8 Things We’ve Learned About Virtual Events Since the Start of COVID-19

June 11, 2021

It’s been over a year since virtual became the new in-person. So after 15 months – what have we learned?

1. Pay for attendance, not registration.

In the world of events – free ones especially – we know to expect a 50% rate of drop-off. That means if 500 people RSVP, only about 250 will actually show up. It’s just the nature of the beast. But with that said, don’t be duped by your tech vendors into paying for registrations vs. participants. It’s not transparent, and you shouldn’t hesitate in pushing back. One of the most important questions virtual event organizers can ask is: am I paying for RSVPs or attendees? Make sure you’re paying for what you’re using, and not what you don’t.

2. Every virtual event should look unique.

Of the dozens of events we’ve attended within the last month alone, do you know what’s stood out? Absolutely nothing. Why? Many of them used the same platform, in exactly the same way, with zero variation in functionality or design. No shade to the event organizers – they don’t know what they don’t know.

BUT let’s be clear: no two events are the same, so make sure your virtual venue can adapt along with you. Your event should not look the same as your competitor’s, or as your last event. A flexible virtual events platform like Tocca makes it easy to create unique experiences every time.

3. Data is more critical than ever.

There is nothing more frustrating and potentially ruinous for a marketing spend of a precious budget than a lack of or incorrect data and metrics. One of the silver linings of virtual events is the ability to obtain data about your audience’s engagement with your event.

  • What sessions did they attend?
  • Did they interact with other attendees?
  • How long did they spend in each room?

These are the essential bits of information that will help deliver your return on investment. Equally as important as the data capture, is the data integration. Why use a go-between solution when you can use a tool that already integrates with your organization’s existing tools?

4. Design your event for the environment you’re putting it on in.

Your virtual event never was nor ever will be the same as your in-person event – so why are we treating it that way? A year+ into virtual event design, we should no longer just be looking back and pivoting, we need to be thinking forward. Don’t just translate your offline event to online, rethink it as a virtual experience. Your audience’s needs are different at home, so meet them where they are.

5. Focus on the 1:1 experience.

We all know the person who loves to connect and network at every possible opportunity. We might be that person, but more than likely we’re the person who can’t run away from it fast enough. But in a post-COVID world, we can more firmly acknowledge the significance and desire for the kind of casual 1:1 interaction that leads to real, tangible results.

Just because we’re in a virtual setting doesn’t mean meaningful networking can’t happen. It can, but only if we make it a priority, not an afterthought. Virtual event platforms like TOCCA are designed for a variety of networking types, be it planned ahead, spontaneous, in groups, or one-on-one.

6. People need hand-holding. Even virtually.

In addition to the schmoozers we all know, there’s also likely to be a tech-averse friend/parent/co-worker in our lives. No one expected to be thrust into all virtual, all the time, so there are many folks who weren’t as prepared and had a more difficult time adjusting. Tech trouble is to be expected in professional settings – that’s why we have the all-knowing IT departments at work. But what about during events?

People are impatient about tech trouble, have someone available 24/7 and remind people how to get to the tech support. They need help navigating a virtual event.

7. We’re not more entitled to an attendee’s time just because they’re remote.

Could this day-long conference have been a two-hour webinar? Just because folks aren’t traveling to see us doesn’t mean we get to fill that time with extra content. Being pithy and dynamic is an art that we shouldn’t lose just because we’re remote.

8. Supplement the online experience with an offline one.

Make the experience one that attendees will remember even after they shut their laptops. Things like a bottle of champagne, a t-shirt, a sweet treat, or branded swag that ties back to your company or event go a long way. Take it a step further by staging a “mass opening” moment where all attendees open their gift box at the same time to create a shared experience that is so often missing in a virtual setting.