Bogdan Maran, co-founder, partnerships and data at AMMP Media, on how event organisers can use data to create successful online events.
Event organisers now have to take online events seriously. They can no longer function as placeholders, intended just to maintain contact and visibility with our communities until we return to face-to-face.
Online events have to be able to function similarly to physical events, which means networking, sales, sponsor ROI and income for organisers, not to mention giving attendees a level of value that they would expect from a physical event.
To achieve this we have to change some fairly entrenched attitudes in the world of live
events. As events people we thrive on face-to-face. The excitement and energy of a live event is what gets us out of bed in the morning.
Online events have always been an add-on, a supplement rather than the main event. Many organisers have even shied away from something as simple as streaming speaker sessions to a wider, non-physical audience for fear it would dilute the power of the live experience.
A strategic approach
At the start of lockdown the industry understandably saw a vast number of webinars and larger-scale online events launched with very little lead time and complexity. It was all about generating content, staying connected with remote, locked down communities and providing industry-specific advice and guidance.
As time has gone on and audiences have become weary of endless virtual talking heads, there has been a growing need for a more thought-through, strategic approach in order to attract similarly engaged audiences.
One way to achieve this objective is to engage with your online event provider as early as possible, with a sense of your ideal format (live vs pre-recorded, breakout sessions, opportunities for networking) and what features you envision for your event (both backend and audience-facing).
Most client needs are achievable with a reasonable lead time and a clear brief and most providers, if they can’t create your ideal online event in-house, they can find tech partners to
integrate with to create something truly bespoke and tailored to your needs.
Visual content front and centre
We all know the power of a strong keynote to draw audiences to a physical event. Finding the right speakers for an online event is even more important, as your content is now by far the strongest weapon in your arsenal.
The most effective way of replicating a physical experience is through your visual content, and the quality of your content will resonate with your audience as much as the keynote itself.
We’ve all been to a physical event where we’ve zoned out during a session, checked our phones, maybe nipped out for a coffee. From an organiser’s point of view it’s not ideal, but you’re still in the building and you can still be re-engaged. In the context of an online event, those attendees haven’t just zoned out for a moment, they’ve been completely lost.
The conventional wisdom is to match session lengths to the often short attention spans of attendees, but it can pay to hold your nerve and believe in the power of a strong speaker to hold attention for longer periods of time – particularly with the addition of audience interaction.
A strong combination of the right speakers, high quality broadcast, interactivity options and second screen experiences can make an online event successful, so investing time and research is now more important than ever.
Online experiences are effective when they are bespoke, well thought out and visually engaging, with a smart use of data. All of these elements add value to the attendee experience and enhance their engagement.
Effective use of data
Pre, post, and during your event, data is key. In the pre-Covid world we were on the journey to effective use of data, often in partnership with registration companies. Now it’s the job of online event platforms to engage with organisers to provide useful data which can be used to identify demographics, measure engagement and quantify ROI for sponsors and exhibitors.
As with a physical event, preparation is key when it comes to gathering valuable data from an online event. If organisers are able to identify what information will be required post-event, it can enable online event platforms to prepare appropriately.
We’ve been able to provide sophisticated metrics to organisers along with easily digestible reports for event sponsors detailing the level of engagement with their brand. This information allows event organisers to make data-backed decisions before, during and after
By enabling organisers to demonstrate the specific demographics attending an event, combined with the levels of engagement and drop-off, we can make online event sponsorship a more data-driven sell for organisers.
Online events are here to stay for the foreseeable future and may well be the key to the continued survival of our industry in 2020 and beyond. Digital and online will continue
to be an integral part of the events industry, as added value and equal partner to the physical experience, if not the main event. It’s time to stop treating them as second-best.