Are virtual events the answer to engaging a global workforce on a budget?

 

As organisations become more global and workers more remote, the costs of bringing them all together is increasing. With budgets being squeezed more and more each year how do you tackle this problem, bringing people together for a fraction money.

The answer could be introducing virtual events to your portfolio. The concept has been active for over a decade with many companies specialising in this medium offering various solutions.

The idea certainly has many pros for any cash strapped company looking to engage with all their global employees. The cost of a global meeting for around 100 staff can be upwards of £70,000 when you look at hiring a venue, catering, AV, flights and transfers. There is also the added pressure of the wow factor and making sure that the meeting is worth the outlay ensuring staff leave motivated about the company and their work.

I have run many of these types of meetings over the years and it is great to bring everyone together but is it worth it? Predominantly only senior managers get to attend so the rest of the work force can feel left out. Why are they not good enough to attend, what is being discussed, are there problems in the business??

In most cases employees are not missing out information wise, but they are missing out on the networking and the feeling of involvement.

So, the virtual event can help to fix this problem. By running you conference virtually anyone can log in from their own laptop and watch what it is going on, pose questions to presenters and feel part of what is being discussed. It’s really does lead to more of a feeling of inclusion for a lot of employees. The cost can be around £10,000 to run a good virtual conference, that’s a huge difference in price!

The negative points of running this type of meeting is the fact that people are not all together, its harder to have group breakout sessions and there needs to be plenty of time allocated in advance for training for first time users.

These concerns can be addressed by a good event manager who just needs to think outside of the box when developing an inclusive agenda that best fits the purpose of the meeting. Although the meeting is virtual it requires the same amount of time to plan it, develop the resources, build the right platform, create the best content and deliver the live event. Any thoughts you have about this being an easier option to produce that a live event then think again.

Time zones are the first important issue to think about when considering your agenda, where in the world are your employees based? This will have an impact on the times your run your meeting and the number of days. One solution is to run the meeting in the afternoon GMT.

If everyone is based within a 4-hour difference of GMT then it’s possible to involve everyone as part of a normal working day. By starting the meeting at lunch time, you will allow any US participants to be involved at the start of their working day and then working across the world each country will be using the later part of their working day. Group work can also be facilitated at the beginning or end of the day depending on location.

Another important factor that needs to address is that the content is good quality and if possible best to have some, if not all the main presentations pre-recorded. This means if there are any technical problems during the main event days you can run the content without the audience being any the wiser. Having good content that is relevant to the audience is great and another advantage of the virtual platform is that delegates have the chance to view the content again later. This can extremely beneficial if the meeting is conducted in English which is not the first language for many of your employees. It can be difficult to absorb information when it is presented in long sessions.

The virtual event also allows for external presenters to be part of your meeting without them having to travel and take time out of their busy schedules. For single presenters, a good quality web cam and decent internet connection is all they need. This means you i can perhaps get better speakers for cheaper as they are required to give less time with no travel costs incurred.

ALERT ALERT do not use Wi-Fi for a virtual event, the signal can be more likely to drop out, with viewers missing parts of the presentations. Always use an LAN cable to get the best broadband speed and ensure that there are no other pressures on your system during the events. Don’t allow the artwork team to download all their new Mac apps at that time.

Another good reason to have a virtual platform is to run training sessions at less of a cost. Rather than flying people to HQ to be trained, or flying trainers round the world, employees can log into your virtual platform at a convenient time to them. By providing short tests afterwards then you can clearly see if the person has done the training efficiently.

If you follow some the simple do and don’ts then it’s very beneficial to have virtual events as part of your portfolio. I don’t think it will ever replace the face to face live event but it does provide a solution to engaging with a global workforce when budgets are tight.

The Faulty Planner

The Faulty Planner

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