When it comes to virtual events, the website is really like the event location. Inside the event, different things are happening, from seminars to breakout sessions and live demonstrations. There may be some self-exploration of content, like wandering around the trade show floor. Perhaps there’s some virtual rooms that allow you to chat with random attendees.
All these aspects of the event require different tools, programs, and applications. The same way that a physical event may have several rooms, with completely different technical needs, your virtual event needs to be able to include a slew of different tools. The only way to get all the different applications into a cohesive environment is to house them within a website.
Why? A comprehensive website that houses all of the different tools allows you to control all of the different components of your event from one place. Imagine if a puppet had four different people pulling on each of the strings. How hard would it be to make it dance? A website gives you control over every technical aspect that the different software tools bring to the table.
However, this cannot be your regular website. We can’t mention this enough. Your website is going to have information on everything you do. Therefore, sending this targeted, specialized audience to your full website is a great way for your audience to get lost. Instead, this is a precise, targeted, narrowly focused website. (A ‘microsite,’ if you will.)
For those of you who’ve had a show organization invite you to ‘present’ in their ‘virtual show’ by providing you a page to upload your sales material…be warned. We’re sure some of you reading this have already had events that have been canceled that have been provided with these ‘virtual event’ pages that are simply a place for you to dump literature by way of PDFs, add a single video and some text, and a graphic of your logo with a link to your website.
Working with those event spaces is not a bad thing. The caveat is that there’s very little analytics that you’re going to be able to pull out. What we recommend is creating your own virtual event to drive traffic from the show virtual event space to your own, and which is something more than just one individual page. It makes more sense to send people from these virtual show halls to your own virtual event space, so that you can create a more immersive and interactive environment and get those deeper analytics. Moreover, by creating your own virtual event, you can leverage the traffic being driven by the show event space as well as drive additional outside traffic to it (by marketing it!)
Where things start to deviate in the similarities between virtual and physical events is in the varying event logistics. Moreover, a lot of new considerations and questions that come up when trying to plan out a virtual event occur because there’s a lot less limitations—because there’s no size limitations and there doesn’t have to be any time limitation, there’s some extra logistics that you’ve never had to think about when planning a physical event or exhibit.
Functionality logistics to consider for your virtual event website:
- Will this event be available to anyone or accessible only via login?
- Is this site going to change throughout a specific period of time:
- Are you running this for the length of the event, and then it is gone?
- Is it going to start with everything, and then have some of the content go away, leaving a shell of what the site was during the event?
- Will this event site be a one-time use or reused with content updates?
- How large a roster will you need for personnel and staffing?
If you’re planning on having live demonstrations or fully livestreamed webinars, there’s going to be specific times that these occur. You then have to decide if the virtual event is only ‘open’ during those live times or if you’re going to want to keep this event space running after the fact and, if so, swap out those live demos for some video content or simulated (pre-recorded) webinars.
There’s also one major logistics question we haven’t seen anyone address: Who are your event personnel and what’s your roster count? You’ll need operators for live chat, sales people ready for phone calls and video conferences; remember, only the venue should be perceived as virtual. That means we’re trying to make it as real as possible—which means you need real people at the other end of those communication tools to drive real conversations, not just chat bots who can only take the conversation so far.
And don’t forget, since your virtual event space is a website, it has to ‘live’ somewhere. Is it going to be hosted on your current web servers, or should this live elsewhere? Who’s in charge of the building, security, and maintenance of this website? And finally, when you’re looking at the tools you’re going to plug into this website, who’s taking ownership of that process? There’s a lot of things to consider, and some of it can’t be fully decided until you know what you’re going to include in your event.
But, if we’re going to talk about structure, and what’s going in to the website, we’d better figure out content.