Category

Virtual Events

virtual wedding

My First Virtual Wedding of Coronavirus 2020 All Happened So Fast I Didn’t Even Get a Chance to Set Up a Proper Event

By | Engagement, Online Events, Virtual Events

Today, my stepdaughter and her fiance decided it was time because they don’t know when they’ll be able to hold a wedding ceremony with friends and family actually in one location at the same time (and the fear that even drive up wedding chapels will be closed soon), there really wasn’t a better time to tie the knot!

So, we had they did a live stream of the ceremony to anyone that could get in front of a screen large or small.  Just because I have been touting virtual events for the last 20 plus years, it was not my idea and I was left out of the planning. They wanted a simple live stream and not the virtual event extravaganza I would have liked to host. It worked out just fine and the lessons I learned is boy, you can plan and produce a virtual event pretty quick and virtual wedding pictureinexpensively, and content is still king.

 

Everyone who attended online was oohing and ahhing and some crying. There were pictures taken but no toasts, first dances or banquet food. It seems there was a bit of a rush to get in, do the ceremony and get moving as there were actually other couples thinking the same thing waiting in line to do the deed.

I predict that live streaming weddings will become a thing even after the current crisis passes just as virtual events will be a core addition to events and meetings of the future.

Everything You Want and Need to Know About Digital Event Based Programs and Virtual Events

By | Best Practices, Business Strategy, Communication, Customer Stories, eLearning, Engagement, Marketing, Monetize, Online Events, Personalization, Virtual Events, Webcasts & Webinars

A resource for tools, techniques and good practices for virtual events, hybrid events, online event-based learning, and perpetual communities.

If you’ve come to take a deeper dive on all topics related to digital events, hybrid events and live streaming, perpetual sharing and learning communities and of course, virtual events, you’ve come to the right place. This is our jumping off location to organize, publish, curate and share everything we can find that we think is helpful, actionable, thought-provoking and a valuable resource in your quest to understand and produce more efficient, engaging and profitable event-based programs.

We’re using tags and categories to provide a taxonomy to navigate to the information that is most relevant to your needs. If there is a topic or issue you are looking for and cannot find it here, please drop us a note and we will see what we can do to get you more information or if you have something to contribute, we’d love to hear from you as well and will attribute the resource to you.

Strategy

virtual event strategy

Start by referring to your organization’s vision, goals, opportunities, and initiatives in order to maximize the business benefits of the event program. Align the answer to the question, “Why are we pursuing this program?” back to those items. Outline specific goals and objectives of the program and establish the foundation for assessing the results and success.

Define the target audience(s) and, if appropriate, other participants such as partners, sponsors, press, etc. and quantify how many and from where you want to draw the attendance. It may be helpful to craft personas of your target participants to make sure you meet their needs.

User Journey & Experience

Map out what you want the attendee to see, do and feel during the event, and why. Creating a theme for the event based on this and your desired outcomes around them will create structure, atmosphere, cohesiveness.

Decide what the user experience will entail from the type of content you will be sharing (this is critical as most people attend online events to gain access to content and knowledge) to the graphical look and desired engagement results you identify.

Technology Solution

There are many different online event technologies, with different user interfaces, functionality, ease of setting up, ease of use and pricing. The key is to align your user experience to the best technology solution within the budget available.

Required features also play a critical role in your solution selection. Although most online programs use a one-to-many approach (i.e.webinars), programs needing more interaction with speakers, sponsors or attendees will need to utilize a platform that allows text or video chat and private meetings (many-to-many).

Consider ongoing growth as well. Engagez offers flexible platforms to expand as your events grow. You can also copy the venue, so all your preferences and interfaces are the same across events, even if the information or attendees differ. Engagez offers a copy venue feature to make it easy to reuse things you like.

Unlike many platforms, Engagez offers an optional registration feature with robust security. Each venue can be customized to send confirmation and reminder emails to attendees, which increases participation likelihood.

Content Strategy

Studies over the years have consistently shown that the primary reason attendees register and participate in online events is the content. Your program’s content strategy is trumped only by your marketing strategy in its ability to impact the success or failure of the event. People register and attend online events primarily to discover and consume content for education, inspiration, training, certification, seeing what’s new and keeping up with current practices.

Of course, there are other benefits. Attendees often meet new people, network with peers and discover new products and solutions as well as receiving hands-on demos. Many participants will attend just to gain access to subject matter experts (SMEs) alone.

Most of our customers introduce content through SMEs presenting their ideas, experiences, and solutions in the form of presentations that include audio, video, slides and demos. There are also interactive audience engagement elements like polling, Q&A, social media and breakout groups. Consider what kinds of engagement are needed with your content and use this to determine the best type of platform for your organization.

Though the organization’s goals and objectives need to be kept in mind during the content strategy planning process, it is a good idea to focus on the target attendees’ needs first. Amazing, unique content should be your goal throughout the entire agenda.

Marketing Plan 

The marketing plan will closely resemble a marketing plan for a physical event, or for any product or business. Email marketing is still the number-one driver of event marketing efforts for most organizations. The marketing mix beyond email tends to get very fractional (in most cases) with social media channels, SEO, SEM, and content marketing. The list of tactics is large and often is weighted by the particular market—B2B vs B2C etc.

Since a whole book could be written on the various tactics, we focus more on what and why you need to market. Marketing prior to the event is, of course, critical to drive registrations.  But it doesn’t end there as converting those registrations to actual attendees is vital—more so than physical events.

Just like physical events that offer free registration, the conversion of those free registrations to actual attendance can be a challenge. You need a meaningful campaign to keep registrants aware of the event, as well as excited and motivated to attend.

The campaign to specifically convert the registrants to attendees begins at least a week in advance and requires a reminder 24 hours before–1 hour before and a message at the opening of the program to let people know you are starting now.  These need to be well crafted and informative messages providing new insight or knowledge to keep your event on the top of the registrant’s calendar.

Revenue & Funding: Sponsor & Exhibitor/ Paid Program

Online events have different funding models with the majority being funded internally.  There are also events that are totally revenue- and profit-generating with sources of revenue from sponsorships, exhibits, paid registration and access to required courses for certifications and professional development. For some companies, their virtual events are used to sell products and services during the event or generate leads.

An example of a large paid registration event is the Social Media Marketing World event. This event found success with a hybrid model, in which there is both a physical event with paid registration and a virtual event running in conjunction. Registration fee is $695 per registrant, generating significant revenue from both online and physical registrations.

Many events rely on sponsors/exhibitors/partners to augment revenue as well as to add additional value to the attendee’s event experience via content, connections or solutions.  You’ll need a plan to identify and secure sponsors including developing compelling sponsor opportunities, marketing materials, and sales strategy.

Engagement Strategies

Engagement at an online event directly impacts the degree to which attendees are participating in the various activities at your event. Generally, the more participation an attendee or speaker or sponsor have around the event, the more successful they will be and the more emotionally connected to the event’s experiences.

Depending on the participant, engagement can be measured by sessions attended, items downloaded, polls taken, chats with other participants, social media activity, sponsors visited, meetings held, inquiries made, demos watched, questions asked, questions answered, or connections made.

These are all metrics that can be easily measured within your event platform. The challenge is actively and strategically planning for these encounters to happen. Our customers have included downloadable materials and guides, opened discussion forums, and allowed for real-time speaker Q&A, automated greeting when arriving at a different location in the event–all helping to increase participant engagement.

Engagement needs to begin before the event, continue through the event and ideally, accelerate after the event is over.  Creating persistent year-round engagement utilizing all marketing channels in an integrated campaign will deliver tremendous results impacting audience acquisition as well as participant satisfaction and retention.

Program Production & Results Measurement

Depending upon the technology platform/solution you have chosen or will choose, the event will need to be created, the content and graphics added, registration configured, email messages uploaded, and sponsor locations and features set up. A sample checklist and timeline document can be found here and will detail most of those activities and deliverables.

Based on the complexity of the program, such as multiple versions of the same event for different regions of the world, the setup could be a bit more work. This is especially the case for your first event.  The Engagez platform offers self-service options for those clients that have the resources to support the buildout as well as service packages to provide assistance for clients that don’t have all the resources needed inhouse. Engagez allows for some uploading of materials via spreadsheets, including speakers, session information and registration lists. The platform also includes a robust media library that allows event builders to upload many assets simultaneously.

Leave ample time for testing all aspects of the platform. We suggest all buildout activity be stopped at least one week prior to the event in order to fully test, train staff/partners/speakers and make any final tweaks to the environment. Registration can, of course, continue during this period.

The Engagez platform offers a comprehensive analytics dashboard for measuring activity before, during and after your event.  We strongly recommend you also supplement that with exit surveys (provided in the platform) for each of your participant segments (attendees, sponsors, speakers, and internal stakeholders).

Links to more resources (more to come):

Marketing Check List

RFI/RFP

Timelines & Checklists

Monetization & Funding

Speaker Preparation

Sponsor & Exhibitor Preparation

Staffing & Training

Hybrid Event Extensions

Audience Engagement

Hands-on Labs

Registration

Venue Build Out

Simulive

Event Support FAQs & Answers

simulive virtual event timeline

Virtual Events Timeline Tool for Producing Simulated Live Event Programs

By | Online Events, Virtual Events, Webcasts & Webinars

Check out this simulive virtual event timeline and planning tool

“Simulive” or Simulated Live Virtual Events

Simulive sessions or activities are pre-recorded videos for broadcast (streamed) over the Internet at a specific date and time, but are not necessarily publicized as being pre-recorded much like many “live” television shows that were recorded earlier in the day and run as a “live studio recording.” These event sessions and related activities typically have a live Q&A period that may be moderated by the presenter or another subject matter expert.

Simulive sessions can be recorded in a studio, at a live event or with a camera or even mobile phone in the office. With a simulive virtual event session, speakers can record their content at their convenience, review and edit or re-record to achieve the quality they want.

This infographic shows the timeline of a full simulive virtual event though you can adjust many elements to fit your program. In general, larger virtual event programs (many speakers and sponsors or exhibitors) will require longer time to execute than say a single speaker or topic webinar.

Download the Simulive Timeline pdf here.

Here is a video overview:

Ten Reason’s Simulated Live Virtual Event Programs Rock!

  1. Less expensive than live streaming

Live-streamed virtual events are great, but they can be more expensive than recording session content and replaying it as simulated live. Even though live streamed content from a physical event can be terrific, it usually comes at a hefty price due to high Internet costs at venues (required for broadcasting the content out from the venue).  Other production costs can also add up.

  1. More control over content quality

Prerecording content vs live streaming allows you to edit content and event reshoot segments or entire sessions that aren’t exactly the quality you would like to achieve. With a live event, you get what you get and there is little you can do to change lighting, audio or other production values once the event starts. You can test and adjust what you can impact prior to the event starting only up to a point. The event producer is going to take the on-site audience into consideration first and those participating in the virtual event online may take a backseat.

Once a speaker hits the stage, no matter how much coaching and direction the virtual event producer on-site provides, speakers tend to walk around and engage the live audience perhaps walking out of areas that are lite for the cameras or engaging audience members who are not mic’d for sound.

  1. The ability for the presenter to participate in the discussion

With a simulive event, the top subject matter expert (the presenter) can be engaged and interacting with the audience throughout their session. Although there is the opportunity during live presentations, depending upon the content and the purpose of the talk, continuous interruptions from the audience may not be ideal or appropriate. With a simulive virtual event, Q&A can be encouraged throughout the presentation with the option for attendees to participate and follow the discussion or turn it out and focus on the presentation.

  1. Better for all time zones

Unlike a physical event where everyone is in the same location at the same time, virtual event participants can be anywhere in the world where they have Internet connectivity. With a series of simulated live events, you can follow the sun launching the event at convenient times for all local audiences.

  1. Reuse and rerun

Simulive is not just for “follow the sun” programs, it’s also is great for running the event on different days and different times in the same time zones. There are many professions where they just don’t have the flexibility to take tie out at a certain day and time, or their day gets rescheduled due to work or personal reasons. Flexibility to catch another simulive event date with the same advantages of a live event.

  1. Less worry about technology issues

Face it, technology is never fail-proof but that especially true when live streaming. When you see interruptions in major network broadcasts of huge live sporting events it reinforces the reality that technical glitches, especially at live events are a reality.

Simulive doesn’t insure 100% glitch-free broadcasts but it removes a ton of variables that you cannot control during a live event broadcast.

  1. Easier to recruit top speakers

Subject matter experts and in-demand talent are often hard to schedule and especially hard when you factor in travel time and the inconvenience of being away from their work and family. Simulive recording offers tremendous flexibility in when, where and how their presentation can be recorded increasing the likelihood that they are available and willing to participate in your event.

  1. More engagement opportunities

As noted previously, presenters are more available during a simulated live event but that also the case with other subject matter experts from within your organization. Depending on the virtual event platform you are using, there may be many tools that the event producer can use to engage the attendees and it much easier to manage when you aren’t worried about the session streaming and other live-event challenges.

  1. Better sponsor activation

Like number 9, simulive events offer the event producer more ability to focus on engagement around sessions but also sponsors, partners and exhibitors. Planning and (especially) executing sponsor activations and engagement with the audience at a simulive event is more manageable. Without the concerns and focus required with live streamed events, full attention can be placed on the executive of your sponsorship activations whatever they may be.

  1. Less stress and better results

Event planning and production is consistently ranked in the top 10 most stressful professions for many reasons, but a key issue is live events are, well, live so anything that happens cannot be easily fixed if at all.  Simulive virtual events are much less stressful as you get the advantages of a live event (getting attendees and sponsors to commit to participating at a certain time and date) but without the concern of bad content, speakers that don’t show up, live streams that drop and much more. This allows you to focus on the results you need to achieve with laser focus.

Video Captioning and Localization

By | eLearning, Video, Virtual Events

Closed Captioning

We have added closed captioning support for on-demand and simulive events.   To explore the capabilities, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your venue’s Media Library
  2. Upload a video.  After the video is uploaded, you will see a “Processing” label on the video.  Wait till the video has completed this processing.
  3. Select the video. You will see its properties listed in the right hand side column.  Towards the bottom, you’ll see a Closed Caption heading with two sub-menus: Generate and Upload.

Auto-generate Closed Captions

Generate is a machine translation service that automatically generates a CC file for the video in several supported languages. To explore, click on Generate, select your target language and let the engine run.  Within a few minutes, you will see a file listed with that language heading.  That’s the translated CC in that language.  You can generate CCs in multiple languages for the video.

Our supported CC file format is WebVTT with the extension of .vtt.  VTT files are text readable files and editable by any text editor.

Upload Closed Captions

The quality of the auto generated CC files will vary greatly based on the quality of the video audio, speakers’ accents and the technical nature of the conversation in the video.  In general, the auto-generated files are good starting points but will require human review and refinements.  The text in these files can easily be edited and saved.  You can then “Upload” these files under their corresponding language heading.  Uploaded files will overwrite existing CC files.

Default Settings

You can have closed captioning automatically on or off as a user enters a session.   Control this setting for all of your sessions from the Administrative menu’s Session page.  Click on the Default Settings link.

Video Localization: Burned-in Subtitles or Closed Caption

When localizing videos, short of translating the audio, you have two options: burn-in the subtitles into the video, essentially generating a new localized video or use CC in the target language.  The latter is an extremely effective way of localizing, while allowing you to maintain a single version of video in its original audio with no burned in text.

At Engagez (www.engagez.com), we strive to offer the best capabilities for hosting the most effective live, simulive (simulated live) and on-demand online events and instructor-led online classes.

Pipeline Acceleration: Webinars vs. Online Events

By | Best Practices, Marketing, Online Events, Virtual Events, Webcasts & Webinars

(Refer to the Infographic)

Online Events, when executed well, have proven effective in nurturing and accelerating prospects’ journey through the different stages of the sales funnel.

Most online events today, however, are conducted as webinars: prospects are invited into a single educational session, with engagements happening as follow ups.

Online event platforms allow you to expand the programming with live and on demand content, collateral, customer testimonials, and case studies.  Attendees get the option to engage with sales, support, engineering and executives for consultation, private demos, technical due diligence and executive commitments.  Combined with personalization, Online Events help attendees access the right content and people, all within the event, resulting in deepening interest and accelerated purchasing cycle.

Contact us, at www.engagez.com, to learn more about the best practices of pipeline acceleration using online events.

Simulive: Bringing Recorded Presentations to ‘Live’

By | Best Practices, Communication, Engagement, Marketing, Video, Virtual Events, Webcasts & Webinars

A simulated live webinar, “simulive”, is a scheduled webinar which streams a pre-recorded presentation while allowing organizers to engage with the audience in real time using interactive tools.  

In case you have not looked into simulive before, there are key advantages that are worth your consideration:

1. Ease of Coordinating Schedules

Your webinar presenters are all busy professionals, located in different offices, different cities and countries.  Finding the one time slot convenient for all which fits your marketing schedule can be a daunting task. With simulive, you coordinate the timing of the recording at the presenters’ convenience, and then broadcast the recording as live at a time convenient for your target audience.

2. Reducing “Live” Production Risks

Should we even elaborate more?!  We all have scars on our backs with production issues that happen from time to time during a live webinar.  Whether it’s presenter delays, networking and audio problems, or incorrect downloaded presentations, these degrade the attendee experience and leave a bad mark on our brands.  With simulive, you can avoid many of these problems, by pre-recording highest quality presentation, and then broadcasting it live from the cloud.

3. Addressing Globally Dispersed Customers and Prospects

Agreeing on the best time to schedule a live webinar to address the east, central and west coast US time zones is already a challenge.  What about the rest of the world? Simulive is a perfect solution that enables you to schedule the same presentation multiple times, using a recording of the original, each optimally timed for a specific region of the world.

4. Increasing Rate of Return on Marketing Spend

Simulive allows you to leverage a presentation recording multiple times, hence increasing your utilization of an asset you have already committed time and money to.  Meanwhile, the “live” nature of simulive increases the attendance, and substantially improves viewership, compared to on-demand utilization of the same video.

5. Engagement of Attendees

Perhaps even more important than increased viewership, simulive sessions give you the opportunity to engage with the attendees in real time, through online chat with staff, Q&A with experts, surveys and polls.  Engagement data is crucial in your follow up strategies, and simulive is a powerful way of collecting more.

Now, you might be thinking “hey, I see the advantages for the organizer!  But how about the attendees? How would they react if they knew the “live” session they are attending is pre-recorded?”.  

Based on our experience, the attendees don’t care as long as the following expectations are met: (i) the presentation delivers fresh and high quality content on the advertised topic, and (ii) they can ask presenters questions and expect timely answers.   When these expectations are met, simulive is a win for all!

At engagez.com, we take pride in our simulive offering. Our customers use Engagez not only for simulive but also to host live, and on-demand events.   We view simulive not as an alternative to live webinar but as a lower-cost means of offering more frequent live programming. Our calendaring mechanism further allows an organizer to mix and match live, simulive and on-demand sessions and create comprehensive and engaging events.  These events expand the concept of a traditional webinar, offering attendees more content and higher educational value, while increasing their engagement opportunities.

Best Practices for Hosting Video on Demand

By | Best Practices, Communication, Engagement, Marketing, Video, Virtual Events

We have come a long way from the days when hosting a video was simply putting a file on a shared drive and letting people download it. First with desktop players, we were able to play the video directly from a shared drive. This was a step forward but still painful since the initial players had to download the entire file before starting to play, hence costly and slow. The next generation of players were embedded within your HTML pages and were able to cache and start the video with some delay without having to wait for the full download. This somewhat improved the video experience but was not as helpful if you wanted to consume the content by jumping around the video. The shortcomings of these approaches were only magnified as the popularity of mobile devices exploded, leading to further challenges in maintaining a steady internet connectivity speed.

Today, the best practices of serving high quality VOD have substantially evolved. You experience these best practices when consuming videos on the largest of service providers like YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, etc. What is not obvious to the consumer is the amount of computational work and process flow that goes on behind the scenes in preparing an uploaded video file for that smooth viewing experience. These providers are addressing the consumers insatiable desire for flawless playback experience and ease of navigating/jumping within videos, on any device, and in most connectivity situations. As the cost of adopting these best practices become more affordable, more and more service providers will adopt them over time, yet many are not there yet.

As you evaluate the best solutions for your VOD needs, consider the following best practices and whether they are adopted by your service provider:

1. Transcoding

Having a single high quality video file does not translate into best consumption experience: depending on the situation, it could translate into wasted bandwidth for those on desktop/notebooks with high internet connectivity and poor to unusable experience for mobile users and those with slower internet speeds. The best practice is to transcode the original file, generating multiple versions of it, each with its own optimized streaming segmentations, bitrates, bit depths, and framing policies, targeting differing internet connectivity situations. This process is usually performed as part of the video upload process, prior to making the VOD available for viewing.

2. Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

Once you have adaptive bitrate versions of the video, your player and the server need to communicate with each other to leverage the most suitable content. Over the last few years, the best practice communication protocols between the client players and the host servers have evolved into streaming models that work over HTTP across wide distributed networks. These protocols are designed specifically to take advantage of “adaptive bitrate” optimized server content, hence referred to as “adaptive bitrate streaming”.

Adaptive bitrate streaming protocols are superior to delivering a static video file at a single bitrate.  As depicted in the image above, the video stream can be switched midstream to be as good or bad as the client’s available network speed.  It continuously adapts to any changes to the client’s network and CPU situations. To see the advantage of this approach, compare this to the buffering or interruption in playback that would happen when client’s network either did not support the quality of the native video, or the network load kept on changing based on changes to the mobile signal strength or others’ activities on the same network.

There are several implementations of adaptive bitrate streaming. If compatibility across diverse devices are important to you, then MPEG-DASH and Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) are the two most widely adopted implementations available across most devices and OSs.

3. Timeline Thumbnails

The ability to locate with ease the portions of interest within a lengthy video is a high value need by video consumers, especially in the B2B space. One feature that is very helpful in this regard is the ability to move the mouse along the video timeline and seeing the frame thumbnail images of that spot in the video. The smoothness of the frame updates as you traverse the mouse over the timeline are critical in making this capability useful and attractive to users.

4. Use of Content Delivery Network (CDN)

If you have a large and global audience, using CDN for video delivery will go a long way in removing latency and delivering a smooth experience for all users, regardless of physical location.

At engagez.com, we take pride in our implementation of these video best-practices. Our customers use Engagez to host live, simulive (simulated live) and on-demand events. Most live events also transition to on-demand after its completion and stay open for a period of time for further audience engagement. During setup, when you upload videos, whether for on-demand or simulive, we apply these best practices and ensure smoothest possible user experience for your attendees.