There is no doubt that COVID-19 has halted live meetings and event in their tracks across the country and around the globe. However, there is still an ongoing need for organizations to share information with their employees, stakeholders and clients. That said, many companies are turning to The Event Lounge to help them transform their live conferences into virtual meetings.
Not everyone is sure how to do this, however, so the information contained herein is meant to demystify the process a bit. This article will address the definition of the term “Virtual Meeting”, provide a quick explanation of how a virtual meeting is produced, discuss some suggestions to ensure your virtual meeting is designed to facilitate audience engagement, and explore how sponsorships can be crafted to support the overall experience.
WHAT IS A “VIRTUAL MEETING?”
A “Virtual Meeting” is a meeting that takes place without all participants having to be in the same physical location. The meeting participants use video, text or audio to link up online and share information and data in a real time setting. It can be a free event or participation can come with a fee. It can be used to replace a traditional live event, for an annual meeting or for continuing education classes.
Given the concern around COVID-19, many clients are currently converting their general sessions that were scheduled to take place at their conferences into Virtual Meetings. This allows them to reach their audience members via a shared link that gives the participates the ability to access the meeting from the safety of their own offices and homes.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The virtual meeting itself can be produced at your offices in a space like a cafeteria or large boardroom, on-site at a film studio … or we can produce the event in a hotel ballroom without an audience. In some cases, this is the best scenario as it allows planners to possibly offset some of the cancellation fees a hotel might charge when a meeting is cancelled due to COVID-19.
Using a production package with gear similar to what is used at a traditional meeting, our production team will capture the live speakers delivering their presentations, mixed with their graphic content, using multiple cameras set up in the space to create a dynamic and interesting live stream. The stream is then fed through the webcasting link to your audience for a seamless viewing experience.
For the viewer, it will feel much like attending a conference. Each attendee will receive a fully branded digital invitation where they can sign up to participate in the virtual meeting. At the designated time when the meeting is scheduled to occur, they will follow a secure link on their computer or mobile device and tune into the meeting on their own, in a small group or at a viewing party. The meeting content can feature general sessions for the entire group, and it can feature concurrent or consecutive breakouts – exactly like a live meeting. People can sign up and tune into the content they like and we can track attendance for post event follow-up.
HOW CAN YOU FACILITATE ENGAGEMENT DURING A VIRTUAL MEETING?
One might argue that virtual meetings lack the personal touch and hinder an attendee’s ability to feel engaged during the event. There are countless ways to counteract this, however.
Prior to the event, each attendee can be invited to download a customized mobile app for the virtual meeting. Using this app, they can share photos of their virtual meeting experience, network with other attendees, check out sponsors, etc. During the sessions, using this same app – or using a dedicated email address or text messaging platform – attendees will be asked by speakers to participate in polls, word clouds and surveys. The attendees can even send questions to the presenters and company stakeholders that will be addressed in real-time from the stage.
For an even more unique twist, we can facilitate a virtual lunch break or happy hour during which grab their device, enjoy a meal or drink, link into the virtual meeting platform, share their video feed and introduce and interact with each other. This works great with small interest groups and for sponsor recognition, as well.
HOW CAN YOU RECOGNIZE SPONSORS USING VIRTUAL MEETINGS?
Many meetings and conferences wouldn’t be possible without sponsorship support, so it’s also important to recognize the opportunities that exist to promote sponsors when a live meeting is transformed to a virtual meeting.
Sponsors can be recognized during the general sessions and breakouts via sponsor slides, logos that appear during specific sessions or even via sponsor “commercials” that are played periodically during the meeting. Key sponsors can be recognized on the landing page of the virtual meeting site as this is fully customizable. In addition, logos can be featured on all digital collateral that is sent to attendees leading up to and post virtual meeting (invitations, reminders, thank yous, etc.).
It would also be a great touchpoint follow-up to send all participants a tangible swag bag of giveaways and marketing materials post event. In addition, it would be fun to introduce an element of gamification, allowing attendees to earn points for sending questions, participating in live polls, posting photos, etc. Sponsors could donate prizes for the winners of the game and be recognized throughout the conference for this contribution.
In summary, COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the face of live meetings and events moving forward. During this disruption, however, virtual meetings are a wonderful platform to keep audiences informed and engaged. They also shows your employees, stakeholders and clients that you can continue business without interuption, are nimble and able to move quickly to craft a strategic and valuable replacement for a traditional meeting or event.