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Virtual events: 5 minutes with… Gary Clement

Since the first lockdown, the events industry has gone virtual. The learning curve has been steep! We grab five minutes with Gary Clement, CEO of events software company Evessio, to talk about what publishers can do to stage successful virtual events…

By Gary Clement

Virtual events: 5 minutes with… Gary Clement

Q: What advantages do virtual award ceremonies have over in-person events?

A: Virtual award ceremonies have a number of advantages over physical ones. Firstly, there is no limit to the number of guests who can be invited to attend or geographical limitations on them doing so, giving virtual events strong sustainability credentials too. It is easier for guests to network with one another as they can move around ‘the room’ more fluidly and are not restricted to only talking to those on their table throughout the ceremony.

Virtual award ceremonies can be much cheaper than in-person ones as there are no physical overheads. Tickets can be offered at various price levels attracting a far wider audience than might ordinarily be possible and helping attendees justify the cost of attending.

There are huge benefits for sponsors too. In essence, there is vastly increased access to data which can lead to increased sales outcomes, but I’ll talk about this in more detail below.

Q: What should organisers do to ensure a successful virtual awards event?

A: It’s important to begin with a software provider and production agency who have experience in delivering the type of event your objectives specify.

At the actual ceremony, its crucial to have an engaging host able to keep your audience engaged throughout in a similar way to a TV host (after all your audience are likely to be watching at home). The host should be comfortable with the technology and adept at dealing with any issues that arise, such as speaking live to someone experiencing technical difficulties.

Interactive entertainment and games during the ceremony are a great way to keep your audience engaged and remember that networking will be an incredibly important element for the guests so factor in time for them to do this, either before or after the ceremony.

Q: How can sponsors get the best return for their involvement in a virtual awards event?

A: For sponsors, there are a number of tangible benefits to virtual award ceremonies. Firstly, branding and advertising have far greater reach as it in front of attendees throughout. Sponsors profiles can be provided in advance to help attendees understand what the sponsors are about and their relevance to the categories.

Potential new customers might attend a virtual event out of curiosity, so it is a good opportunity for sponsors to review their existing client base. Are the same clients entering year after year or is it the opposite, with clients not being retained? Sponsors can use the technology to network the event in a far more targeted way.

The increased amount of real time data can be used to track activities providing fantastic insights into what the attendees are doing and how engaged they are in the event. Tailored data packages can help sponsors better understand attendee activity, including who has been viewing their profile or monitoring salespeople on their networking activity.

To maximise inbound leads, it is a good idea to have a point of contact at the event to assist attendees who have any queries or general interest. For outbound leads, it is useful to have someone at the event focused on seeking out opportunities as would happen at an exhibition.

Q: What can organisers do to maximise attendee engagement and minimise click-aways?

A: Remember that an awards ceremony is a celebration for people who have worked hard and achieved great things! It is meant to be a fun and celebratory experience, so don’t rush it or let it drag on – plan the length of your event carefully.

Think about the running order of your ceremony – what are the ‘big’ categories with the most interest? Consider whether you want to spread these out across the ceremony or build up to them as a finale. Also, look at those who have been shortlisted across multiple categories and spread these out across the ceremony.

If you are sending out trophies or goodies for the winners, don’t do this before the ceremony. If people know they haven’t won they won’t bother attending! Further, have those who are announcing shortlists and winners record every shortlisted entry as a winner which can then be edited. This will reduce the chance of spoilers.

Q: What follow-up activity should organisers do after the event?

A: Follow-up is essential and the focus of this should be on making as much noise about next year’s event as possible. As well as sending round the usual videos, pictures and winner announcements, capitalise on the general excitement and euphoria to gain commitment to your next event. Motivate the winners to return as back-to-back winners or multi-category winners! If entrants were shortlisted but didn’t win, provide strong judges’ feedback guiding them on where they fell short so they can address those issues in future entries.

Doing these things will make future events far easier, bring in earlier revenues and leave you with more time to focus on sales and marketing activity – the results of which (increased customers) can be as much as 20% year-on-year growth.

Q: Once Covid-19 is behind us, will in-person award events incorporate any aspect of the virtual event format?

A: Absolutely!

The global pandemic has given our clients the opportunity to experience running virtual awards, and we are now seeing those clients use this knowledge to their advantage.

Award ceremonies can be opened up to wider national or international audiences, with guests able to participate even if they can’t attend in person. At a hybrid event, guests seated at a physical table will be able to use the technology to message their contacts who are attending virtually. For companies that have traditionally only been able to invest in a couple of tickets, hybrid events are an exciting way to open the event up to the wider team, gaining greater exposure to new contacts and leads.

With hybrid events, the organiser has the opportunity to sell separate and additional sponsor packages to the live awards and those attending virtually, thus providing additional revenue streams and greater reach for the sponsors over the event, ultimately leading to accelerated business growth.

Finally, we live in a digital world. Covid-19 has been the great accelerator, giving us experience of things we hadn’t dreamt of. Now we know we can do them successfully, more and more businesses will expect to see this kind of blending with its wealth of benefits for organisers, attendees and sponsors.

About us

We believe in better events! Evessio is the innovative software platform solution for awards, exhibitions and conferences.

In October, we launched the Awards Room, a new platform which aims to create the perfect hybrid experience of physical and digital award ceremonies.