While 2020 brought us into a new decade, it also introduced us to an unfamiliar world of “social distancing.” Life amid a global pandemic required us to stay home, major events worldwide were canceled and non-essential retail businesses were forced to shut their doors.
Although we reached the halfway point of 2021 with vaccine rollouts underway and pandemic restrictions easing around the world, things are never going “back to normal”. Life has changed, but not necessarily for the worse — we have found many ways to adapt and innovate during this time of transformation towards a new normal.
One such area of innovation is virtual events and conferences.
Virtual events are the new normal in 2021. All sorts of events, including educational workshops, summits and seminars, conferences, concerts, fundraisers, and product launches, have moved online and are there to stay.
Although we are slowly seeing the return of some in-person events, they are looking very different: there will be no spectators at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, for example. Most events are staying online, and many in-person events are offering an online option as well. Hybrid events are now the rule, not the exception.
What does this change mean for marketers and event planners who want to learn how to create webinar content? Transitioning to virtual events means creating new unique content that suits the new event format. In a virtual setting, your content is your event. Take note of the following 6 content trends when overhauling your annual events calendar and planning your next virtual or hybrid event.
Content Trend #1: Content for More Than Just the Webinar
There’s a lot more to creating webinar content than just writing presentation slides. In fact, you’ll need to create several different types of to promote the event, to host the event, and to follow up post-event.
Pre-event content helps you promote your event to increase your registration rate and help attendees understand what to expect. It offers key facts about the virtual event and creates buzz.
Event website: Any large virtual conference, expo, or trade show should have its own dedicated event website to share vital information with attendees, including time and date, keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and more.
Event registration landing pages and forms: For smaller virtual events, an event landing page and form can suffice. The landing page provides the event details attendees need to stay informed while the form enables them to register for the event and share their contact information with you.
Pro tip: Add a 30-second teaser video about the virtual event topics to your landing page. This will help attendees understand what to expect from the event.
Marketing and promotional materials: Create buzz and get your audience excited about your upcoming event with marketing and promotional materials. This can include ads, blogs, and social media posts. Keep sharing this content for a few weeks or months pre-event to build anticipation.
Pro tip: Go above and beyond by creating quizzes and polls to keep your audience engaged before the event.
Event reminder email workflow: It’s best practice to create an email workflow with a series of event reminders. Send these out to registrants a couple of days before the event, the day before the end, and the day of the event to remind them to attend.
Content Needed During the Event
Presenter scripts: Your presenters will likely need scripts to follow during the event to ensure they stay on track. Because it’s a live event, these scripts can include cues for the presenters to stop to explain the technology’s features (raise hand, pause, etc.) and to ask for questions.
Presentation content: If you’re going to be presenting visual content, such as PowerPoint slides or charts, this content needs to be created ahead of time.
Question and answer: It’s a good idea to anticipate common questions from the audience and have some answers prepared.
Live polling: Keep your audience engaged with live polling. Write out your topics and possible answers ahead of time.
Recorded content: By recording content ahead of time, your presenter can focus on audience engagement while the audio or video plays in the background. This type of content can be reused over and over again for new audiences.
Pro tip: It’s a great idea to create a mix of live and on-demand content to keep people engaged. You’ll likely need to write a script for live presenters but also write content for presentation slides. Will you be using a mix of prerecorded content and interactive content or streaming live? There are many ways to mix content to make it work for you and make things more interesting for your audience. Don’t limit yourself to a PowerPoint presentation.
Content creation doesn’t end with the presentation. Post-event content enables you to stay in touch with your attendees.
Feedback surveys: Creating a feedback survey to send post-event can help you create even better virtual events in the future. You’ll learn what your audience members loved and what content they didn’t like so much.
Follow-up emails: Follow-up emails can take many shapes and forms. Generally, you’ll want to send one email thanking the attendees for showing up and another saying “sorry we missed you” for those who registered but did not attend. This email can include an on-demand version of the presentation that they can watch. You may also want to send follow-up content related to the presentation, such as additional blog posts or whitepapers on the topic that you think the audience might appreciate.
As you can see, you’ll need to create a lot of content for a virtual event. If you have limited resources in house, it could be a good idea to get a helping hand with content creation, marketing, and promotion.
Content Trend #2: Content Sharing
Writing webinar content can be a huge undertaking on your own. As we mentioned, there is a lot of content to write to promote, host, and follow up. If you’re overwhelmed by all the content you’ll need to create for the event and all the logistics that go into planning such an event, consider content sharing. This is a content trend that can make the task a lot easier.
In essence, you’ll share the responsibility of content creation and hosting with a partner. Ideally, you’ll want to partner with other similar or complementary organizations
What’s also great about content sharing is that you’ll have two organizations promoting the event. This means you’ll be able to amplify your audience and expand your reach, so your webinar has a greater impact. This is especially valuable if you’re producing a lead-generating virtual event.
Content Trend #3: A Written Guide for Attendees
We’re seeing more and more organizations creating written guides for attendees. This is a great idea for larger conferences and virtual events, but all types of virtual events can benefit from a guide.
This would go into the pre-event content list. This guide would explain how to join keynotes, how to attend sessions, and how to use messaging tools. Everyone has a different level of comfort with technology, so you’re bound to have some user error. After all, there are many different types of video conferencing technologies out there, and your attendees may not be familiar with the tool you’ll be using.
Such a guide will not only improve the user experience for registrants but it will also help reduce the number of technical questions you have to wade through on Day 1 of the event.
Content Trend #4: Interactive Content
At their core, in-person events are all about engagement. Attendees look forward to networking at happy hours and interacting with presenters at Q&As. They enjoy meeting new like-minded people in their industries and making connections.
These interactive aspects of in-person events don’t have to be lost when translating an event online.
Rather than just making attendees sit and listen to content for hours on end, you can use interactive content to keep them excited and engaged. More and more virtual conferences are now including breakout sessions, along with live Q&As. Live polling and quizzes can further engage registrants, while scheduling time for “virtual happy hours” and ensuring your technology includes a messaging functionality can simulate the networking opportunities provided at live events.
While it takes additional planning and content creation, this type of interactive content will set your business apart from everyone else hosting virtual events right now.
Content Trend #5: Accessible Content
Break down barriers to your content and make your events accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities.
There’s a lot you can do to ensure your content is more accessible for attendees with different abilities:
- For those with hearing impairments, make sure your virtual events include a closed captioning option. You can preload your content script so that closed captioning is available for the presentations. While you can hire live signers, closed captioning tends to be a more affordable option for inclusivity.
- Having all speakers say their names before speaking can also help ensure captioners know who is talking.
- You’ll also want to test to ensure your audio is clear since poor audio quality can make it tough for people to access your content. This is another great reason to have closed captioning. There are apps on the market that can help reduce background noises in audio. Having your speakers use headsets can also improve the audio quality.
- Have your hosts present the content in a quiet room without background noise.
- Mute all attendees to reduce background noise.
- Use accessible, plain language during the event and in all materials.
- Avoid using jargon and acronyms (or be sure to spell out all acronyms in the initial slides if you use acronyms later. No more alphabet soup!
Visual and sensory impairments:
- Use lighting to ensure the presenter’s face is well-lit and can be seen by those with visual impairments.
- Describe live scenarios. For example, if you’re presenting a painting workshop, you’ll want to say, “I am now painting the tree leaves with a dark forest green.”
- It’s also a great idea to read any text that may appear on the screen out loud and describe gestures.
You can implement these best practices in all your video, audio, and written content pre-event, during the event, and post-event.
Virtual events are set to be the next big thing. Follow the latest content trends to ensure your next virtual event is properly planned, promoted, and produced.
Content Trend #6: Hybrid Event Content Delivery
We’ve all experienced the benefits of online events over the last year: the accessibility, the safety, and the convenience are something that traditional, in-person events can’t match. That is why, as in-person events begin to return, nearly 80% of companies expect to host hybrid events this year, and plan to continue doing so beyond the pandemic.
Hybrid events combine the buzz and connection of in-person events with the accessibility and reach of the virtual world, but they can be a lot of work to successfully deliver content to both audiences. It is a common mistake for virtual event managers to favor the in-person experience, but truly successful hybrid events blur the lines between the virtual and the physical. They make audience engagement and interaction a top priority through polls, chats, and vibrant social media use to effectively blend the experiences of both of your audiences.
A great way to engage your virtual audience is to have an onsite emcee dedicated to their experience. They can highlight sessions, facilitate networking opportunities, and go a long way in helping virtual attendees feel engaged.
Virtual and hybrid events are set to be the next big thing. Follow the latest content trends to ensure your next virtual event is properly planned, promoted, and produced.