Virtual Events Experience:

The Birth of the Future

Zoom calls. Google Hangouts. Microsoft Teams. These three video conferencing platforms are everywhere now. As we reach the final quarter of 2021 with normality coming back to the UK, virtual events are rife and are certainly here to stay.

But let me take you back to Summer 2019. Whilst away from my CWA laptop, I run an entertainment website from my personal laptop called Cineroom. But what has this got to do with 2021 and virtual events? Well, everything, actually.

In 2019, I wanted to create a new virtual film festival called Cin-E-Room. I would reach out to independent filmmakers and production companies, gather their latest titles, and show them to more eyes than a packed-out cinema screen ever could. What stopped me? First, a decent platform that would be costly (though achievable). But the danger of being ostracised and blacklisted from international festivals like Venice and Berlin that I attended annually as I would be doing something so against the norm outweighed any temporary gain. So, I parked the idea until I gathered more film industry people who would be interested.

Then, it happened. The pandemic hit. The world stopped. Festivals paused. And new, fresh ideas were needed…

The birth of the future was here.

What was that future? An enormous number of virtual events. Just the type I was dreaming about nearly a year before. And, you guessed it, all the international film festivals headed online to screen the films for all who attended. In the past 9 months, I have attended four different film festivals (virtually), and all offered something different. But let me focus on the London Film Festival (LFF) and the Glasgow edition.

Glasgow 2021 film festival
Virtual events are already adapting

Virtual events have become a staple of digital communications now. And the knowledge and experience that six months can do is amazing. In October 2020 at LFF, the nuts and bolts of it were:

  • Each film would begin at set start times with a 1-hour accessibility window (frustrating)
  • The films premiere later in the day, so you only have a few hours to critique the film before having to upload your review (a rush)
  • You’re left to your own devices when the festival was on. No press roundups, no notifications throughout and you felt quite aloof (festivals are famous for the buzz – this was the opposite)

When Glasgow rolled around in March this year, the learnings and improvements were second to none:

  • Each film had a 72-hours accessibility window with unlimited access (flexibility and appreciation of the busy home times)
  • The films premiered a week later, giving writers plenty of time to do their best work (we could really get into the reviews)
  • You’re emailed daily updates, key contacts and suggested social media posts for the day to help shape and curate your profile’s content (beyond helpful)

So, while virtual events may feel like a new venture in the past year, but look what six months of learning can do. And we’ve seen it with our own clients. As we research and run our own virtual events, we have evolved our offering and can incorporate so many different requests from our customers.

It’s a myth that engagement and delegate experience will plummet with a virtual event – you just need to plan around the content, and how it can land most effectively. Let’s put it this way: your brand’s key messages still need to get out there and you cannot wait forever. A virtual event is certainly a strong option going forward.

Virtual watching will be around for a lifetime
What does the future hold?

The future is busy. It’s hard to predict where it’ll go but one thing is for sure, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts etc. are not going anywhere any time soon. It’s just always important to remember that a virtual event can be so much more than just those platforms.

We know how important virtual events are to our clients going forward. So, we created a free virtual events masterclass this year and penned a blog on getting the most out of your virtual conference.

Yes, in-person events are the gold standard and we long for them (especially international film festivals!), but we now know that they are not the be-all and end-all. There’s one thing that I will always hang my hat on though… the future’s bright, the future is digital.

To discover more about virtual events, CWA and how we can support you with your next one… say hello@cwa.co.uk

cwa meet the team about us adam
Written by
Adam Palmer
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