If you or your company is new to hosting virtual events, you will most likely feel somewhat lost about where to start.
Hosting an event in any form comes with plenty of moving parts to juggle and planning for multiple eventualities. Some people may mistakenly believe that since there is no physical venue, a virtual event should be much easier to host than a live one. Unfortunately, this is far from true. Virtual events require careful planning, an understanding of all relevant software, and extra support for attendees struggling to access the online content. If you want your virtual event to be as successful as possible, take a look at these important points.
Why host a virtual event rather than a live one?
First of all, it can be helpful to think about why a virtual event makes more sense than planning a live one. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of event that will depend on your unique requirements. Live events need a physical venue and catering to make sure that every attendee is taken care of for the duration of the proceedings. They also tend to cost more as a result. Hosting a virtual event will save your company money that can be used for marketing and promotion instead. Although the benefits of a live event include the reduced potential for technical errors and access issues, many companies are making the most of virtual events as an innovative and affordable alternative.
Clarify the purpose of the event
As with any type of event, whether it’s live or virtual, it is essential to consider its exact purpose before the planning begins. This will help you to arrange appropriate content and subcategories that are completely aimed toward achieving your goals. Are you hosting an internal event to welcome new recruits or discuss business updates? Will the event be aimed at external collaborators or investors? Maybe potential clients and customers? Brainstorm the main aims of the event and work backward to identify ways you can achieve each goal. This point is key if you want to see successful results at the end of your event.
Select the right platform
Thanks to the wave of change leading to increased numbers of people working remotely and online, there has been a significant rise in the variety of virtual event hosting platforms available. Each platform has its own unique features designed to cater to specific niches, such as being able to host larger groups or offer more streamlined content-sharing methods. Once you have a precise idea about what you want your event to achieve, you should start researching different hosting software that is suitable for your needs. Depending on what you are using it for, you may find free software already available on your company system that fits the brief. Even if you think you already have a platform for the event, it doesn’t hurt to shop around first.
Choose the best software
You will need more than just an event-hosting platform to make sure that your virtual event is a success. You will also need to choose the best software for each aspect of the event, such as registration, editing, content creation and distribution, and data gathering. Set yourself up for positive results and maximum efficiency by downloading and using this software in advance. This will give you a chance to become familiar with them and find any potential issues ahead of the event itself. It is a good idea to run a rehearsal for the event to make sure that transitioning between different software, if the event requires it, is possible.
Collect relevant and engaging content
While the specific content for your event will depend entirely on the structure, purpose, audience, and intentions of the event, you will still need to arrange compelling content to make your event worth attending. You will need to reach out to the speakers you want to invite with enough time in advance to prepare the content schedule. Consider what type of content would fit your event best and how to present it to attendees in order to obtain the highest levels of engagement and positive feedback. Will you need to arrange virtual break-out rooms for attendees to experience a particular segment of your event? Do you need specific technology to ensure that the event content is functional and accessible? When it comes to preparing for success, it is important to think several steps ahead.
Plan your event schedule
Even with exciting speakers, engaging content, and the right software, you will still need to create a detailed event schedule so that everything fits together smoothly. Just like with a live event, your virtual event should have a plan that outlines specific timings and requirements along the way. A run of show file should be shared with everyone involved in the running of the event. This is separate from a schedule for attendees as it goes into more depth about cues and technical points. Having a clear overview of the event as it will take place helps to keep you and your team on track for success. Especially for virtual events, it can be useful to factor in time for technical errors and delays so that the overall schedule isn’t badly compromised.
Promote your event
Just as a live event needs to be promoted so that the target audience takes an interest, your virtual event also has to be marketed properly if you want to see full attendance. Use the channels that your business should already have for connecting with your audience. This might include email advertising, social media accounts, and your business website. It is also recommended that you build a dedicated website for your event so that you can link potential attendees to a one-stop shop for any details they might need or any questions they want to ask. If your virtual event is internal or business-to-business, you will still need to consider effective promotional materials so that people are interested in showing up. Since there are no venue or catering costs, perhaps use those funds to push the event with extra emphasis on an attention-grabbing marketing campaign. Give yourself and the planning team enough time to prepare enticing materials that will draw people to your event.
Prepare registration and attendance fees
Do you intend to charge attendees for their admission to the event or will it be free? Whichever you decide, you will need to set up an online registration method so that attendees can register their interest and then find the necessary login details for accessing the event and its content. Decide if tickets will all have the same price or if differently priced tickets permit attendees different levels of event access. You may want to divide your event so that attendees can pick and choose which segments they want to participate in, so perhaps consider offering some free segments and some paid ones. Of course, this will all depend on the desired outcome of your event and who the audience will be. Make any prices clear to potential attendees as soon as possible and set up a cancellation or refund policy that makes sense for your event.
Provide access information to attendees
Similar to how guests of a live event would need directions to a venue, a virtual event host must provide adequate technical instructions to guide attendees to access the event. For example, do your guests need to create an online account with a particular service so they can be permitted into your event? What information will they need to have before the event so that they can seamlessly access it from their own devices? Will there be limitations on the types of devices an attendee can use to access the event and, if so, what are they? Either present this information on your event’s website or provide it in an email to all attendees prior to the event.
Gather feedback from attendees and contributors
After the event has finished, there is still an important step to take. If you used engagement and feedback software throughout the event, now is the time to collate this data. Similarly, you can send attendees a feedback survey requesting their opinions about how the event was a success and how it could have been better. If you intend to host an event in the future, either live or virtual, it is important that you listen to guest feedback so you can implement relevant changes. Combine your survey gatherings with any collected data from the event itself and use this to identify areas for improvement next time.
A successful virtual event depends on you being able to address each of the above points in a way that is appropriate for your company. Lay the groundwork by coming up with an event idea that your target audience will want to attend, then create a marketing campaign that promotes it in the best way. By including interesting content and the right technology, you can host a highly successful virtual event.