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Blog | 05 August 2020

How to shift from physical to digital events

Written by Charlotte – Content Manager at Scouts

You may be one of many in the charity sector who’ve had to re-think their events calendar in 2020.

 Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen global leaders such as a Google shift their onsite plans into completely virtual events. They scrapped their two day ‘Cloud Next’ conference and went digital-first with their ‘On Air’, free, digital event series spanning across nine weeks.

Similarly, at the Scouts we've been propelled to rethink our digital approach to our events. In July we hosted The Great Indoors Weekender, which was the UK’s biggest digital summer camp. Just over 120,000 young people were registered by 44,000 adults across the world. Using our Scout ambassadors and harnessing our partnerships, we hosted a wealth of activities (all accessed digitally) which allowed young people to take part from the comfort of their homes. The free digital event, reached over 813,000 people on social media, with the #TGIWeekender hashtag seen over six million times and the website pages dedicated to the event, visited over 345,000 times. The event allowed thousands to connect, learn and most of all have fun!

As COVID-19 is set to stick around for a little while longer, we're continuing to adapt our once face-to-face events to be digital. Every September we host our annual reunion, at our HQ, Gilwell Park. The face-to-face event brings together 4,000 volunteers from across the world and has run every year since 1921 (except for four years during WW2).The event helps thousands learn more about projects and programme activities, share knowledge and network.
This year, for the first time ever, our 94th reunion will be completely digital.

With social distancing, social bubbles and group sizes limited across the UK, it’s important we understand the benefits of an online event and how your organisation can shift to digital-first.

What are some of the benefits of a digital event?

  • Accessible and on-demand – It’s easy for attendees, no matter where they are in the world they can log on and join in from the comfort of their living room.
  • Cost effective – Not only for your organisation but for the attendees. Outlays like venue hire are removed and there are no travel, accommodation and additional expense costs for your guests.
  • Content can be repurposed – Allowing you to update, refresh and add new content throughout the duration of your event.
  • Content won’t expire – Post-event, sessions can be converted into webpages, videos and blog posts. Allowing your guests to revisit the content and access further reading across your website.
  • Attendee reach –Can be greater than that of a face-to-face event (especially if your digital event is free).
  • Collaborative engagement –Through mediums like Q&A, it allows attendees to feel they are part of something bigger. It could even empower those who wouldn’t usually speak up in a conference to raise their hand and ask a question.

What can you do to make your digital event a success?

  • Make it free – it can make your organisation more visible and accessible for everyone. You can always add a donate button to encourage attendees to give towards your organisation.
  • Promote your event – across your website, social media channels and emails.
  • Share timings – make sure the information and instructions are easy to navigate and the links are simple to find.
  • Promote any partnerships – ask your supporters to promote your event across their website, social media channels and email(s). This will generate more exposure and you may capture the interest of a potential new audience.
  • Have an event specific #hashtag – encourage your attendees to get talking on social media using your hashtag. Ask them to share their key highlights and tag your organisation.
  • Stream live – live content is authentic and captures the audience’s attention. Share videos, activities and interviews which are easy to digest.
  • Host a Q&A – to encourage conversation and networking. This allows you to engage with your audience and gives you valuable insight into your content and generates real time feedback.
  • Promote further events – this is a perfect opportunity to tell your audience about your upcoming events’ calendar.

 How can you reflect on the event?

  • Give thanks – via email and social media.
  • Ask for feedback – create a poll on your website or a feedback link through an email, this will help you gain insight for future events.
  • Gather the data – use tools such as Google Analytics and social media insight tools to gather key data about your audience, channels and content.

Of course, physical events offer an inherent value that some may argue is unmatched by a digital event. However, as we’re not quite sure when face-to-face events will resume with certainty, your organisation can use these uncertain times to really harness your digital capabilities. Adding a digital component is a great opportunity to showcase all that you do, reach those who may have not noticed you before and build excitement for your physical events in the (hopefully) near future.

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