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AVD Shares Virtual Event AV Expertise with Meeting Planners International

The job pressures for meeting planners have changed dramatically since COVID-19 reached U.S. shores. For the Meeting Planners International (MPI) NJ chapter, providing education to Meeting Planners for virtual events is a top priority. But understanding the technological requirements of pulling together a virtual event can be daunting.

To understand best practices, the MPI NJ chapter invited Steve Levin, AVD’s Executive Director of business development, to participate in an online virtual forum discussing the challenges of presenting and broadcasting a successful virtual program from an audio and video perspective. Among the topics Steve discussed were budget expectations for virtual events, including those that have hybrid components; planning for project lead times; and measuring the efficacy of virtual events through proven tactics that can help meeting planners achieve better measurables.

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Proper virtual event planning requires ample lead time.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, amid growing uncertainty, meeting planners were left scrambling trying to decide whether to push forward with meeting and trade show calendars. There was little understanding on the client and meeting planner side of the required technology to pull together these kinds of events in a virtual format,” Levin says. Adding to the calamity for planners was the fact that there were few audio video partners well-positioned for virtual events with the high-level capacity, facilities and technology already in house to help them hit the ground running.

As client familiarity with virtual and broadcasting capabilities has gotten better, companies like AVD have been able to help clients make a seamless transition to virtual platforms. Client confidence in how the technology contributes is opening new horizons in how meetings can now be planned, in the present and for the future.

“There are a lot of options when it comes to planning for a virtual event,” Levin notes. “Until we’re able to assemble again in person, the bulk of meetings will be either fully virtual with some versions of hybrid meetings when possible.”

Greater familiarity has also freed clients to think more expansively, however, it has also led to inconsistent expectations with regard to lead times; meaning there’s a tremendous amount of work still required to execute a flawless virtual event including script refinement, technical walkthroughs, rehearsals and speaker coaching. “New technology has a way of making people think that tasks that used to take weeks or months can now be completed in days. That’s not reality.”

For example:
Have you considered if your event will require special landing pages to welcome and register guests and dispense information?
How would you like the schedule to flow?
Will there be virtual lobbies and exhibits?
Will attendees need to be funneled to virtual breakout rooms?
What about an after party?
How much prerecorded content will need to be integrated into the program?

By allowing sufficient planning there’s more time to build a more robust calendar of events, which could mean the difference between an event that’s memorable or one that’s not.

Consider one AVD client whose meeting planners were targeting an expansive recognition event with premium musical talent and an interactive Oscars like feel. With ample time to plan, production creativity such as this can flourish, and extra expenses such as rush charges can be avoided.

Improving the ROI of your virtual event

Results show that virtual events are not delivering the same bang for the buck as live in-person events, but AVD and Levin believe this will improve. “Virtual meetings in some capacity are here to stay, even when COVID is eradicated. In the beginning, meeting planners were new to this, and it took a bit of time to get up to speed. But going forward, the virtual event component, whether fully remote or part of a hybrid presentation, will continue to improve.

In addition to AVD’s role as AV production specialists, the company is able to bring a wealth of experience in applying live event components to the virtual space. Levin cites examples like hiring a professional moderator such as a comedian or another personality to act as emcee for the event, and incorporating a menu of interactive components that will help attendees stay engaged.

These could include: 

  • Assigned breakout rooms for team building exercises
  • Problem solving and deeper dive discussions
  • Relying on fewer head shots in exchange for more dynamic storytelling that shows rather than just tells.

“Obviously, these production elements will carry a cost. But with proper planning and creative ingenuity to build interest before, during and after the event, ROI is only going to improve as virtual event production matures.”  

Budgeting for virtual meetings 

With virtual meetings here to stay, there’s a whole new menu of costs that meetings planners need to become familiar with. To assist clients in weighing costs, in the future AVD will provide clients with three quotes based on a full in-person event, fully virtual, or hybrid with components of both.

To prepare for expanded incorporation of virtual modules into presentations, AVD has transformed an area of its warehouse into studio space and newly outfitted production suites to accommodate speakers and provide on-sight tech support for clients who want the ability to “broadcast” content to their audiences. “In the past hybrid parts of conferences were typically broadcasted from the venue where the meeting was taking place. This left little room for innovation,” Levin says. “Going forward, there’s a greater call and need for more creative performance for the virtual attendees.”

Consequently, virtual and hybrid meetings can become more costly depending on the level of support and the talent and activities a client wants to include. As clients plan and budget for future meetings (through the end of 2021), AVD is prepared to help organizations plan and implement meetings whether they are in a virtual, in-person or hybrid form.

Key Takeaways – More things to consider when planning for virtual meetings 

In conclusion, Levin suggested that members of the MPI NJ chapter consider several best practices to ensure a successful meeting. One of the more important going forward is for planners to become more knowledgeable with regard to what the technology is capable of providing.

“In a very short time we’ve been able to show how virtual meetings can be customized to suit the needs of clients of all sizes. That’s great. But in addition to content creativity and scalability, clients should also consider levels of security with regard to registration and content, particularly where new product developments and intellectual property are concerned,” Levin says.

In the end, Levin stressed the importance of choosing a virtual event platform and production partner that you enjoy working with. He also highly recommended getting multiple quotes because pricing for virtual meeting production can be inconsistent across suppliers. Like anything else, if a low price seems like an outlier compared to others, it may mean a less professional event.

“You want to choose an audio video virtual meeting supplier who reduces your stress, not adds to it. For over 50 years, AVD has been alleviating the anxiety of our clients and that’s why so many of them have been with us for so many decades,” Levin concluded.

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