effort as you would when making any in-person event. 

Here are some top takeaways when organising a webinar or a virtual live event:

  • Allow yourself enough lead time to put it all together. Because of the complexity involved, that will be longer for a or a virtual live event than when you are working on a webinar. 
  • Keep your audience in mind. Who is your audience? What are your key-objectives? What will they benefit from most? 
  • Make sure your brand is visible and consistent across the entire webinar or virtual live event.
  • Don’t forget to promote your event.
  • Make sure everybody is clear on their role. Consider the appointment of a moderator or facilitator.  Their involvement will keep all the wheels turning throughout the event.
  • Ask for help. Virtual Event Planning is an intensive and time-consuming process. Engaging a virtual event planner like Auaha will allow you to focus on the attendees and the message you are bringing, while Sandra and the support squad will keep everything running smoothly in the background. 

Where will we go from here?

Tony Robins couldn’t believe it when his very first virtual event ‘Unleash the Power Within’ attracted 22,500 people from 143 countries.  “Never in a million years did I think I would ever do this – deliver a live event in people’s homes – No Way!”

Are virtual events here to stay? After all, they have a lot going for them. Our money is on the possibility that they will remain popular in some shape or form. Chances are hybrid events will be the event choice of the future? There definitely is a lot to say for the idea.

So, let’s keep close in all the ways we can, including new ones.

Like the idea but don’t know where to start? Just reach out to the experienced Auaha Squad to help you with your virtual events.  Sandra is more than happy to discuss your ideas about webinars and virtual live events.