It’s time to talk strategy – and virtual event strategy, at that! So here at Endless, we’ve been helping planners produce some very exciting digital experiences. And our lovely host today, Sarah Christl, is one of the amazing people who hop on calls with people to learn more about their events. And she noticed something during these chats. She noticed that most people seem to be completely forgetting about the strategy side of virtual events!
So on this week’s Whiteboard Wednesday, we’d like to revisit the concept of virtual event strategy. And most importantly, why you absolutely need it. So jump on board of another exciting webinar and learn more about this incredible – and necessary – aspect of digital experiences – you know you want to!
Hold Your Horses!
“What we talked about in another Whiteboard Wednesday a while ago was the three elements of an event. So basically you need strategy, design, and execution every single time. But a lot of people, especially planners, get too excited and they just jump right into the design portion of it”, explains Sarah.
“Especially with virtual events, we saw the timelines were shorter. These events were happening really quickly and people were like, I need to start designing now. But we really wanted to start telling people to take a step back, slow down a little bit, and just focus on that virtual event strategy first”.
Virtual Event Strategy: Taking The Right Steps
“So the first part is finding your why. Before you jump into anything, you need to figure out why you’re doing it first. What’s the purpose? Why are you doing this virtual event? Rather than just recouping the cost of your in-person event that you weren’t able to recover”.
“We need to find out why this event is important for your attendees. And why you are going on this journey of learning a whole new thing that you’re not necessarily familiar with. So that’s what your strategy does. It’s kind of your guiding North star. Whenever you come up with a challenge or you’re not sure of what direction to go in, you can just use this strategy as your North star. It’ll always be your decision-maker. And it’ll always help you find out the answers to these really important questions that you have. Plus, it also ends up giving you more time for creativity. A lot of people think that the virtual event strategy portion is going to take so much longer and that they don’t have time for that”, says Sarah.
“But actually, if you just take a few steps back, you’ll be able to actually have more time, in the long run, to focus on that design, execution, and creativity that you’re so excited to get to”, she adds.
The Benefits of A Virtual Event Strategy
“A lot of people that I was getting on these phone calls with, they weren’t necessarily understanding that virtual event strategy has so many benefits. The first one is that it prepares you for meetings with stakeholders and with so many other people. So us, being a PR and event production company, people can jump on phones with us and they just start talking about their event needs. And we see a lot of the times that people aren’t necessarily thinking about their strategy and so different team members have different ideas, and they’re not all on the same page”, explains Sarah.
“So when you have the strategy first, it really prepares you for these meetings. When an event production team asks you, are you thinking about this or that, the strategy is there to answer that question for you. Or maybe if you’re meeting with sponsors and they ask you about the purpose of the event, that strategy is really there to help support you and back that up”.
“It also lets you get one step ahead of everything rather than trying to catch up and focus on design and execution later on. You’re actually one step ahead and you’re able to take that time. If you have a dream in your head, this strategy really helps you put pen to paper and get that planned”.
No One Puts Baby In A Corner!
“A lot of people, when they jump into design, they’re like, oh, I want to pick a platform or I want to focus on doing this. That’s great. But we sometimes put ourselves in a corner when we do that. And this allows us to never settle for less. We can expand on our ideas and then design based on our dreams and our goals, rather than the other way around”.
“It also helps get rid of confusion. A lot of times these events are so crazy, and there are so many different parts to it that it gets confusing. But again, the virtual event strategy sets everything straight and allows you to focus on those bits and pieces step-by-step”, says Sarah.
Look At All This Alignment!
“And then lastly, it aligns your team. In these meetings, a lot of the time we’ll hear one thing from one person and another thing from another person. And we ask them, did you guys even talk about what you want to do during this event?”.
“A lot of the times they didn’t, so this strategy allows your team to really sit down, get everything on paper, be aligned, and have the same shared vision the whole time”, she adds.
Who You Gonna Call?
“So let’s go over to who should be included in these meetings when you’re planning your virtual event strategy. In a way, you kind of need everyone. It’s going to sound chaotic, but the more people that have hands-on this event, the better. It’s really important to see all the aspects come together. And see, for instance, from a marketing perspective, what are their goals? And what do they want to come from this event from an operation standpoint? What do they need to know in terms of how to implement this event after they find out the strategy portion?”.
“So the more people that you can get in these meetings, the better. It’s the same principles of diversity, the more different people that you have sitting at the table, the better ideas, the more collaboration. So it’s not just the C suite folks making all these decisions. You have everyone from the top to the bottom, helping out. And you also really want to include key stakeholders. Now, those people can either be directly in these meetings with you, or you can just keep them in your mind. You want to make sure that you’re not just planning for your attendees. You’re planning for the people in the community, you’re planning for your sponsors, and obviously you’re planning for your organization and yourself”, explains Sarah.
Virtual Event Strategy: Who Else?
“So those are all really important people to keep in mind. And if you could bring one person from each of those categories into that meeting as well, that would just lead to more diversity and better ideas coming from this. And then you’ll be able to actually see these people’s wants and needs firsthand”.
“So if you invite someone from the community to be a part of this strategy session, you can hear right from the beginning what the community needs from this, what your attendees need from this. And it will just make the entire thing flow a lot more smoothly”.
“The last part is how this virtual event strategy can affect your timeline. So like I said, a lot of people want to jump right on into the design and the execution part because it’s exciting. And it’s the part that seems like it’s going to take a lot of work. But actually, strategy takes a lot of work as well. It’s really time-consuming. You need to really come with your game face on these days, where you’re talking about strategy. So it’s going to really affect your timeline. You’re going to have to budget for that, allocate that time, and not just skip over this really important step”, she adds.
“So the earlier that you can start thinking about this the better and way before your event even happens. We really try to push people to think about next year’s event. So you’re not two weeks before the event trying to think of a strategy, trying to design and execute everything and just throw it up. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of times with virtual events, people think that they can get everything up and running in a really quick amount of time. And that’s just not true”, warns Sarah.
“So a lot of people are scared. Oh no, I have to spend all this time on the virtual event strategy as well as everything else! Yes. But you also now have a clear path for your event. So your strategy can be where you implement that timeline and plan that timeline moving forward. If you don’t know where exactly to start or when exactly to contact certain sponsors, maybe some of that is discussed in your strategy and you just have a more clear path going forward”.
“So that’s everything we have for your virtual event strategy. I really hope this is helpful for you and really shows you the benefits of starting with strategy rather than jumping right on in. Make sure you join us for more exciting content coming up!”.