Author ADMIN  |  Date published 23 December 2020

Confessions of a Virtual Event Planner - Just the Click of a Button?!

Anyone else feel like there’s a huge client expectation that running a virtual event is easier, quicker to deliver and cheaper than a F2F event?

Anyone else feel like there’s a huge client expectation that running a virtual event is easier, quicker to deliver and cheaper than a F2F event?

I mean it’s just pushing a few buttons to go live right? WRONG! It’s weeks of meticulous planning, pre-recording content, editing content, setting up live broadcasting, uploading content, technical build, rehearsals, convincing speakers that they need to rehearse because this is NOT a zoom meeting…. the list goes on and on.

Aside from the fear factor of putting all your faith into running a virtual event on an online piece of technology, there’s another hurdle we have to overcome as virtual event planners and that’s the cultural mindset of our clients and end users.  I’m not saying that every client thinks that they can skid in at the last minute with a change to their agenda like they would at a live in-person event, there are bigger factors to consider.

Imagine if you will the simple task of briefing your speakers – traditionally the only things to worry about there was whether the speaker was providing their presentation in Keynote or PowerPoint…and finding them in the green room and getting them on stage in time!  Now you have to worry about what device the presenters are going to broadcast from, ensure they have no firewall issues with accessing the platform you are using, that they attend an online rehearsal, that their camera and audio works, that they have good WiFi, that they read the extensive briefing document you send them about lighting, camera angle and audio…. it’s an extensive list and if you have an agenda of 77 speakers (which we have recently had!) this is a time precious task that needs to be built into your pre-planning.  There are also a number of speakers that are of the mindset that they are entering a simple zoom room, so refuse to attend rehearsals, but with a plethora of different streaming options which are all different our task as event planners in the virtual space becomes even more challenging! Oh and don’t even get me started on them muting themselves!!!!

Next up is the submission of all that lovely content you need to build your agenda. Most platforms have strict hard deadlines in place (lucky them!) due to the amount of coding that needs to take place in order to create your event so any last-minute changes or missing deadlines has a huge impact on the output of the event.  It’s not like changing the layout of your main plenary from theatre to cabaret overnight. It’s the difference between having your event go live or being half built. Try explaining that to a technophobic client who thinks it’s just a case of pressing a couple of buttons. 

This culture shift will happen…but like anything it will take time. We will all learn to understand that a virtual event platform is the equivalent of our venue, our production team and our logistics team.  However, we will also learn that as accommodating as we could be in the traditional sense, on a virtual event we are at the mercy of the confines of a platform. We can interact, we can watch a live stream, we can gain knowledge and we can watch the content either live or on demand after (which let’s face it is a bonus as we can’t do that in a traditional event normally). What we can’t do is change the set-up once its set, manage transmission failures and user error.  

User error. As much as we put faith in the audience’s ability to log on and navigate their way around a platform or just simply sit and watch a live stream, there will always be the attendee that can’t click a button – and we have all been there! With so many different platforms being used and so much new technology to get our head around it does take its toll for even the most hardened delegate! 

And finally the short lead time client. I kid you not we had a request on a Thursday for a live stream to 18,000 people, with Q&A and live polling….to be streamed on the following Tuesday with 10 speakers, presentations and videos. But we did it. There’s always a solution or ‘venue’ available so don’t lose faith. Short lead times can be challenging, there aren’t many options available but it can be done with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Same as with a traditional event. We are event planners, it’s what we do and it may be a crazy, lonely experience navigating through it all at the moment. But we are doing it.

So the next time you log on to a virtual event, or run a virtual event, remember that you are not alone with any of the challenges discussed here and I’m sure that there are a number of other challenges that we face.  At the end of the event, there will be highs and lows that your audience will take away with them but we all share the same common goal…to be together apart. My wish right now, is clients learn and appreciate how much work is needed to plan and deliver their now virtual events.


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