As you probably know, the events industry was obliterated in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. So, many people have had to change strategy as regards holding their events. This led to the unprecedented surge in virtual or online events. Instead of attending crowded spaces packed with thousands of people, individuals are now connecting over the internet. Also, most companies now hold their meetings online. In this article, we will look at some tips on how to host a successful virtual event.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is any event held online. This includes online webinar or publicly-accessed livestream or even a live tweeting session. If two or more people connect through an online medium, they are holding a virtual event. Other examples of a virtual or online event include
- on-demand workout classes,
- video conference meetings and
- concerts broadcast online.
How to Host a Successful Virtual Event
The steps below will help you plan and execute a virtual event that attracts, engages and inspires online attendee in a virtual environment.
1. Know Your Audience
The first step is to know who your audience will be. Would you engage a room of retired business associates the same way you would interact with a group of fourth-graders? Just as you would identify your audience for a live event, you must know you audience before determining any virtual event ideas. This will help you to understand what their interests are and what platform they will be most familiar.
2. Set Event Goals
What goals do you hope to accomplish with your virtual event? It’s vital to set event goals before planning activities and content. Without setting event goals, you won’t be able to measure event success as effectively. Goals for a virtual event should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. These goals might include:
- Attract and retain customers
- Boost attendee engagement with a brand
- Educate attendees on a timely topic
- Increase revenue
- Test a product or a platform among attendees
3. Choose Your Host Platform
Your host platform is another important element you need to consider as you plan your event. You need to understand how you want to host your virtual event. If you are holding a small virtual event, you might consider using a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. However, for larger online events, you should consider platforms like Eventcube, Bizzabo, Intrado and Filo. You can also choose to host your virtual event on more than one platform to prepare for any possible yet unwelcome technical errors.
4. Acquire Right Technology
A virtual event can’t happen without technology. A truly successful virtual event, however, requires more than video conferencing tools. So, consider acquiring the following technology when planning your virtual event:
- Event website for promotion and registration
- Mobile app with event guide
- High-resolution webcams
- Omnidirectional microphones
- Webinar software
- Presentation design software
- Spare power cords, batteries and other support technology
5. Plan the Date and Time Carefully
Carefully planning the date and time of a virtual event can be a challenge, for example, when live streaming to a global audience. Will people attend in one part of the world at 3 a.m. just to see what someone around the globe watches at 5 p.m.? And what about the times when speakers are available? Be sure and start coordinating dates and times well in advance of scheduling the event.
6. Market Your Event
What could be worse than carefully and meticulously planning a virtual event only for practically no one to attend? Marketing your virtual event is pivotal to its success. Since attendees will be utilizing technology to attend your event, it only makes sense to use similar tools to engage them and attract their attention.
Market your event with virtual attendees by emailing invitations and reminders, and establish a website with a landing page to promote the virtual conference. Include a link to the page in the emailed invitations. Be sure and regularly reach out to relevant communities and groups through social media, also including links to the landing page. Adding a blog to the event website offers an opportunity to update information as the date draws near, and optimize the content for better search ranking.
7. Plan the Agenda in Detail
The last thing you want for any event is for attendees to wait around aimlessly for extended periods of times, wondering what will be next or waiting for a disorganized schedule to proceed. In a virtual event environment, they are likely to simply log off and not return. Be sure to develop a clear agenda of speakers and other event participants, including not only their scheduled start times, but the timeframes in which their presentations will occur.
8. Brief Your Speakers Ahead
Be mindful when choosing the speakers for your virtual event. Just because someone is an expert on or has written about a topic doesn’t mean their expertise will translate into audience engagement. So, be sure your speakers know your goals for the virtual event, and they understand your audience. Also, be sure your speakers thoroughly understand what technology you will be using for the virtual event.
9. Debrief Your Team
Following the conclusion of your virtual event, be sure and take some time to meet with your team. Discusse the event’s highlights and any obstacles encountered. This debriefing will help plan even more successful virtual events in the future. Similarly, you should also look into virtual team event ideas for team building.
10. Maximize Attendee Engagement After the Event
Continue to engage attendees following the conclusion of your virtual event. Using social media channels, start encouraging conversation about the topics at your event. That conversation will help to develop your brand recognition, and it can grow into continuous marketing leading up to your next online activity. Also, be sure to send email to attendees, as well as those who sent regrets, with a link to watch the webinar back at their own convenience.
11. Measure the Event Success
Be sure to collect and analyze available data about your event. How many registrations did you have for the event as a whole and any individual sessions? What were the demographics of the attendees? Did you reach your target audience? All of this data can be used to help you measure the success of your virtual event.
12. Repeat the Process
Now that you have completed your first of many such events, you are ready to repeat the process and host multiple events! The more you host virtual events, the better your process will become until you are a seasoned pro.
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