In good old Endless fashion, it’s time to get real. Today we want to tackle the issues pertaining to a virtual event timeline. And there’s a reason we’ve been holding out on this. You see, it’s been a crazy year – no need to dwell on that or explain why. In the early stages of COVID-19, as an industry, it felt like we were slapped across the face and thrown into a fire pit of despair. But we rose to the occasion and did what we had to do. Not with enthusiasm, but with a sense of duty and obligation to ourselves, our industry, and our audiences. Because there was something to keep us going – hope.
We all held onto this feeling. And we used it to justify our less than ideal mindsets. “I don’t have to try too hard with this virtual event, it’s just a temporary solution”, “We’ll just put something together on Zoom, two weeks is more than enough time”, and “Just use 1/5 of the budget to pivot, we’ll be putting on the real show soon”. These were all common sentiments amongst many planners who held on to the hope – as everyone did – that the nightmare would be over soon. And now, here we are.
The Mourning Period Is Over
But where are we, exactly? Well, whether or not you’re ready to accept it, we were all collectively thrown into a world that’s been fundamentally changed. We need to accept it, embrace it, and make peace with the fact that the events industry as we knew it might never be the same. But don’t pick up the kleenex just yet! The key here is to understand that this isn’t a bad thing – just inevitable. Things change all the time, and we should make a conscious choice to grow from it.
We’ve had enough time to mourn the loss of what once was. We even went through all of the phases, the most prominent one being denial (and yes, we saw and experienced a lot of it). And the worst thing about denial is the fact that it clouds our judgment. It leads us to make poor decisions. In the case of our industry, it translated into virtual events being put together in a haze, an uneducated frenzy, a collective hallucination of Zoom webinars that led absolutely nowhere. So…now what?
Stop Slacking Off, Start Planning
Back when the novelty of the pandemic was hitting the industry, it was more than excusable for planners to pivot their events to virtual in a very small amount of time. Even here at Endless, we were challenged to help organizations make the shift in as little as 24 days! And while this was the case for most people in the industry, it was only in the beginning.
Now that we’ve all had enough time to realize that virtual and hybrid events are here to stay for a while, it’s time roll up our sleeves. Ditch the misconception that these experiences take less time to plan, fewer resources, fewer headaches, and a lot less money and production. Unless you want your entire audience to be clamoring for refunds, stop slacking off and start planning.
Why Should I Worry About A Virtual Event Timeline?
As a production company, Endless has pretty much seen it all. We’re experts in the field of producing virtual and hybrid events – we know what happens behind the scenes, what putting together these experiences really entails, and what are the moving parts to be considered if success if the ultimate goal. These are only some of the things our clients have said about working with us within this paradigm:
“It has been a really seamless experience working with Endless. They’ve been such a great partner to help us elevate our game!” – Denise, Director of Communications & Corporate Strategy, Morton Salt
“The attendees are loving it, and I’ve been super happy with every interaction” – Corey, APRA Board of Directors
“I wish to thank Endless Events for making our Meet & Greet run as smoothly as possible. Today I received many great learning lessons, and the best part is working with an amazing group of individuals” – Kristine, NCRRA Interim President & Moderator
We bring this up because we want you to understand there’s a reason these events were a success. It’s because they took time to plan! It was a long and intense labor of love for everyone involved, not something thrown together at the last minute without a single ounce of strategy and technical know-how added to the mix.
There are hundreds of virtual events taking place right now. You’re fighting for the attention of an audience that’s exhausted and fed up with these “experiences” that bring nothing new to the table, are hastily planned, and fail to meet expectations.
Virtual Event Timeline. Let’s Go!
Get it through your head right now that if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll be looking at 12 weeks. That is the amount of time it will take to establish goals, gather the technological solutions necessary to tell your story, get in touch (and, in some cases, help train) speakers, designing the program, coming up with the marketing strategy, and more.
From the perspective of our processes as a production company, here’s what you should be aiming for:
- 3 months out: decide on the theme of your virtual event, create your budget, solidify the goals (what do you expect to accomplish?) and get in touch with a production company. From here on, the production team in charge of your event will begin pre-production, coordinate technical elements, begin framing out platform and integration, and develop supporting production paperwork.
- 2 months out: start building out the promotion strategy for your event and make sure you stand out from every other experience out there. At this point, the production team will begin onboarding exhibitors and sponsors, reviewing graphic content for the website and the sessions, scheduling rehearsals with the speakers, testing the platform functionality, and populating it with relevant media assets.
- 1 month out: the event website should go live by now. Pre-recorded content takes place and calls with the speakers are arranged in order to prep them.
- 2 weeks out: speakers will now be rehearsing and the production team will sit down with you for a tie-down meeting.
- 1 week out: technical rehearsals and final quality control tests take place. Showtime!
Even if you decide against hiring production help, your virtual event timeline should still consist of at least 12 weeks. As a matter of fact, if you don’t go with a production company, make sure you extend the timeline even longer. Remember that virtual events demand a set of technical skills and know-how that many planners aren’t equipped with. So account for the time necessary for platform demos, sign-up software, learning about image and sound capture, green screens, b-roll, and so on.
We know some bits and pieces of this article might sound a bit preachy. Yes, the current situation is a hard-to-swallow pill. But shouldn’t that give us the motivation to make the best of it? Well, we believe so. And judging from what’s been happening around the industry, so do many other people.
Hopefully, we were able to shed light on the mechanics of a virtual event timeline. If your event is still a few months away and you need some expert help with production, reach out to us. We’re more than happy to walk the road of successful virtual experiences alongside you. You’ll be surprised at how magical it can be!