How to know if you should take your event virtual

Event managers and founders are all asking the same question– how do we know when to pivot in a virtual event? With Omicron Spike and Over one lakh positive cases Recorded on January 1, what does this mean for events to come with the start of 2022?

With increased vaccination rates and reopening in the summer of 2021, many thought that COVID was over and we could return to our normal lives. The Holiday Spike and Omicron variants showed us, however, that COVID is not over.

In this environment, my business partners are exploring their options and asking the same questions as to whether to proceed with extra caution in person, go hybrid, go completely online, or cancel altogether. To do. After hosting and organizing hundreds of successful virtual events, I recommend our partners and customers—and you—to consider these five questions to determine what to do next with an upcoming event.

1. What would be the harm to our attendees if this event was completely virtual?

Make a list of the items your attendees will lose if your event happens to transition to a virtual landscape. Most events can be converted in virtually a single click, while exceeding attendance goals and achieving high engagement levels.

The key is a clear understanding of your event goals, format, and what technologies will allow you to convert the event digitally. By listing your risks, you have the beginning of finding solutions and options to address any potential challenges you may have online.

2. What would be the benefits to our attendees if the event was completely virtual?

Similar to your list of what attendees will suffer from going virtual, create a second list of what they can gain from the event going virtual. You’d be surprised how long the list is, especially when you think creatively. For example, consider intangible benefits such as time, money or energy that they can get back with a virtual format. These are all invaluable benefits that are not usually considered factoring in travel and delays, which tend to increase with labor shortages.

3. Is our program nearing a meeting-focused holiday?

Data tells us that the biggest spike in COVID cases occurs around the holidays when people gather indoors with family and friends. In my experience, this is during times when people skip a business-related event and instead, save that risk for a family gathering.

Case in point, my business saw several business-related events leading up to the 2021 Christmas holiday due to low RSVPs and mass cancellations, while family travel plans were still going ahead at record levels. It is important to consider timing and ensure that your event is not competing with regular family events.

4. What will it take to go virtual?

Going virtual may sound easy, but creating an optimal, next-generation virtual experience that keeps your attendees engaged isn’t as easy as spinning up a Zoom link. With new platforms launching every day and each event with different goals and formats, you need to create a unique experience that will excite, educate and entertain your audience.

Like in-person events, virtual gatherings require the design, engagement and dedicated people to drive production to deliver the highest quality possible. Additionally, think about the time and budget you have. What is your real cost to go virtual and do you have a partner to get you there?

5. Who is our audience?

Know your audience and put yourself in their place. We are in a time where you need to get personal and consider how the lives of your attendees may change due to COVID spikes and infections. It’s a tough question, but ask yourself: is your audience older where the risk is higher or are most parents where school closures could reduce attendance? Think about external factors that may affect the safety and participation rates of your attendees. The bottom line is that safety always comes first.

With infections rising rapidly, there are growing concerns about individual incidents. In these uncertain times, it is important to consider new approaches to our events that can keep our communities safe and at the same time provide wonderful experiences. As you explore your options, think through these questions and enlist a trusted partner to help you make the right decisions to protect your audience while still being able to reach your event goals.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.