In the second episode, ‘The Rise of the Digital Event Manager‘ of our ‘Digital Event Series’, our guest speaker Katya E, Director of Events at Product School shared her experience on digital events and provided us with actionable insights she learnt from being a digital event manager.
Katya has great prior experience when it comes to organising virtual events and is currently running 14 online events every week. In this blog post, Katya shares her views and how she runs virtual events as a digital event manager answering questions from the webinar attendees, which were not covered during the episode.
Director of Events at Product School
In virtual events content is key to keep the audience engaged and interested.
1. What’s the maximum number of speakers you’ve had in one screen?
We’ve had 4 speakers at the same time in one screen, usually, this is for a panel discussion.
2. Is there a charge to register? or free?
It depends on the event and the purchase package.
- All of our daily events are free
- ProductCon conference is free. If you’d like to participate in pre-conference, hands-on VIP workshops, there’s a price attached to that.
3. Are the speakers in one place or also online in different places in the events?
- Prior to COVID-19 outbreak speakers were all in one place, in a studio with professional recording equipment. This ensured a good quality of audio and video, studio lighting and stylized background for consistency in presentation.
- Since the COVID-19 outbreak speakers connect from the comfort and safety of their homes. This obviously had a slight effect on the quality of image and audio, as well as disruption to the background. We counteracted this with the new design of the overall presentation of the video.
4. What’s your take on the networking rooms being distracting for participants? They are not really able to listen to the content of the main webinar because of the meeting rooms.
I absolutely agree, for this reason, we have made a conscious decision to not have breakout rooms and focus our viewers’ attention on the main speakers. All of our speakers are top Product Leaders from household-name tech companies, with the highest quality content; this is our offering and what we wanted to focus the audience’s attention on.
5. Are there other revenue generators besides sponsorship?
- Revenue from ticket sales. There are various pricing plans possible here, for example:
- Tiered attendee access (same as with onsite events). Here it is important to create a value proposition to match the price and to deliver on it.
- Bundle pricing. If you host a number of events, this is a good option. Not only will you increase your revenue but retain the attendees for a number of events.
- Merchandise – pens, t-shirt, books, etc. These can be the “add-ons” to the ticket purchase, whether free or paid. Of course, you are then faced with the logistics of delivering the products, as well as the costs of production. Here’s the question you will have to ask yourself: does the profit significantly outweigh the efforts and resources needed to accomplish this?
- Speaker upsell. For every product/service the speaker sells through your event you could negotiate the commission percentage.
- A lot of revenue generation happens post-event but can still be attributed to your virtual conference. After the event, you will have a fresh list of prospect customers/consumers, who are still warm and eager to know more about your offerings. Don’t miss that window of interest! This revenue stream is of course only applicable if you have a service/product to offer.
6. How is the conference content distributed?
Quality content generated from the conference allows us to create blog posts, podcasts, tutorials, on-demand playlists, infographics & e-books. We repurpose the content whilst focusing on maintaining top-quality educational assets for our community.
In general, once you have that high content post-event it’s a gold mine for further lead generation (make sure to gate your content) and lead nurturing.
7. How do you decide the best time to host a digital event given that participants are from different time zones.
This completely depends on your target audience. Assuming you know where your primary customers are located you should be able to pick the best hour. For example, at Product School, most of our students are based in the US and some in Europe, to capture both regions we start out events early morning in the US which is afternoon in Europe.
8. How do you deal with coaching speakers on the use of the platforms? We have speakers who are not tech-savvy to upload slides, engage the audience etc
We prepare onboarding documents for our speakers, host group or individual calls, if necessary. In general, we try to make it as easy and seamless as possible for the speakers.
9. How do you pick the questions? Do you pick the question with the maximum number of likes since it’s really difficult to follow the chat when there are many people posting at once? Do you recommend that speakers are able to see the questions?
In virtual events, content is key to keep the audience engaged and interested, hence attendee questions have to be hand-picked without the presenter/panel moderator being distracted. Here I would suggest having a content curator, someone who’s dedicated to picking the most relevant questions for that specific event. Of course, questions with the most upvotes would make the top of the list, but having the content curator makes sure you’re in control of the discussion and take it in the direction you want.
10. How do you measure the physical event audience engagement vs a video live streaming where you can’t see most of their reaction? How do you measure ROI?
It’s harder to measure ROI for online events, but not impossible!
- Whatever the platform you use it will provide an analytics dashboard where you can clearly see a number of metrics. Decide on the metrics that are key for you. For example, who made up your audience? Did you pull attendees with purchasing authority or people who were simply joining for a little education?
- Post-event revenue attribution, see the “revenue generation” question above.
- Send out the post-event survey to gauge whether you’ve moved closer to achieving your marketing goals.
11. During your online events how long were the “virtual” coffee and lunch breaks? And apart from showing a video do you have any other examples what is done during these breaks?
On average, our conferences last up to 6 hours, which is already a long time; we do not extend it even more with longer breaks. We have found that one break of 30 minutes in the middle is enough for attendees to recharge and come back. Since events are virtual they are fully mobile, an attendee can grab their laptop and keep listening whilst doing another task. Attendees are also able to pause, come back and hit play when they are ready.
12. Do you use virtual exhibition areas? How can sponsors interact with the audience?
There is a number of virtual conference platforms that provide a close to onsite experience for both event planners, exhibitors and attendees. For example, Hopin is an incredibly powerful tool to host virtual summits. There’s a dedicated expo area where the event planner can determine the booth size, the layout of booths, whether to use a pre-recorded demo or live video, register interest from the attendees to later pass on to the sponsors and attendees are able to set up one on one calls with any booth representatives within the platform.
13. What are the top 3 tips that you will ask your speakers to be prepared for?
- Technical difficulties.
- Feeling of awkwardness when speaking into the screen.
- No questions from the audience during the Q&A. Have a list of your own backup questions to fill in the gaps.
14. How do you manage speaker dropouts?
Backups, always have speaker backups! Something I personally do for both virtual and onsite events is preparing a list of everything that can go wrong. In case it does, you’re ready!
15. Does your tech team need to be in one location along with the events team? With homestay orders in place, how does a tech team run an event when they are located at a different site?
No need for the team to be in one place. It’s challenging of course, but possible.
- Prepare a run of show;
- Run a trial event with the team and speakers;
- Overcommunicate (we connect via Zoom for the duration of the event).
Director of Events at Product School
Katya is a mastermind behind 1000+ events, which the Product School team runs every year across multiple timezones on various platforms. This year Katya and her team are moving their annual series of product management conferences to digital. The digital format is not new for the team, as they had been running online webinars and courses before the new circumstances came. Katya kindly shared some insights on how a virtual summit is different from a live event at the webinar ‘The Rise of the Digital Event Manager‘ of our ‘Digital Event Series’.