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10 Must-Haves for Virtual 2021

Think of your next virtual event as 2.0.21: it needs to be version 2.0 and ’21 is the year of the exceptional virtual event. It’s on!

Every business meeting is now virtual, global, and funded primarily by business partners/industry suppliers AND, most importantly, must achieve a new level of success and performance. 2021 is ushering in a new era of “virtual reality” that we should all embrace.

What will separate the winners from the losers is the degree of indispensability and irresistibility of your event. How much of what you offer is discretionary vs mandatory? Are you providing certification, accreditation, critical business connections, or up-to-the-minute insight and interpretation of information your audience can’t get anywhere else? Are your suppliers delivering infomercial-level entertaining demonstrations? Today, it’s more QVC than trade show booth.

Here are the 10 things to consider and plan for as you get ready for your virtual event 2.0.21:

  1. A killer value proposition. We’ve learned that all of the nice-to-have, discretionary elements of in-person events are being weighed by your audience, and that as little as 30% is making the cut in what they want to consume. This mean 70% of what worked for an in-person event, such as cocktail parties, networking, awards ceremonies, so-so breakout sessions, and general sessions chocked full of announcements and vanity appearances, are not being tolerated. Tomorrow’s virtual 2.0.21 events must be shorter, of much higher value, and much more enjoyable to participate in. The value proposition of your next virtual event must be different than what you offered in 2020.
  2. Professionalism. Weird, fake backgrounds, poor sound quality, one-camera angles, clunky networking sessions, problems with tech platforms, and lukewarm volunteer presenters are wearing thin. Virtual 2.0.21 events must be designed, rehearsed, and better produced. It’s OK that 2020 wasn’t perfect. We all learned a lot, but now it’s time for the professionals to step in and make virtual events “must-see” experiences. Flawless execution is the new standard.
  3. Accessibility. Close captioning, signing, simultaneous language translation, and time-zone programming: meeting the needs of your entire audience has never been more important. And, thankfully, the tools, capabilities, and expertise now exist to ensure your virtual event is the best it can be – for everyone.
  4. A studio. To really deliver an experience that raises the bar, consider renting a full TV/movie studio or converting your hotel space or even your office into a production studio. Lights, excellent sound quality, LED walls, soundproof environments, true green-screen environments, and all of the benefits a studio can provide will change the game. Several venues around the country now have virtual studios, including the LVCC, Javits, MGM, and the Anaheim CC, among others.
  5. Fun, humor, and entertainment. Adults need to enjoy themselves in order to stay focused, learn, process information, build new relationships, and stay connected to your virtual event. If you have a small budget, get the rights to show short clips from “brand safe” comedians. If you have the funds or get an underwriter, hire a good comedian for your virtual event, just as ALTA (the land title association) did; they hired Emmy-award-winning comedian John Mulaney as their closer. There are endless ideas for how to make your virtual 2.0.21 event enjoyable.
  6. Diversity. Look at your next event through the lens of your past and desired audience. Ethnicity, diversity of views, the full spectrum of demographics, regional differences, career stages, and attitudes must all be considered and represented. Every virtual event can do better, and when will there ever be a better time to rise to the occasion and meet the needs of your entire community.
  7. Day-part programming. Three hours a day is a good starting place for programming 2.0.21. Like a fine wine, give your audience a chance to breath. You decide on when “prime time” is for your audience, but now that you are a media programmer, you need to unpack each day of your virtual event and meet your audience where they are. We (360) recently produced an event with 13 simultaneous language translations across seven time zones, and it worked flawlessly, because we programmed the event based on the day parts the audience wanted.
  8. Star power. Your event 2.0.21 has to compete with the other virtual experiences your audience is accustomed to. If you’re not on the “seed list” for events like C2 Montreal, Adobe MAX, Dreamforce, INC, Fast Company, Wired, and the hundreds of other great media events, you should be. Just look at who is speaking, and how tailored and relevant these star speakers are to the audiences these events attract. I know budgets are tight, but suppliers can be underwriters and fund these big names. Your event needs a draw, and big names always help improve your odds.
  9. Demonstrations. Your audience and your industry partners expect and need more than a virtual trade show, banner ads on virtual lobby’s, and a link to a suppliers’ websites. The supplier, sponsor, and exhibitor communities are not getting the ROI they need from virtual events, and audiences are bored with what’s being offered. It’s time to channel your inner HSN and QVC demonstration mindset. As much as infomercials are ridiculed, let’s face it, they are fun, entertaining, they keep an audience engaged, and THEY SELL STUFF. This is a secret ingredient that if you will adopt and include in your 2.0.21 virtual event, you will be a big step closer to higher profitability, pleased suppliers, and an audience who will appreciate the effort. Contact us if you want to know how to bring this to life.
  10. GBAC. This global safety accreditation is an important part of your recovery plan. McCormick Place, Walter E Washington CC, and the LVCC are all GBAC Star facilities, as are others. Ensuring air quality, venue safety precautions, legal issues, and emergency preparedness are essential as you plan for your next in-person event that will be here before you know it (I'd plan on Q4 2021 at the earliest).

Don Neal

Founder & CEO

360 Live Media

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