Appearances are often deceiving: being creative about supporting virtual conferences
By: Danea Quek
Virtual conferences can look the part but they don’t always do the job. If the technology behind the event fails, the conference itself fails but there are things that can be done to ensure they are still insightful.
The benefits of online events (cost effectiveness, sharing of information and accessibility etc.) are undeniable but without the adequate tech to fully support the event and no strong back-up alternatives in place, we’re left with something that looks great but provides little substance. We’ve all experienced this in the past year or so, on a small scale with unstable Wi-Fi connections causing people to drop off or lag on video calls, or on a large scale like when the Conservative party’s website crashed during Michael Gove’s speech.
With such an overreliance on technology and other external factors, virtual events leave themselves exposed to all sorts of potential mishaps – and ultimately failures. For PRs and our clients, this could result in lower numbers of journalist attendees, fewer opportunities for spokespeople to demonstrate their expertise and market knowledge, and less media exposure. This is a real possibility. At the FIX EMEA Trading Conference in September last year, several journalists complained about poor connectivity lowering the quality of their experience and leading them to give up on the conference entirely.
Until we can return to in-person conferences, organisers of virtual events and PR professionals will need to be creative about their methods of ensuring a high-quality experience for attendees and clients. This could include the return of old-school media packs (digitalised) so that whatever happens with the conference, clients still have the information they want to share with journalists to hand, arranging separate interview slots for key journalists in case the conference goes awry and many other creative methods.
Virtual conferences cannot replace the quality of interaction and overall experience of in-person events. The disconnect caused by interacting through a screen cannot be made up for with snazzy interfaces and virtual waiting rooms. No matter how similar it looks to the original event and no matter how much we assume it is the same experience, it is not. And so, event organisers and PR professionals will need to ensure they put their most creative foot forward to ensure that virtual events continue to be of value to attendees and clients.