It's one of the most frequent questions our virtual experience team hears: How long should a virtual event be? Whether you’ve never done an event before or you’re pivoting from an in-person event to a virtual event, the answer is the same. It should be as long as you need it to be, and as short as it can be.
It can be tempting to start virtual event planning by setting a hard and fast rule on event length, but this is the wrong move. Instead, start by determining what the objective of the event is. Is it to educate attendees about something? To build camaraderie? To sell a product? To raise funds or awareness?
Once you’ve determined the goal of the event, identify all of the building blocks that need to go into achieving that goal. This can include considerations like the interests the prospective audience has, how familiar they are with technology, and what they will need to experience to make the event deemed “successful”. These elements should give you an outline of what types of content you’ll need to have.
For example, if your goal is to educate your audience about a new initiative and your audience consists primarily of visual learners, you’ll probably want to have engaging slides or videos that illustrate both the overview and more granular points. Similarly, if your goal is team building and you know your audience tends to be more introverted, you may need to include an instructor-led or speaker-led Q and A session to break the ice before going into participant breakout sessions.
Each of these building blocks will need to be assigned an estimated amount of time, and that’s where some of the differences between virtual events and in-person events come into play.
The total of all of these blocks is your “first draft” event length. Does it match your expectations? Does it seem in line with the expectations of your attendees? Does it give your invited speakers enough time? Does the ask of time seem reasonable for your audience? If the event seems too long, consider whether it could be broken into shorter “can’t miss” events. It’s always better to leave your audience wanting more than to have them watching the clock.
Despite their differences, virtual and in-person events are similar in a very important way: they ask something of the people who attend in return for the delivery of a meaningful experience. It matters less that your event is a certain length than it does that you deliver the experience you’ve promised your audience.
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