There are 4.66 billion people on the internet right now and they’re all potential audiences for a virtual event. The time they spend on the internet is a very valuable resource to take advantage of. So how does one start hosting a virtual event?
Virtual events are similar to regular events in that it involves three components: a host, an audience, and a set of activities. In this article, much of the information will revolve around the third component – it’s the key differentiator between a virtual and an in-person event.
What is a virtual event and what is virtual hosting?
A virtual event is any social “gathering” done over the internet. Virtual hosting is, well, hosting over a virtual event. The role of a virtual host isn’t necessarily comparable to that of a live events host. A virtual event may have no host at all or may have someone that manages the events instead. This individual may or may not present himself or herself to the audience.
There can be two people assigned to a virtual event, one acting as the emcee, host, or content creator, and the other as a network or software expert of some kind. These roles can also be done simultaneously by a single individual, albeit this would be a difficult task to achieve. The role of the host is one of the key differences between a virtual event from a live event.
How does one host a virtual event?
Hosting a virtual event is easy. The following are the main considerations to keep in mind:
- Software for conducting the virtual event
- Hardware required to run the software
- An internet connection
- The number of attendees
- Time and location (or platform)
Easy, right? This is where it gets a little complicated. See, a virtual event both has its advantages and limitations. With a virtual event, the host has greater control over what he or she can present to the audience, and what the audience can do.
In comparison to live events, the host has greater interaction with his or her audience but also lacks the capability to control the resources related to conducting one. That’s why it’s a common requirement for event hosts to plan ahead to save precious time and energy.
Virtual event hosts do not have to spend as much time and energy as they have several formats to deliver a virtual event.
How is a virtual event different from an in-person event?
A virtual event needs a platform for both the audience and the host to perform activities. The most common format followed for a virtual event is a video conference. Software like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams enable individuals to participate in an event.
Virtual concerts also become virtual events the moment an audience participates. A live stream showing on Youtube or any other social media platform becomes a virtual event when people comment on the video or like the video.
Performers in the live stream may not be aware that a virtual event is occurring since the virtual event is happening for the people commenting and liking the live stream. The performers become part of the virtual event if they respond to the likes and comments, becoming virtual events hosts in the process.
The closest people had to a virtual event prior to the internet was through television or radio. Although no interaction came from the viewer, people participated in TV show events via phone calls.
Today, everybody is potentially an audience to a live event. Smartphones act like televisions, computers, and radios. These devices allow interaction between the host and the viewer in a variety of ways. For example, Facebook’s Live feature allows people to showcase their activities to an audience. The audience can interact by using a variety of emojis and comments that show up in real-time to the host. Youtube also has a Live feature. Most of these live feeds showcase music bands, concerts, and news outlets.
For ideas on what types of events are possible on social media platforms and other software, check out this next article.
Are things the same in a virtual event?
Yes and no. Aside from the obvious undertaking of everyone to commit to quarantine procedures, virtual events happen at the comfort of individuals’ homes. Virtual events have a lot of advantages over in-person events. Individuals can save time and money hosting a virtual event. The investment needed for individuals to collaborate go solely to operating expenses for the software or conferencing platform. In contrast, in-person events require venues (i.e. hotels, conference rooms, public speaking halls) that require rental fees.
Virtual events can still follow the same format that in-person events follow. If formalities are required, event hosts can deliver an introductory speech prior to the main set of activities. What’s amazing about virtual events is that it doesn’t have time constraints.
If the format of the virtual event is a live feed of a pre-recorded video, people may still catch up on what they’ve missed. At this point in time, the virtual event’s host can treat the newly arrived audience as if they were on time and provide the necessary introductions. Virtual events also have the advantage of being replayable, depending on the software or the options set up by the events manager.
Does a virtual event host require expertise on a specific software?
Virtual events hosts don’t need mastery over a specific software, or any software in general. They can hire professionals that have a background in using a specific program. The software has intuitive controls that can let hosts share their feed, include and exclude participants, set up polls, play onscreen videos, and much more.
The flexibility provided in software allows virtual events to take many forms. Virtual event hosts would need the same amount of confidence to emcee virtual entertainment shows, or spearhead conferences. Unless one is the software manager, then they don’t need to be as charismatic to host a virtual event.