What Makes a Successful Virtual Event?

By Adam Tillotson | Director, Regional Sales

A fundamental look at the building blocks of a successful virtual event

In the age of COVID-19, virtual meetings & events have largely taken the place of their in-person versions.  While many virtual “meetings” have been simple Zoom calls, others have been beautiful, elaborate, interactive and engaging.  What makes one different than the other, and why would I choose one format over another?  I attempt to answer these questions below by breaking down what comprises a virtual event, and why decision factors would drive you to choose one solution over another.

What makes a virtual event?

All successful virtual events contain 3 essential elements:

  • An Event Platform
  • A Content Delivery Network
  • A Production Company

Event Platform

Most commonly, an event platform is a website.  Think of this as the face of your program.  This is where most people will first interact with your program, where they will obtain information on what the program entails, what time it starts, what the agenda looks like, how to access the video streams, etc.  This can be as simple as a Zoom registration page or a Facebook site, or it can be as elaborate as a multi-day seminar with breakout rooms, pre-meeting videos, vendor “booths” in an exhibit hall, etc.

The event platform tends to be where the most interaction with your program will take place as it is primarily where people will obtain their information and access your event.  As your program grows in complexity, the need for an event platform grows.  There are many platform companies out there that provide a great product, but this is very simply one piece of the puzzle and without the other two, event managers are often left scrambling at the last minute to find the other components to create a produced event and not just a pretty website.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

While most people won’t even know that it exists, arguably the most critical component to a successful meeting is a Content Delivery Network or CDN.

A CDN is the company or hardware that the video streams will live.  For product-based video conferencing companies like Zoom, Microsoft, Google or WebEx, these entities are providing the servers and hardware to process and stream your videos.  This is also your video repository for your recorded videos that you link on your event platform so people can watch later.

Have you had a Zoom call with friends, family or even your internal team at work where one person cuts in and out of video or audio and the next 2 minutes are “can you hear me?  Is the video working?  Maybe it’s my headphones, hold on!”  Now imagine that same interaction for your product launch, your annual sales kick-off or your investor forum.

A CDN is a critical component for a successful meeting as most of us had these poor experiences with a flimsy CDN and understand how it can remove any professionalism from the experience.  If you are expecting to monetize an event or make an impact on your audience, for 10 people or 10,000 people, it is imperative that you have an enterprise-class CDN with built-in redundancies to ensure that your message comes across clearly.

Production Company

A production company is likened to (and most times, actually is) an AV company “producing” the event.  Think of this as the people at the AV table at the back of the ballroom.  This team produces your event, sets up lighting for your speakers, queues your next presenter, ensuring that the correct slides are up for the correct person and that your audience only sees a seamless presentation.  They work furiously behind the scenes to practice with speakers, build back-ups and redundancies, ensure the audio feed comes clear, the video feed is at an appropriate resolution and ultimately make sure that your speakers are felt instead of just heard or seen.  Nowadays, this also includes setting up in-home studios, mobile internet kits and high-end laptops to add production value to your videos.

While many meetings don’t necessary need studio quality lighting, audio and video, most everyone can easily discern between someone streaming a Teams call from their house vs. a 4K recorded video with crystal clear audio, soft studio lighting and flawless execution.  While internal huddle sessions and team-meetings probably don’t require this level of production, if you need to make an impact, you need to be thoughtful about how you produce your event.

What makes a virtual event successful?

While this is a largely subjective question, the 3 above components must be addressed for an event to be successful.  Most every component of a successful in-person event must also be in place, as we aren’t in-person to walk up to a registration table and ask questions, to reference a mobile app to see what room my breakout is in or to find the floor map of the exhibit hall to find that specific vendor, so we need to create that environment for our attendees.

If we don’t have a platform for people to access information, we leave our audience with more questions than answers, jeopardizing attendance and retention.  As humans have limited attention spans, If we don’t have a strong CDN, we risk losing our audience due to choppy video and audio as well as reputational damage from the perception that the event producers didn’t invest in a CDN that could get the job done.  If we don’t have a production company to coordinate the delicate dance of AV, the event comes off of amateurish, unprofessional and clunky.

How do I make sure my virtual event is set-up for success?

At Prestige Global Meeting Source, we are more than just destination and site selection experts.  We are a team of expert Event Consultants, and as such, we have several vetted solutions for your virtual, hybrid and in-person event needs.  From low-cost, complete package, turn-key solutions to completely customized and curated programs where we build everything catered to your needs from the ground up, whether 10 attendees, or 10,000 attendees, we understand what it takes to produce a successful event.

Meet the Prestige team and let us put our expertise to work for you so you may produce your next successful meeting or event.

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