How to Manage Attendee Expectations Around Virtual Events

How to manage attendee expectations around virtual events

All events carry risk. One of the biggest risks of course is whether attendees enjoy an event and what they will say about it to colleagues, friends and peers. Virtual events are no exception.  In fact, the risks of bad news spreading quickly is even more accentuated in the virtual world and organisers should be prepared.

People are investing their time, energy and maybe even money to attend your online event. So how can you manage their expectations and encourage them to spread positive messages about your event?

Let’s take a look.

Challenging Attendee Perceptions  

One of the biggest challenges you will face is how your attendees view virtual events. Some people are giving them their full attention as they can attend events that they may not have been able to before. Some people believe that virtual events are nothing more than a stop gap until in-person events are back. And in the middle, you have other people that are between the two when it comes to their views on virtual.

This means that you have a mixed bag of views from the start. But to be fair, it is no different to attendee opinions of in-person events.  In addition to perception, you have the technology fear challenge that will always remain – especially as virtual event platforms can vary from one event to another. Unfortunately, this will be with us, regardless of how good the tech actually is.

As much as a poor perception (by some) of virtual events can be a challenge, it’s also an excellent opportunity. You can demonstrate just how amazing virtual events can be. Be clear with attendees as to what their experience will be and do as much handholding on tech as you can.

Read: How to manage sponsor and exhibitor expectations around virtual events

Preparing Properly in the Run-Up

Virtual events are different. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can have virtual awards, virtual conferences, virtual exhibitions. A virtual event for gamers for example can also look very different to one targeting finance execs.

Each virtual event will provide a different experience for attendees.  For example, if you are producing a virtual awards ceremony, do you expect people to dress up in the same way as the in-person ceremony? Or is casual wear ok? Helping attendees understand these things will be a great start in managing their expectations.

There is a lot of work that you can do to prepare people. Advise them what to expect from the event and remember the basics, such as, start and finish times etc. Let them know how they can play their part. Will they be expected to network, work in break-out groups or be involved in some other activity? It would be useful to let the attendees know if they are going to be seen. There is nothing worse than surprising delegates, especially if they are going to be on camera. You are after all, inviting everyone at the event into their home. Help them prepare and it will be a better outcome for you and them.

To prepare attendees, you could send them an intro video on what they could expect at the event. Share guides on how to do different things on the platform – like setting up meetings, updating their profiles and so on. This could be emailed in advance and not only would it help them prepare but it could also be shared and in effect be used as a tool to encourage other people to attend.

Designing a Great User Experience

Designing the user experience to be as good as it possibly can be is another way of dealing with high expectation levels. If you follow the advice provided above, your attendee now understands what they are going to be doing, when the event runs and how they need to look and participate. That is all good but that hard work can easily be lost if the user experience has been poorly designed.

Your event website needs to have all relevant information. It should be super clear. It should not have copy that is difficult to understand. It should not be difficult to navigate either as that will only lead to confusion and lost attendees. Consider carefully the colours you will use as they impact on the user experience. If light coloured lettering becomes lost in powerful visuals, people will stop reading.

When it comes to the registration process, make it dead easy. Don’t ask for more personal data than you need. If you have to use different tech platforms because of their functionality, ensure your attendees understand this. You might want to explain why you are using different platforms. They may need to register, set up new accounts and passwords each time. This is very boring but at least if the attendee is aware of what is needed, they are more likely to comply. And that would be a better result, otherwise they could give up and go elsewhere.

It’s important to note too that you should be clear what happens to their personal data, especially if you are using more than one tech provider. The attendee can then decide how much they want to share and with whom.

On-Demand Webinar: Virtual events – how to get the registration experience right!

Testing the Tech Thoroughly

Whilst event planners are pretty good at dealing with detail, testing is a discipline that goes to a whole new level when producing virtual events. There is a lot more testing to be done. The user experience has to be checked on different devices, different web browsers and of course the right versions of any apps have to be interrogated. Web links and audience interaction software must also be thoroughly checked out. If you are not familiar with how the polling works, don’t expect your delegates to figure it out. As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to create guides for attendees.  This will help them understand how to use the system or the different tools within it.

Whilst testing is not one of the most glamorous elements of event production, it is absolutely essential. One of the easiest ways to work out whether you are providing a great experience for your attendees is to sit in their seat. Take their chair before going live and make your improvements. Your virtual production will be a whole lot better for testing and getting the detail right. It’s also a great way of making sure you manage expectations well.

Creating Event FAQs

There is some event information that all attendees will need. If you already create FAQs for your in-person events, you have a head start as you can adapt the FAQs for your virtual event. If not, simply work through the virtual attendee journey and make sure you jot down the relevant points they need to understand. Once that is done, you can re-write those points in the form of Q&As.

Within the FAQs for your virtual event, you should definitely include: login weblink for the event, details of any software or apps to be downloaded, details of any web browsers not to be used, whether translations are available, what happens if someone gets disconnected, if they cannot hear or see your event etc.

It is likely that your FAQs will run to many points. But it’s not a bad thing. The more you answer, the less stressed your attendees will be as they will see how much effort you have gone to in creating a great virtual event for them.

Don’t forget to make your FAQs prominent. Having them on your event website would be good. Send them by e mail and have it available on the virtual event platform too.  We would also recommend having a dedicated person from your events team manning some kind of help desk on the system to ensure people aren’t left in the lurch.

Conclusion – Attention to Detail Makes All the Difference

Virtual events need the same amount of planning (if not more) than in-person events. It’s a fact that is often underestimated by planners. But, when you consider the need for rehearsals, testing and answering all the questions a virtual attendee will have, you can see why they take longer.

Even if you have a long list of tasks to make sure the detail is right, keep going. The more objective and detailed you are, the better the overall experience will be. Paying attention to the detail of your virtual event will help everyone. And it will help ensure that you manage the expectations of your attendees. It will help you maximise their experience and demonstrate that you have taken care and thought everything through.

Attendee expectations are tricky but by following some of the advice in this post, you will be well on your way to ensuring people enjoy your virtual event and spread the news.

Running virtual events?  Eventsforce VCD is a fully integrated virtual event platform that can support you with registration, live streaming, audience engagement tools, remote speaker management, networking and virtual sponsors and exhibitors. Book a demo or get in touch with the team to see how we can help!