Creating a successful digital event in six steps

The following guide offers you concrete advice on how to create digital or hybrid events and tips on how to avoid any major pitfalls.

By Linda Schopper

For event organisers and exhibitors, hybrid event formats currently pose a major challenge. But everyone in the events industry can agree on one thing: hybrid event formats are here to stay. It’s therefore time to experiment in order to find out more about their unique opportunities and challenges.

Linda Schopper, Head of Digital Experience

«Hybrid event formats are here to stay.»

1. Formulate your basic concept as a briefing

At the outset, creating a concept for a digital event involves similar questions to those asked when planning an offline event:

  • What is my target audience for this event?
  • What is my goal with this event?
  • What do I want participants to experience?
  • What added value can I offer the target audience with my topic?
  • Why is my company holding a digital event?
  • Is there a real-world format that I want to replace with a ditigal format, for example an open-house event where we present the latest innovations?
  • Or is this an entirely new format?

2. Define the format and the basic programme

Will the event be 100% digital? Or will live participants attend in addition to online participants? The latter is referred to as a hybrid event. The advantage of hybrid formats is that they offer participants the flexibility to decide whether they want to attend in person or virtually.

Hybrid formats essentially require you to plan two events. After all, real-world formats cannot simply be replicated in the digital world. You don’t want online participants to feel like an afterthought, so it is important to consider their experience. For example, by “filling out” pauses in the live format with extra content for online attendees. This kind of special attention is received positively.

Define the duration and possible date of your digital event now. For hybrid formats, you will also need to find a suitable location.

3. Capture the audience’s attention with compelling content

The third step involves refining your basic programme and fleshing out the various parts of the programme in line with your objectives. During this step, it is important to consider the expectations of your audience: participants mainly want to learn new things, be inspired and talk directly and personally with experts and colleagues about topics that are relevant to them. Your event needs to offer them this added value.

Boredom is the enemy of every digital event. Make sure that your content is relevant, compelling and stimulating, that presentations are short, varied and creative, and that you invite excellent speakers.

AThe rule of thumb for digital content is: you need to either change the medium or reach a high point in the dramaturgical arc of tension every 15 minutes. Changing the stage settings, communication formats and “positions” provides visual stimulation: for example, a standing moderator can be followed by a seated one-on-one interview, which is then followed by a discussion panel with three speakers in a video call, etc.

You can then decide which parts of your programme you want to actually present live at your digital event and which will ideally be recorded in advance.

4. Integrating live and interactive elements

Interaction is the key to success for digital events. By allowing online attendees to engage in discussions and ask questions, you are encouraging active participation and your audience will remember your message for longer.

For this reason, these kinds of “live moments” are essential. Define a fixed starting time for your digital event. This creates a feeling of connection, exclusivity and – in the best-case scenario – a fear of missing out or «FOMO».

Offering participants a linear live programme allows you to integrate interaction into the schedule in a targeted manner and establishes a sense of community through exchange. Participants enjoy getting involved.

Popular interaction formats include:

  • Breakout sessions: participants have in-depth discussions about certain topics and have the chance to talk to experts in smaller groups. Interaction formats can range from text chat to video and audio chat.
  • Live surveys: participants offer their opinions to targeted questions or prioritise topics using interactive apps on their tablets or smartphones (e.g. Mentimeter).
  • Social wall: participants share snapshots of their experiences at the event and upload them on a shared page.

5. Control your brand experience via live stream

Live-streaming technology makes it possible for a large number of individuals to watch the same thing live, in person and in top quality. The only prerequisite is that users need a fast internet connection.

Live presentations are streamed, but so are pre-recorded presentations: the latter are produced in advance for quality reasons but appear as if they were being produced live at the moment they are streamed. Specialists and experienced directors are essential for the production of a professional, varied live stream.

Linda Schopper, Head of Digital Experience

«The place where your live stream is produced is important – don’t leave it to chance! After all, the studio design embodies your company’s brand world and is a key aspect in terms of making digital events more emotional.»

Streaming quality, an entertaining, relevant programme and interactions are all important. But a compelling brand presence in the digital world is equally important. So, whatever you do, don’t leave your live-stream location to chance. After all, the studio design embodies your company’s brand world and is a key aspect in terms of making digital events more emotional.

Whether you stream from your company’s showroom, have a special studio built at your company’s headquarters or rent a TV studio, your choice of location will determine how much creative leeway you have to define the look and feel of your event.

A virtual studio with green screen technology has the advantage that it breaks down creative barriers and allows you to produce effective background designs expertly and flexibly. A physical studio, on the other hand, is more static and appears professional thanks to its high-quality materials and precise forms. Both formats offer their own advantages. The choice depends on numerous factors, such as the topic of your event, your objectives, your brand experience and your budget.

6. Evaluate the online event platform

Offering online attendees the right online event platform is equivalent to finding the perfect location for live event attendees. Online event platforms act as a “digital home” for digital events. These platforms are websites that offer online participants an optimal user experience and a seamless brand experience. For this reason, the platform should be consistent with the brand imaging and follow a strict design concept.

Dynamic content ensures that event participants receive the information most relevant to them at all times throughout the entire customer journey.

Personalisation is key:

  • Before the event, the focus is on generating excitement about the event and its programme as well as registration. Opportunities for interaction should also be clearly explained and advertised.
  • During the event itself, the focus will be on the live stream as the main element as well as on the interactive functions such as the chat and breakout sessions.
  • After the event, participants need to have easy access to the downloads archive and video on demand.

Customisable, cloud-based Software as a Service (SAAS) solutions that allow digital event organisers to integrate all the functions of an online event into a single platform are particularly interesting for event organisers. Data privacy and hosting issues also need to be taken into account when choosing the right platform.

A time to experiment

New approaches are needed to implement successful digital events. In addition to traditional event planning, a number of additional areas of expertise are required, including conceptual skills, storytelling and technical know-how.

It makes sense for companies to take advantage of the opportunities of these formats over the long term. In addition to the courage needed to take that first step, working together with an experienced partner who combines all the relevant skills and services is key. At Messerli, these skills and services include project management, design and concept, storytelling, streaming technology, studios and platform integration.

Are you ready to take the plunge? We can create the right package for you from our range of services so that your message gets across – in the real world and online!