How To Host A Successful Virtual Event
With the popularity of virtual events climbing every day, event planners are looking to continue to grow their events online. Virtual events offer a fast, effective option for event planners who are seeking alternative solutions and looking to reduce costs, but still want to provide an excellent experience for their attendees. Many events that once hosted hundreds of people in-person in one city are now hosting thousands online across the world. All events, both physically live and virtual, offer a variety of benefits to their attendees. Read more from the event professionals on how to host a successful virtual event for the first time.
What Is A Virtual Event?
A virtual event is an event that is hosted online rather than in-person at a physical location. There are four main types of virtual events that event professionals create:
– Virtual Conferences: Just like in-person conferences, virtual conferences host keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and other engagement features. Though networking in-person is not an option, many who attend virtual conferences stay engaged through private networking groups online and communicate throughout the online event via chat room. Many features of a virtual conference are live and attendees can pick and choose which agenda items they would like to participate in. These events are very interactive and can feel a lot like a physical event.
– Webinars: A webinar is a basic online presentation. Webinars typically last between 30 and 75 minutes and have one or more speakers at a time. It is common that webinars are free, but there are some businesses and organizations that do charge for their webinars. Webinars are usually presented using video conferencing software that allows live or pre-recorded content. Most webinars are live and reflect high virtual attendance rates, and they can also be shared on-demand after the webinar is complete.
– Internal Hybrid Events: You are probably familiar with company-wide town halls, training sessions, department meetings, sales kick-offs, and events of this sort. These types of events are called internal hybrid events as they are typically shared company-wide, but may not include all-staff in person. These events are partially in-person and partially virtual to accommodate staff from all locations.
– External Hybrid Events: External hybrid events are more geared towards those who are outside of the business or organization. Think about industry conferences and things of that nature. As it can be challenging to equally produce value for those who are attending virtually vs. in-person, external hybrid events require high quality video production with content that is just as valuable online as it is valuable to those who are there in-person.
What Are The Pros To Hosting A Virtual Event?
There are a variety of reasons why hosting a virtual event may be beneficial to your business or organization. Virtual events allow your reach to be very select or incredibly wide. You can choose to host only a few from your company for the event or you can reach thousands of people across the world. Your reach is entirely up to you and how you create your online event.
Any type of virtual event allows you to easily measure your attendee engagement. You have a variety of ways to find out how many people attended your event, what parts of your event were most popular, how attendees registered for your event, and more. This type of data is very valuable to creating a successful event strategy that will allow you to continuously improve your event, both in-person and virtually, for years to come.
Without requiring your attendees to travel to your physical location, put themselves up in a hotel, and spending extra money eating out and buying amenities, you are saving your attendees money! You are also saving yourself money by not having to pay for a venue, no travel costs for speakers, no additional staff to accommodate your number of attendees, and a variety of other expenses. Some of the largest conferences in the world have gone partially or 100% digital in recent years to reduce costs, improve audience accessibility, and reduce their carbon footprint. Talk about producing a winning event!
What Can I Do To Start Planning My Virtual Event?
When you’ve got your goals set up around hosting a virtual event, it’s important to plan your virtual event the right way. Start with the basics:
– Invite the best people to speak at your virtual event! Set your speakers and business partners up for success through creative assistance and providing the tools they need to produce content to support your event’s purpose.
– Have a professional event design for your virtual event and website. You want your event to be branded effectively to gain the maximum positive exposure from your audience.
– Start to promote your virtual event ASAP. You can also start giving sneak previews to your event attendees through speaker engagement and audience participation (i.e. contests to share your event on social media, private networking groups, etc.).
– Choose the right technology for your virtual event. Whatever you do – don’t DIY yourself into disaster! Find the best production equipment and test your set-up before the event goes live. By using a high-quality camera and audio equipment with a solid internet connection, you can test out your event to avoid any hiccups in the guest experience online.
How Do I Keep My Attendees Engaged During My Virtual Event?
Some attendees want to be able to sit at their computer and enjoy the speakers from your event at their leisure. Some attendees need more than that to stay engaged. There are a variety of ways to keep your attendees focused on your virtual event content:
– All events need a story. Stories, themes, and event messages are built to activate attendees’ brains and inspire others. Think about what you want to convey to your attendees. Encourage your speakers to participate in this story and plant new ideas in your attendees’ minds to bring thoughtful action in their lives.
– Provide actionable, social content for your attendees. It’s easy to incorporate two-way engagement with technology, like Q&A, chat rooms, social media sharing, and on-screen polls to solicit feedback. Keep this in mind when planning creative content with your speakers.
– Share takeaways. If a speaker is a writer, offer a free digital download of their most recent book at the end of their session. Perhaps your speaker hosts an online training program and you can offer a link to participate in this training program for free or at a discount. Maybe your speaker has a non-profit organization and can offer a free t-shirt with a donation in any denomination for attendees. Takeaways from the virtual event will keep people sharing the message beyond the session they attended.
– Highlight sponsors and event supporters. Help attendees make a connection to the organizations and businesses who support this event! It also helps the supporters feel like their support is valued and appreciated.
What Do I Do After My Virtual Event?
After your virtual event is over, don’t let your attendees forget it! Make plans to stay connected to your attendees and keep your message going.
– Publicly thank your sponsors and attendees. A little recognition is always appreciated! Create content to highlight your sponsors as a thank you for supporting the event. Post a video from your event organizers with a thank you message to all of the attendees and invite them to your next event.
– Send follow up surveys with a thank you gift for attending. If you send an email to each of your attendees as a thank you for attending, consider including a survey to get their honest feedback. You can also choose to offer a thank you gift for attending once they complete the survey, like 10% off their registration to your next event or a link to a special thank you message from one of your higher-profile speakers.
– Re-purpose content from your event. This event is just a small part of what you and your business or organization are capable of. Use screenshots or video clips from your event to share your message further and invite attendees to future events. All content can be used for future marketing materials! Creating a special “behind the scenes” video also shows your attendees how much passion and preparation is put into the event – and they may be more interested in sharing your hard work with others.
While virtual events aren’t always top-of-mind in the planning process, hosting your event online is a viable option for your company’s event strategy. Contact the virtual event professionals to plan your next event online today.