Why Your Events Need a Virtual Host
By Antoinette Redmond
What is a Virtual Host?
At in-person, virtual events, hosts are often used to keep the event on track and give confidence to attendees – especially if there is some technical issue that needs to be taken care of. The same rationale applies when deciding if you should use a virtual host. Companies are actually using a host around their virtual events as this is all new to everyone and it gives the security of knowing everything will go right for the virtual event.
Your virtual host acts as a critical conduit between the production team, the speaker(s) and the attendees. They should demonstrate how the technology works to ensure attendees get the most from their experience. They can highlight questions, comments and poll results.
It is a role that can be very demanding – but one that can also be detrimental to your event’s success. Let’s take a look why.
1) Engaging Your Attendees at a Virtual Event
People attending events online have shorter attention spans and they can easily switch off if the content isn’t engaging them. And that is especially true in a society that is always on. To make matters more challenging there are other factors that affect virtual attendees that just do not happen when attending in-person events. For example, looking after children, pets and parcel deliveries can cause interruptions.
Therefore, your content needs to be top-notch. And using a virtual host to help attendees make the most of their virtual experience will accelerate you on the path to success. The host can ensure that everyone is fully immersed in the event. Simple things such as welcoming them, keeping them up to date on timings, answering their questions, scanning poll results and monitoring conversations can make an enormous difference to how people feel about your event.
A host can also introduce and thank speakers and chair panels. But more than that, a virtual host can enable you to offer other activities. For example, a host could be used to facilitate an empty chair panel. Attendees can join the panellists for a specific session.
They can ask speakers questions on video, or they can answer questions from the audience just like other speakers. The host would make sure that this activity was well run and co-ordinated.
2) Timing – Keeping Everything on Track
Timing at virtual events is a critical factor. Remember your attendees will be tuning in to see what they need as specified in your programme and they will expect you to be on time.
Letting time run away is a big mistake. You need to be in control of time, not be governed by it. At an in-person event, speakers may be able to stretch the timing. But that is not the case in the virtual world. And the good news is that a virtual host can make sure everything runs like clockwork. They can keep your speakers on track.
If speakers want to include questions and polling as part of their session, the virtual host can help facilitate it. They can talk whilst the polls come in and fill any ‘dead air’ and they can also recap on points made or what’s coming next. Plus they are a different voice to that of the speaker which adds variety to the attendee experience.
Not using a virtual host means that you would be dependent on your other speakers knowing exactly who to pass the baton to, who should introduce sponsors etc. and who should deal with any audience questions and comments. Losing track of the event would be a likely result.
MC Hosts at these events are very effective and keep the timings all on track.
3) Dealing with the Unexpected (Tech Issues)
Having a ‘Plan B’ is useful for any event but even more so for a virtual production. What will you do if one of the speakers can’t be seen or heard? What if they cannot turn up because they have a personal tragedy to deal with? You need a solution and you need it quickly. If you engage the services of a ‘virtual host’ you can solve all sorts of issues as they crop up.
Getting ahead of potential issues is well advised. However, not everything can be predicted. At an in- person event you may have more time to deal with the issues. But, for a virtual production you have to be able to problem solve in the moment. You need to be making decisive decisions or else your viewers will log off. This is where a virtual host can help. They can let your attendees know what is happening and create some time for you to solve the issue.
4) The Virtual Event Tech – How to demonstrate
Attendees want simplicity especially when it comes to attending virtual events. They want to be able to log on easily and enjoy your content. They also want to get involved by sending in comments, taking part in polls and getting involved in discussions. In other words, they want to be part of your event but if you make it complicated, you will lose them.
However, even the easiest of virtual event platforms can become an issue of pain to some attendees and that is where a virtual host can make the whole issue so much easier. They can help people navigate the tech being used by showing it and pointing out where to find features etc.
Your attendees will thank you for this extra ‘hand holding’. Do not underestimate how much of an impact this can have. Ask your virtual host to go through it at a pace that means your attendees can get on board. There is no point in demonstrating the tech if the host is presenting at the speed of light.
You may wish to get the virtual host to go through a mini presentation and show some screen shots of the tech and how to vote etc. to ensure attendees a quicker ease of familiarity.
5) Creating On-Demand Content
Speakers want to share their knowledge, insights and experience. It’s good for you as it is great content for your attendees. But rather than just have the speaker deliver their session and leave, there are other ways in which you could maximise the opportunity. After all, a lot of effort has gone into getting everything in place and working correctly so don’t let them go, just yet. Whilst you have your speakers and virtual host together, you could take the opportunity to create on-demand content that you release at a later date.
For example, the speaker’s session has ended but your virtual host could do a Q&A with them. Or the host could delve deeper into a topic that was discussed. You can be super creative and develop all sorts of opportunities that will save you time in developing on-demand content later down the line.
Conclusion – Set High Expectations
The work of a virtual host is pivotal in many ways to your event success. They are rapidly becoming a ‘must have’ for event planners that want to stand out. But you shouldn’t fall into the simple assumption that an in-person host will be someone that can easily replicate their skills to become a credible virtual host. As we have shown there is a lot to consider.
A virtual host that is accomplished will expect you to have high standards. They will understand that you will need them to be cool under pressure, able to think quickly in the moment and will represent your brand positively.
Set your expectations high and they will deliver. Expect to pay (don’t skimp) for their services and let them input with their ideas and insights. Your virtual event production will only benefit. So will your attendees.