Virtual Meeting

Published in Smart Meetings on 6/9/22.

The average price for a paid virtual event is $443. Are virtual attendees seeing value? It depends.

“To demand a fee, digital events must boast compelling content and a seamless experience. According to Kim Myhre, founder of Experience Designed, in “Attendees to Virtual Events: To Charge or Not to Charge?” published by the Virtua Events Institute. “Audiences will pay for quality content. We know this from the rapid growth in music, entertainment, and game-streaming subscription services. Organizers can, should, and will charge for virtual events, but they will need to be very high-quality experiences.”

Approximately 80% of virtual events are free, according to the Evolution of Events Report. With so many attendees used to free events, expectations are high for paid events.

“They [online audiences] are far less captive and will have increasingly high expectations around the quality and value of these experiences. Online events are easier to leave if the experience is not relevant, is uninteresting, or poorly produced,” notes Myhre.

So how do event and meeting planners make sure attendees see value in attending a hybrid event virtually?

Below are six ways to add value so virtual attendees feel a hybrid event is worth every dollar.

1. Include a Virtual Emcee
Your virtual audience will feel more engaged and seen if they have a dedicated emcee.

The emceeing for the virtual audience can be different from the on-stage emceeing for the in-person audience. The virtual emcee speaks directly to the virtual audience, providing a more personal experience for those that are not at the in-person event.

2. Give Backstage Access
It is impossible to allow hundreds or thousands of in-person attendees backstage, but you can give virtual attendees a peek backstage. While in-person attendees are settling into their seats before a program, provide virtual attendees with a backstage pass. Feature live interviews with speakers, entertainers and organizational leaders.

Show virtual attendees a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into planning and producing a program. Let virtual attendees see the rush of activity backstage as presenters get ready. Give virtual attendees a view from on-stage. Let virtual attendees have a private tour of the facility and gain access to spaces closed to the general public. A peek backstage goes a long way in helping virtual attendees feel valued.

3. Provide exclusive content
In-person attendees receive a lot of perks that virtual attendees might not, including gift bags, food and entertainment experiences. However, virtual attendees can have their own bonuses in the form of exclusive content. Exclusive content could include private Q&As with speakers, pre-event workshops or live interviews not available to in-person attendees. Exclusive content can be packaged into a daily show that is live-streamed from the event location each day. 


4. Produce High-quality Video
A web camera and web conferencing platform are not enough to keep a paying virtual audience engaged. Paying virtual attendees expect more than the dreaded “screen share” webinar presentation. Instead, video content should be highly produced using multiple cameras and live switching between different camera angles and pre-recorded content.

Fill in-person transitions on stage with high-quality pre-recorded video so the pause is not awkward for the remote audience. Next-level virtual events also leverage moving shots and branded backgrounds. Live streamed video should include motion graphics, such as lower thirds, animated slides and picture-in-picture graphics. All streamed at full 1080DP up to 4K video.

5. Offer Private Networking
Networking connections are one of the most valuable components of an in-person event. Don’t let a paying virtual audience feel like they are on an island. Schedule structured networking opportunities for virtual attendees. Review the in-person run of the show to understand when to schedule virtual networking.

How will your virtual audience network during the lunch hour? Remember to flip-flop networking and tradeshow times for in-person and virtual audiences so that exhibitors will be available for both audiences. Allow virtual attendees to schedule online meetings with exhibitors throughout the event. Schedule specific times in virtual spaces for online attendees to network with each other.

6. Connect In-person and Virtual Audiences
Leverage web-based polling, surveying and Q&A tools to engage in-person and virtual audiences for feedback on presentations. By using the same tool, your entire audience feels more connected to each other and allows stage presenters to easily acknowledge both virtual and in-person attendees.

The more virtual attendees feel seen, heard and connected to other attendees, the more value they will perceive. In turn, perhaps 80% of events in the future will be paid and only 20% free.

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