These past months have seen a huge rise in the number of virtual events with some of the biggest events of the year going online. Though there's little possibility for virtual events to completely replace in-person ones, COVID-19 has shown how flexible and feasible they can be. Considering all of this, it's likely organizations will continue hosting online events in the future if only for the sheer convenience of it.
At Backstage, we started work on our own virtual events solution back in March. Since then, we've steadily added on to our existing features so you can leverage virtual events as soon as possible. However, our ultimate goal has always been to build a virtual events solution that is just as intuitive and seamless as Backstage is for live events. Today, after a little more than four months, we're ready to introduce Backstage OnAir, our virtual events extension.
From webcasting sessions and engaging with attendees in real-time to getting detailed post-session analytics, Backstage OnAir's features will help you host virtual events that are just as good as in-person ones. The best part—you can host both your online and live events from a single platform. Convenient, right?
Here's a quick rundown of how the many features of Backstage OnAir—combined with tools Backstage already possesses—can benefit you before, during, and even after your online event.
Before the event
Creating an online event on Backstage is pretty similar to creating a live event. Begin with the usual stuff—create your online event just as you would an in-person one or convert one of your existing events from in-person to virtual.
Then add event details like the agenda and speakers, onboard your team, and set up event registration. The next step is designing your event microsite. Here, you can use Backstage's 10 themes and various custom pages and sections to build an event microsite that's spot-on with your brand.
Other things you can do at this stage include promoting your event with promotional codes, affiliates, and social sharing, as well as sending emails to attendees and prospects to keep them updated with the latest event news.
During the event
The difference between virtual and in-person events is mostly seen on the event day—from attendee check-in to session presentation, everything has to be done through online means, and this can lead to a lot of challenges. At Backstage, we've made all the options flexible so you have more choice and control over how things proceed.
Checking in to an online event is the attendee's responsibility in Backstage. On the event day, a banner will run on the event microsite to inform attendees about the status of the event—whether it has begun or not and if sessions are running. It will also prompt them to check in to the event. Once they've checked in, they can participate in the sessions, network with other attendees, and contribute to discussions.
The next step is presenting your sessions remotely. We've got three options for broadcasting your sessions, and you can use any of them—Backstage OnAir, Zoho Meeting, and other third-party web-conferencing software.
The actual session experience depends largely on the tool you're using and the features it has to offer. We, of course, recommend Backstage OnAir for this. It comes with options like webcasting live sessions, detailed session analytics, and virtual engagement tools (polls, chat, whiteboard, and questions) to interact with attendees in real-time and make them feel like they're a part of the event. Currently, you can webcast your session to a maximum of 200 attendees though in the future, we will be increasing this number to accommodate more attendees. In addition, after each session ends, attendees can join the next session automatically.
Most event organizers find networking to be a real challenge with virtual events. At Backstage, we've got a pretty handy feature to help you with this—discussion channels. You can create both public and private channels to help attendees network with others who share the same interests or even continue their discussions with speakers after the session is over.
You can also announce impromptu discussions or meets so everyone knows what's happening and they don't miss out on the opportunity to interact with others.
After the event
Once your event is over, you can post behind-the-scenes photos in the event gallery and give your attendees a peek into what really went on backstage. You can also ask your attendees to post photos. The gallery is a good place to bond with them over photos and memories. This is especially important with virtual events as a lot of things here happen over text and voice. Pictures can help make the experience more authentic, real, and personal.
The other important thing to do after the event is study the analytics so you know what went right and what went wrong. Backstage already offers two equally important types of analytics—sales analytics and session analytics—and the great thing about the OnAir extension is that your virtual event can still leverage all the Backstage features you normally use for in-person events. While the former tells you how interested people were in your event, the latter tells you how satisfying the experience was. You can also make use of our PageSense integration to step this up a little and get detailed website analytics.
Also, members subscribed to our Enterprise and Ultimate plans can use Backstage OnAir free of charge to present remote sessions and host virtual events until September 30, 2020.
Power your virtual events with Backstage OnAir and give your attendees an experience they won't forget any time soon! Let us know what you think in the comments below. For product-related questions or suggestions, write to us at email@example.com.