After COVID-19 disrupted the events industry and forced numerous in-person meetings and events to go virtual, one event technology company decided to host its first-ever virtual event, on its platform, in November of 2020.
“This was a new event, not something to replace a previously live event,” said Christina Tomlinson, Vice President of Marketing & Events for Pathable, a platform and mobile app that supports virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. “We thought hosting our own virtual event would be a great way to encourage networking and collaboration within the event industry. We also wanted to offer an opportunity for event planners to experience a virtual event on our platform, first-hand.”
Developing the Event Plan
Goals for the event were two-fold: first, to position Pathable as a thought-leader in the industry (with a platform to host other virtual events), and second, to provide education and networking within the events community. “With the major shift in our industry during 2020, we knew people were feeling disconnected and a bit lost. We wanted to provide a sense of, ‘We’re all in this together,’” said Christina.
As Christina and Amanda White, Marketing Specialist for Pathable, started planning for the event, they acknowledged that virtual event management was ever-evolving, remaining virtual during 2020 but potentially shifting to a live/virtual hybrid approach in 2021. While RE:VISION 2020 was completely virtual, they designed the event to speak to the industry evolution’s current mid-point.
RE:VISION 2020 was designed for the event-planning industry, targeting meeting planners looking to network and expand their knowledge of industry best practices. Ultimately, this event attracted anyone who planned meetings and events, from logistics to curriculum to marketing, with sessions covering just about every aspect of meeting planning.
“Because we asked people to come from all across the event management community, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Christina. “We created a come-and-go agenda and avoided requiring a full-day commitment. We also recorded all sessions and offered an on-demand video gallery so attendees could watch sessions they missed or revisit their favorite content. It was great to see people want to go back to watch recorded sessions and engage after-the-fact.”
Pathable used its custom platform to host the virtual event, which included 39 total keynote and breakout sessions, community engagement and entertainment offerings, livestream video, in-house AV and production, and cutting-edge design, helping showcase its capabilities and facilitate event best practices, such as:
- Creating and sending templated emails with “know before you go” items for attendees and how-to content for speakers and exhibitors
- Providing a welcome video with information on what to expect throughout the event
- Sending automated reminders when sessions started
- Creating custom FAQs for audiences to help them navigate the event
- Scheduling and hosting session rehearsals with speakers and moderators in advance
“Given the nature of virtual events in general, we wanted to make sure we were over-communicating with our attendees, to provide a smooth experience and create a sense of community,” said Amanda.
“We did quite a bit to make sure our speakers were prepared and the event happened without a hitch,” Amanda continued. “We sent out an introduction video that provided the basics of the platform, and then we did one-on-one calls with our speakers to make sure they were prepared.” Pathable also offered training and support to speakers and exhibitors through its training hub, Camp Pathable. The program offered on-demand video trainings and an open schedule to meet with Pathable experts through live Q&A sessions.
“We were encouraged to see that many speakers used these tools first to get acquainted with the platform and then asked questions later. By the time the event began, they were very comfortable and knew what to do if something went wrong that day,” said Amanda.
Most of the sessions at RE:VISION 2020 were presented live, but a handful were pre-recorded, merely to showcase that Pathable offered both types of sessions. With the recorded sessions, the speakers participated in a live Q&A after the presentation.
“One key learning for us was the fact that, as a speaker, it’s not easy to juggle the presentation along with the chat feature,” said Christina. “With that in mind, we offered moderation for key sessions and encourage planners to factor this in as a best practice when creating their own event agenda.”
The Pathable event team also created various email templates for speakers and attendees in case there were technical difficulties during the event. That helped everyone feel prepared if something went wrong, but fortunately, the emails were never needed.
Results and ROI
“As our first virtual event, we didn’t set an expectation for attendance,” said Christina. “We were pleased that more than 2,000 people came through the ‘doors’ and engaged with our content. And since the event ended, we have had more than 1,000 site visits and 5,400 page views.”
Pathable also received leads from prospective customers for future events. That wasn’t a top goal of the event, but it was great to see, and it made the whole effort that much more valuable for the organization.
Overall, says Christina, because RE:VISION 2020 was a huge success, the Pathable team is looking to repeat it annually.
Conclusion and Learnings
After Pathable’s first-ever virtual event for the events industry, Christina and Amanda came away with two additional recommendations for future events:
First, to deliver an incredible experience, put yourself in your audiences’ shoes. “For us, we constantly asked if we were attendees, what would we expect? This kind of mindset helped us be more creative when presenting materials and creating the program,” said Christina. “It also helped us ensure the exhibitors received value for their participation.”
Second, see if you can participate in your own virtual event and attend various sessions and discussion forums. “That was a vibrant experience to learn from a diverse group of participants on how to improve virtual events and even use our platform in the best way possible,” said Amanda. “We didn’t expect to gain that wisdom, but it was very valuable to participate in that information exchange.”
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