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How to Meet Heightened Demand for Corporate Virtual Events

What are some of the top ways streaming services and platform providers can assist enterprises with streamlining the costs and benefits of internal and external virtual meetings and events? Andy Howard, Founder & Managing Director, Howard & Associates, starts off the conversation by contrasting the core needs for higher-end virtual productions – which can be costly and require much more planning – versus the economics of using readily available services such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for smaller-scale enterprise and corporate events. He wonders if using these established video conferencing platforms for smaller meetings helps to free up money and time for the technical requirements for larger-scale virtual events hosted by organizations such as Ernst & Young and LinkedIn.

Waseem Ahmad, Associate Director, Global Lead Streaming Media Services, EY, highlights several factors that his organization considers when deciding what type of platform and setup to use for virtual events. “We have an intake process or a filtration process, if you will, where we have people who consult,” he says. “Somebody will submit and say, 'I’ve got to do a webcast on day X. These are the speakers; this is the geography we're targeting.' Is it going to be internal or external? Polls or no polls? And then we'll speak with them. Is it simply something small enough and doable from your end? With self-serve, you can choose between Microsoft Teams or Zoom. [Or] if you want that polish or top self-type of experience, yes, absolutely. [But] there’s going to be costs around that.”

Ahmad emphasizes developing workflows to cater to clients' needs and manage different expectations. “Of course, C-Suite gets priority, right?” he says. “No questions asked. We make it work.” He notes that getting a clear sense of client expectations is vital, along with the ability to recognize when upping the game may be in a client’s best interest. “Maybe that 100 or 50-person event would turn out to be far more engaging if you did it in the style of a meeting versus perhaps doing it as a webcast,” he says. “So a lot to consider and a lot to consult on, but definitely, you have to start with that intake process to get the client where they need to be.”

Dan Swiney, Head of Media Engineering, LinkedIn, says that after the last three years, his organization has set a relatively clear line of which types of events should be allocated resources for higher production values and which types of events may not even need additional assistance. “We are lucky to have a sister team that includes account managers, and their knowledge of all the processes and all the different platforms has helped at least set up on those initial calls, those initial conversations, [and set] some realistic expectations,” he says. “They also have a roadmap, so that maybe 80% of our work is something we know is coming down the pike. So we can plan for it and resource for it. And then we [have] a conscious effort to hand off a lot of things and put them back into DIY mode. Everybody now knows how to use Zoom. There's no more excuse. So we essentially drew a line under some level.”

Swiney says this approach has helped sharpen his organization’s focus on higher production values for events that can best benefit from them. Nowadays, the lack of physical meeting space constraints, which were at play pre-pandemic, has proven beneficial. “Everything was in a space,” he says. “So we had five, six spaces, let's say, [that] you could book. When everything went remote, there was no more physical booking constraint that would limit how many events people could request. So that's why we had to tighten up on our criteria. And it's helped immensely.”

Ahmad says, “It's interesting just to add to the space element, right? Those spaces also had high price tags, and when we went virtual, the space was literally your home. So we became very efficient at doing these types of events, and it became extremely cost-effective as well to do these virtually. And one of the things we will continue to ask is, ‘What's your budget for your experience? Are you falling on the midpoint, on the self-serve, or are you really top shelf at this point? And we can do whatever we want from wherever we need to. So cost is also a critical factor in helping people decide what they need to use.”

Learn more about enterprise virtual events at Streaming Media East 2023.

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