Intense data mining isn’t needed to proclaim the terms virtual and remote reached their crescendo in 2020. Essentially all activity in the multifamily environment—including onsite communication, education panels and industry conferences—gravitated away from the in-person experience.
But just like the industry’s migration to video and remote tours, the transition to virtual conferences wasn’t a flip-of-the-switch endeavor. It required a rethinking of standardized industry practices and a little bit of trial and error.
At Entrata, we’ve both hosted and attended several virtual conferences, and along the way we have observed some of the key components that help these events sizzle—or at least stand out.
Here are some of them:
Embrace the uniqueness
At a typical industry conference, most sessions are in the 45- to 60-minute range. Panelists aren’t going to fly to a far-off city for something shorter than that. But in a virtual format, length becomes more flexible. If you have a solid 12-minute session, schedule it for 12 minutes. You don’t have to force 45 minutes of material out of it if the topic doesn’t beckon it.
Flexible watching options
Yes, the goal is to have as many people as possible watch your webinar or conference session in real time. But few in the industry receive time off to watch, like they would if attending a conference in person. That means most associates are still busy with a regular workday during your presentation, and even if they want to watch it live, they might be catching only bits and pieces. Offer attendees the opportunity to pause the video, and afford them the opportunity to watch the session from scratch after it has aired live.
Break it up
Since session times don’t have to be so rigid, break up a block of educational content with a quick-hit clip that’s a little more lighthearted. Whether it’s a musical guest performing a song, an interview with an athlete or a humorous skit featuring personnel from the host company, don’t be shy to interject a tinge of fun.
Whether the session is live or prerecorded but airing as a live broadcast, offer audience members a platform to ask questions. Attendees are generally watching because they want to learn more, and they’re often eager to ask panelists to further explain a point made during the presentation, or to ask them about something that might not have come up at all.. If possible, staff a live associate or two who can handle the questions in real time. And let attendees know that an associate will follow up to answer any questions they couldn’t get to during the broadcast. For those watching on delay, offer an email to submit questions.
Virtual conferences arrived by necessity during the pandemic, and while they’ll never serve as a full-time substitute for live events, they have demonstrated their value. As such, those hosting virtual events should embrace the factors that make them different and shy away from trying to mimic an in-person event.
While some might have some fatigue from remote events and can’t wait to get back to in-person conferences, the industry did a commendable job of deploying virtual content to continue spreading key messages throughout a trying year. As such, these events will continue to possess value moving forward—particularly when done right.
Join the Entrata team, industry leaders, and special guests for Entrata Connect, an unforgettable virtual event happening this June 9 and 16. Register for free today at entrata.com/connect.