Ask five different people, “What is a virtual event?” and you might get five entirely different answers. It’s obvious to us here at 6Connex, but we’re used to a few blank stares when we talk about our software platform at happy hour. We’re the experts; our team spends every day helping clients produce virtual events for marketing, sales, training, human resources and other purposes—but it’s not so obvious to everyone else.
The Cocktail Party Answer
“It’s an event a bit like a cocktail party, where people connect and talk—minus the drinks. Or like a typical in-person tradeshow with tables or booths for attendees to browse. Or like a big company sales meeting where people from all over the globe fly to Las Vegas for several days—only they do it online and save a ton of money.”
The blank stares now become nods and ah-has. At a basic level, virtual events are a lot like physical events, and that’s a great way to talk about them. Virtual events enable a group of people to come together to learn, discuss, and interact. Attendees consume content, exchange contact information, and follow up is scheduled.
Ask "Why?" to Answer "What?"
The use case or the “why” someone hosts a virtual event is often the best answer to “what is it?” Across an enterprise organization, there are many applications for online events:
- Marketing summits to attract and engage with customers and prospects
- Sales kickoffs to educate and motivate salespeople and drive sales
- Human resources onboarding to connect and engage with new employees
- Training academies for ongoing learning and certification
- Career fairs where recruiters and candidates connect live
- Traditional-style tradeshows with sponsors and partners staffing booths
These “whys” are just a handful of the use cases for virtual events. For B2B companies, creating a virtual environment for engagement with customers, partners, or employees can be the solution to many problems. We see new applications every day, and our clients bring big ideas and creative brainstorming that keep virtual events interesting and fresh.
The Three Layers of a Platform
Once you know the “why,” you can dig into the pieces that make a virtual environment perfect for hosting your event. At 6Connex, we think about three primary layers of the software platform.
In the visual layer, background images and graphics provide a sense of space and context for the content. Often, visuals are created to look like physical rooms and spaces, making navigation for attendees very intuitive. For instance, it’s common knowledge that keynote presentations happen in an auditorium and exhibit booths house product literature.
Using signage for directions and promotion is another way to guide attendees to participate throughout a virtual environment. Of course, visuals need to be relevant to each program, and sometimes a visual that looks more like a website is more appropriate. It’s entirely up to you!
The interactive layer is where actions occur over the visual background. This is where the flexibility and the power of the software platform come into play. Webinar presentations, live streaming videos, group chats, and social sharing are just a few activities you can offer for attendees and staff. Virtual event visitors can browse booths to download datasheets, hang out in a networking lounge to connect with peers, or view a video wall for the latest content. Attendees can even request meetings or demos and connect directly with event staff.
Games like a treasure hunts or fun prize giveaways can be tied to these actions, creating more energy and interactivity. Even when an event is not live, a virtual environment can remain open for anytime access, allowing more opportunities for attendees to participate.
The data and metrics layer is where every action is tracked for measurable results. Event producers can access real-time reports from an easy-to-use dashboard, giving them deep insight into user behavior and content preferences, which translates to ROI calculations and a true understanding of program impact.
This is one area truly unique to online events. Imagine following each person at a traditional tradeshow, making a note of every booth visited, datasheet touched, presentation attended, and question asked. Hosting events virtually allows for exactly this type of data collection, and it’s a major benefit for any type of virtual event program.
There’s a lot more we can tell you about what virtual events are. We can talk about structure, similar to the blueprint of a building, and we can talk about content—all those things you put inside the building. We can also share much more about applications and use cases, which are always more interesting.
Stay tuned to our blog to learn more, or reach out to us, and one of our experts will be happy to connect with you directly. If you have a different viewpoint, we’d love to hear that as well.
This article is part of our “Back to Basics” series, designed to help you learn the fundamentals of virtual events and environments. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out, and soon you’ll be a virtual event expert.