Feeding the Virtual Event Habit

Necessity is the mother of invention, and that is in fact the case with virtual events. The ability to host virtual events has been available for quite some time, but the demand has not been there. With the sudden shutdown of the country due to COVID-19, event planners looked to postpone events but, as the crisis continued, they quickly embraced the online medium to keep some kind of connection to the public they needed to reach.

Virtual events are proving to be more than a stopgap as we work through the response to a public health crisis. It is generally accepted that habits form after 21 days and lifestyle changes cement themselves after 90. Being far beyond 90 days into online meetings and gatherings, we all now accept and even enjoy attending events and learning online. For event planners, virtual events have proven to be an amplifier of their content, often attracting more people than would have attended in person and providing a recorded version of sessions that can be used in other ways throughout the year.

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Virtual Events Time to Shine – Are They Here to Stay?

We've written quite a bit about virtual events and webinars. With our new COVID reality, we thought it was an important topic to revisit.

While virtual and online events may be the only option in the short term, event organizers can benefit from a virtual mindset when they approach all events going forward. Integrating a plan to host your event virtually if circumstances demand it should be a mandatory part of the overall planning process. Organizers should have the technology in place so they can easily "turn it on" when needed. Even if the event does go off as planned, live and in-person, consider adding online aspects to increase engagement. The option to create streaming video should become an essential event utility like electricity or WiFi.

While social distancing may have accelerated the acceptance of online events, webinars, in particular, are not a new concept in the federal market. Market Connections' Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS) found that three-quarters of federal workers reported watching live webinars during the workday and at least one in five were watching recorded webinars on their own time (weeknights and weekends). Webinars tend to be mainly one-way communication - with a speaker presenting and time for questions at the end. Frequently, the Q&A is not done "live," rather questions are gathered via messaging, vetted, and asked by the host. However, as our collective comfort with platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and Skype grow, future webinars could become more interactive, allowing for video participation and interaction between speakers and participants.

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When the Show Simply Cannot Go On

The Coronavirus has made many organizations take a hard look at how and if they should proceed with events in the coming months. Decisions made in response to this virus should be informed by security and contingency best practices and should serve to inform planners in the future.

Best practices include:

  • Hygiene - Have antibacterial sanitizers available throughout your event venue. Ensure that bathrooms are stocked with anti-bacterial soap. Confirm with caterers how they stock buffets to reduce the risk of people grabbing for food with hands instead of utensils.
  • Have a Plan B - Consider how you can take the show virtual if needed. Look into virtual event and webcast technologies in advance of an issue arising to provide an alternate option should an event have to be canceled or postponed.
  • Review Contracts - Look carefully at cancellation clauses so you understand what falls into each vendor's (including insurance provider's) definition of "force majeure." This ensures that you fully understand the reimbursement policies when making cancellation decisions.
  • Plug into the Community - Tune in to what is happening in the city/community where you are holding the event. It's critical to know what is going on in the community so you can plan accordingly. For example, if there has there been a rash of recent protests or a spike in crime, you may want to increase security at your venue. In the case of a public health issue, you'll know what is actually happening on the ground in terms of infections and general reactions so you can inform attendees and plan accordingly.

We've been in touch with many of our partners and have pulled together this list of events that have been canceled, postponed or rescheduled due to health concerns.

We'd love to hear from you. How have precautions around the Coronavirus impacted your event planning? Share your stories in the comments. For more government events worldwide, visit GovEvents.

The Real Scoop on Virtual Events

With fall upon us and colder weather coming, our "hibernation" instinct kicks in and people start to stay in more. But even if you are ensconced in layers of blankets with a pumpkin latte in hand, you can still grow your professional knowledge base. Virtual events have been growing in popularity among event planners and attendees alike. In the government market specifically, over 60% of federal employees surveyed reported attending one or more webinars in the past year. 46% of government marketers surveyed are planning on investing in webinars in the coming year.

The allure of virtual events is cost and time savings. With no physical venue to rent and no need to travel, both planners and attendees save money as well as time. These virtual meetings run the spectrum from basic webinar-type presentations of power point slides, to interactive video demos, to fully immersive virtual worlds with online tradeshow booths that include the ability to chat with exhibitors. But no matter the format, all virtual events share a key challenge - how to engage and keep the attention of attendees who are in an environment full of distractions. Meeting this challenge requires commitments on the part of attendees and event planners. Continue reading

A Real Look at Virtual Events

It's been a little over a year since we last looked at the state of virtual events. Since that post, streaming has become more mainstream with the launch of Facebook Live. The rise in mobile device usage and access to high bandwidth connections has fueled the viability of video in recent months. Its popularity -- and power -- is growing at an amazing rate thanks in part to Google and Facebook's efforts to promote video through prioritizing it in their algorithms.

While every virtual event does not require video (many audio and slide-driven webinars are very valuable and popular), it is a dynamic way to hold the attention of virtual attendees. It also serves to broaden the reach of live events to an online audience.[Tweet "Virtual events can broaden the reach of live events to an online audience. #GovEventsBlog"] In 2016, the Super Bowl, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and the debates were live streamed creating a second venue for people to watch and interact online. While the Federal events we list on GovEvents are nowhere near the scope of those events, there is a real need and opportunity for virtual events in the federal market. Continue reading