A beginner's guide to virtual meetings and events

There is no escaping the fact that business has not proceeded as expected in 2020. Companies of all kinds have been forced to deal with ever-shifting safety regulations and timelines, embracing new working models on a frequent basis. In-person meetings and other events were some of the first things to be canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic first made its impact on companies of all kinds. This has brought a wave of new approaches to connectivity, with businesses harnessing technology to stay connected.

One of the keys to success in 2020 and beyond is to see the embrace of virtual meetings and events as an opportunity rather than a setback or limitation. Companies that embrace the possibilities of virtual meeting solutions have the chance to update their practices for a new, heavily digital era. These purposeful changes can serve them well, no matter what twists the future brings for reopening and recovery timelines around the world.

An introduction to virtual meeting solutions

Meetings are about people more than technology, but IT is an essential part of organising events in the era of virtual gatherings. Companies that comprehend the possibilities of digital platforms are positioning themselves for success. While it's easy to assume that virtual meetings are essentially noninteractive livestreams, there are a number of possibilities that go beyond that straightforward option.

By harnessing the ability to host question-and-answer sessions, poll the audience, save video for on-demand playback, send automatic calendar reminders to attendees and more, organisers can keep their audiences engaged. Responding to the need for viable virtual meeting solutions, numerous providers have stepped up to offer capable digital platforms. Companies that pair the right technology with the right strategy can achieve three key meeting aims: informing, enabling and enhancing.

The future-proofing potential of virtual meetings

"Virtual meeting strategies will help businesses stay in contact with their dispersed workforces during lockdowns and after them."

Becoming adept at running effective virtual events now is a useful skill, and one that will not fade in applicability as restrictions on in-person gatherings ease. Even before the pandemic changed the way colleagues interact with one another, organisations were already moving toward global models, with individuals and offices distributed around the world. Virtual meeting strategies will help businesses stay in contact with their dispersed workforces during lockdowns and after them.

Connecting with customers through external events is also a concept that is changing. The option of holding a virtual meeting, or a hybrid gathering with a strong online component, is a great way to conveniently reach people around the world, without travel costs and with a wealth of digital information flowing between the host and the attendees. It's easy to see the continuing value of these events, even as travel restrictions ease up.

Lessons from 2020's virtual meetings

The trial-by-fire nature of 2020's immersion in digital events has taught organisations plenty of valuable skills and practices that can guide their efforts in the years ahead. For instance, leaders have learned that without the ability to provide an in-person atmosphere, companies have to come to virtual meetings with strong content. Furthermore, the inability to meet up with colleagues in person has left people eager to connect, making a well-planned virtual event into a major source of opportunity for organisers.

While audiences' attention is there for the taking, presenters can lose it if they do not deliver messaging that is quick and impactful. A short, content-packed digital event has a much better chance of success than one that runs long and loses steam. The best organisers understand that this moment demands empathy with the audience and meetings that reflect their preferences and priorities.

A content creator works on a laptop.
What's the key to running an effective virtual meeting?

The keys to running a virtual event in 2020

Leaders who seek to make their digital meetings successful can follow a few rules of thumb when crafting these experiences. These include:

Select the right solution

Companies that use the right platform are naturally better prepared to reach their audiences than ones that go with the first technology they encounter. Leaders should conceptualize the types of features they want their events to have, then pick software that can deliver that experience.

Prioritise content for the meeting

The challenge of running an event virtually comes from the fact that organisers no longer have a captive audience. When people are not present in person, they can be distracted by a device or simply stop paying attention. Good content and a compelling style of delivery will keep these attendees dialed in.

Organise the event carefully

Some companies may assume that because there are no in-person logistics to manage, they can afford to run virtual conferences with little preparation. This would be a mistake: Every element of a virtual meeting, from the tech setup to the content in presentations, should be prepared extensively.

Combine strategy, content and technology

An event where every element is in harmony is one that has a great chance of success. A company should be clear about its goals and embrace content and tech that will advance those aims.

An expert partner can help

Changing to embrace a virtual-first meetings and events model is a consequential change, one that tends to go best when companies have expert support. Visit cievents' ciConnect technology hub to discover top solutions for your business, and download our white paper for a more detailed look at virtual meeting organisation.

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