If there’s one huge workplace trend we’ve seen this year, it’s the virtual event. Changing circumstances mean that we are working from home or remotely in record numbers—amazingly, 42% of the US workforce is now working from home, with more sure to come.
If everyone is working remotely, this means it’s no longer possible to host networking dinners, conferences, and events face-to-face. Instead, workers and colleagues are connecting in a new way—online.
Online conferences and events mean business can still go on, just via your computer or laptop instead of a boardroom.
Are you in charge of planning your company’s next virtual event? If so, there are a few things you need to know first.
Keep reading to find everything you need to know about hosting a successful virtual event that attendees are sure to remember.
Treat a Virtual Event Just Like a Real One
One of the most common mistakes made by a virtual event planner is underestimating the amount of work required to plan it. You need to treat your virtual event just like a real one—the event might be online, but that doesn’t mean you can take shortcuts.
Make a project management plan to ensure you have plenty of time to do everything you need to do and give yourself a long lead time. Although virtual events may cost less to organize, they still require substantial manpower when it comes to planning and execution.
The Planning Process
Like normal events, the planning stages are the most important part of organizing a virtual event. Here are some of the most important steps that are specific to virtual events.
Review Virtual Event Platforms
What type of event are you planning? Is it a webinar, conference, interview, networking event, or even an annual general meeting?
Depending on what your event will be, you’ll want to find the right event platform to match. Instead of booking a hotel or conference center, virtual events require virtual event platforms.
There are plenty of online event platforms to consider, with some of the main choices including Zoom, Join.Me, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. There are more complex software programs as well, depending on your needs and budget.
While it’s often free for event attendees to log on, the event organizers may need to pay a fee for the software. Some platforms may also place a time limit on usage, so consider the length of your event when selecting a platform.
Another key consideration is whether or not you need to record your event. If you want to record the event so others can watch who weren’t able to attend, make sure you find a platform with recording available.
Recruit a Host and Guest Speakers
Picking the right host and guest speakers are particularly important to virtual events. Watching an event at home just isn’t as engaging as in real-life, so picking the right speakers can make all the difference.
Look for speakers with personality, knowledge, and great public speaking skills. That way, they’ll keep your attendees tuned in and interested, even from their remote computers.
Most speakers will ask for a fee, so plan that the most in-demand speakers will command the highest fees—something to keep in mind when budgeting.
Create a Registration Page
For guests to attend your event, they’ll usually need to register in advance. Create a registration page and think about what data you’d like to collect from people when they register—this can be useful marketing data for your company.
In addition to name and email, you may want to ask for company, position, and any questions they’d like to ask speakers at the event.
If your event platform has restrictions on the number of people who can view a live event, then be sure to close event registration once you’re getting close to that number.
Think About Timing
Real-life conferences can last several days, but this is tricky for online events. Think about your timing when it comes to event planning—will it run an hour, several hours, or another duration?
Try to find a time that will be long enough to cover all of your key materials, but not too long that people get bored and log out.
In addition to the length of your event, try to think about the best hours of the day. Most corporate or professional events will be held during business hours, plus lunchtime seminars can also be popular.
If attendees are coming from multiple time zones, make sure the timing you pick won’t be too early or late for your remote guests.
Brainstorm Ways to Engage Attendees
When planning your event, know that there are plenty of cool digital features you can use to help guests stay interested.
With no happy hours or free lunches, it’s easy to lose focus when attending a virtual event. Instead, keep them involved with the event by using live chats, attendee polls, and making your sound and audio are clear.
Some webinars and conferences also split up into online breakout rooms, giving attendees the chance to break into small groups and chat with each other online. While it’s not the same as a gala dinner, it’s one of the best ways to network online.
Try to think of other creative ways to keep people interested—why not play music or offer giveaways to attendees?
Start Promoting the Event
Once you’ve planned all the details, it’s time to start promoting and advertising the event. Of course, it’s no surprise that the best place to promote a virtual event is online!
Create a PDF or electronic direct mailer that you can send out to your networks and contacts to let them know what’s been planned. Sharing the information on LinkedIn is also a good way to get the word out.
To reach a wider audience, consider paid promotion of the event on social media or Google ads. This allows you to target the exact demographic you’d like to attract and it’s also easy to set your own ad budget.
If your event is paid, you’ll also need a secure website and payment system where attendees can register and pay.
Plan for Technical Difficulties
We all know that technology can fail us at the worst times—such as the day of your big event. It helps to plan for technical difficulties, doing plenty of tests beforehand of all your equipment.
For a virtual event, it can help to hire a virtual event company or IT support, ensuring someone is on hand to help you out. This can prevent costly tech errors that could derail your event and negatively impact your business.
Audio is one of the most common challenges for virtual events, so take extra care to see that your sound is working as it should.
The Big Day of the Event
Once the event day has arrived, congratulations—you’re almost there!
Try to stay calm and cool, having confidence that your preparation will pay off. If your host and guest speakers are live in the studio, make sure they have water and access to everything they need.
Check in with your audience throughout the event, making sure they can hear and see the event clearly. You’ll also want to keep to time, as no one likes when events run late or go off on tangents.
Ask for Feedback Post-Event
After the event, take a few deep breaths and pat your team on the back (virtually!) for a job well done. However, the event isn’t over yet, as you still need to give feedback from event attendees.
Craft an anonymous survey, through a platform like Survey Monkey or Google Forms, and send it out to all attendees. It doesn’t need to be long, as you just want to gauge how attendees found the event and what they liked or disliked.
Feedback is valuable since it will allow you to improve the delivery of future online events. Send it out as soon as possible after the event—otherwise, attendees might forget!
Use These Tips to Host an Amazing Virtual Event
Whether you’re planning your first virtual event or you’re an established pro, the tips above should help you with planning. With more and more of us working remotely, virtual events are only going to continue to grow in popularity.
Once you’re an expert in virtual events, they can help your company grow, increase brand awareness, and help you become a networking ninja! Get started today and make your next virtual event a huge success.
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