The world looks a little different today than it did a couple months ago. The future seems uncertain, the global economy has shuttered, and society is coping with new norms like social distancing and shelter-in-place orders.
The event industry is no exception, with event safety being a primary concern.
Major concerts and tours have been cancelled, summits have been postponed, and business conferences have been pushed to that all-telling date: ‘TBD’. However, many event planners have been able to find a job during COVID-19 by transforming their event planning skills to the digital world.
If you’re planning a virtual event, here are the steps you can’t miss.
The Starting Line
A virtual event transcends the limitations of physical space and allows a broader reach. As you start on this virtual event checklist, keep in mind your specific objectives. Are you turning what was once a physical event into a virtual event? Or are you creating a virtual event, because that was always the plan? The goals will differ depending on which camp you’re in.
#1 Who is Your Remote Audience?
In order to reach your event attendees and motivate them to be a part of your virtual event, you have to understand who they are. Ask yourself a few questions:
- What is your target audience? Virtual event planning simply means that you have more freedom to transcend geographic location and travel restraints and expand your guest list to include people locally and globally. Break your audience down into demographics of age, gender, occupation, title, location, and more.
- What online tactics can you use to reach them? Social media advertising is a great way to spread the word about your event, consider paying for advertising and designing short snappy posts that catch the eye. Additionally, an event website can house all your information for guests, speakers, sponsors, and more. Free website builders like Wix and Weebly can have you up and running in moments.
- Will they be able to understand how to view your event online? It is important to consider how your audience will connect to the internet, and with you. Using major live-stream networks will help to avoid connectivity issues.
#2 Choose Your Vehicle and Establish Your Directive
You want to be unique and make this the most enjoyable experience for all your viewers. The next decision to make is how your event will be delivered.
Whatever you choose, you’ll need to prioritize community engagement. Physical events offer audience participation, Q&As, and networking opportunities. Think about each of these factors in isolation and try to provide a simple solution for each one.
- Does your theme suit a Q&A-style live stream or a pre-recorded webinar with a presenter or panel of speakers? Once you set the tone, you can then choose your format. Twitch and Facebook Live offer real-time communication between virtual audience members. Pairing this with Twitter and hashtags #AskTheHost, you can find relevant questions from those who are tuning in.
- How will the audience interact with the content? Sharing downloadable resource material with the audience during the session is a great option. Screen sharing allows guest speakers to offer users an interactive experience.
- How will the audience interact with each other? Are there different group video chats for networking? Smaller classes or one-off video conferences within the event allow the audience to meet and work with others online.
#3 Getting the Technical Side Down
The goal of hosting your event virtually is to create an experience that feels as valuable and real as an in-person event. This takes some technical know-how. If you’re ready to take on the logistics, there are numerous options to consider when taking your event digital, including:
- Choosing the right software that suits your budget.
- Streaming your event on a specialized service platform has the advantage of allowing for high-quality, uninterrupted video. Free video services like Facebook Live and Youtube Live are options for live streaming or subscription services like Google Hangouts or Zoom are relatively inexpensive.
- Using different camera angles offer viewers a changing and dynamic perspective. This ensures they don’t feel stuck in a stale, dull content experience.
- Hardware needs such as AV equipment and laptops as well as a video broadcast technician and/or a moderator to manage external connections.
- Bandwidth needs for live streaming and multiple host connections.
Should you need end-to-end event planning services, Vario can help you with everything from visualizing the online event space to wrapping cords once the event ends as a success.
#4 Hire a Team to Help
Putting on a virtual event is far too complex to tackle alone. That means you need a dedicated team, wherever you need assistance. Consider having on your team:
- Audience coordinator: Someone who is picking out and choosing questions from the virtual audience, monitoring the chat for spam or vulgar language.
- Host: Someone who helps transition the event between speakers, sponsorships, and audience interaction.
- Monitor controller: Someone who is flipping between camera angles and is directing the flow behind the scenes.
- On-site tech support: Someone who knows the technical system inside and out and can prevent and manage problems with power outages, technical difficulties, and speaker’s event technology questions.
- Promotional manager: Someone who is dedicated about getting the word out about the event.
Open communication between all members is key for a virtual event. Notify and brief team members of their responsibility and the format of the event prior to the start date, and consider performing a test run to ensure things run smoothly (see step #8).
Communication Tip: Set up a virtual communication space for the team involved in the event. Using chat channels like Slack or Zoom offer an effective tool in organizing and strategizing about the technical aspects of the event. Create different chat threads to streamline different forms of communication (i.e., one channel for all hardware-related questions, one channel for all audience chat-management questions).
#5 Timing is Everything
It is important to note that while the cost of expenses for things like location and event space goes down, the planning and preparation costs for ensuring smooth and efficient timing for accessibility online rises. For this, your team will be of great help. Having someone whose sole job is to keep the event on time will allow everyone to focus on their role.
Additionally, to ensure that the overall timing of the event works for your audience, consider:
- Conducting a social media poll amongst your followers/potential attendees to find out a time globally that would suit them best.
- Taking into account the relevant time zones and try to work within a time that allows for as many people as possible to tune in.
Nearing the Finish Line
When it comes to virtual events (or physical events, for that matter), promoting the event is key. This is where event planner marketing strategies come into play. Otherwise, you can be left with an underwhelming audience, and you might not recover the costs of the event. So, when it comes to promotion:
- A strategy is key. Using the social media channels you have available to you to drum up interest and share your event is a great way to get people excited. Try to coordinate across channels so that the messaging and timing all match.
- Compose emailing lists and send out promotional reminders as the date of the event draws closer. The more talked about your event is the more engaged your audience will be.
- Create a hashtag to link your social media and different forms of content. Adding in external links to related topics, sharing vlogs, and providing tips on your industry pre-event are all great ways of going the extra mile for your audience. In return, they might just purchase a ticket.
#7 Budgeting Bits
Creating and sticking to a budget is always important with event planning. This begins with a good registration format. Design a registration process as a means to track the number of attendees needed to match your operational costs. Be sure to include all promotional funds, and your own costs.
This will help provide key information for how far your reach will need to be and how to scale to meet that.
Post Event Tip: After your event has ended, you can publish the recording to be accessed after the fact. This can be done at a fraction of the ticket cost or for free—relying on streams to increase profits.
#8 Test Run
The goal of a successful virtual event is to deliver a polished and professional experience. Always perform a test run to:
- Ensure you have a viable internet connection and fully functioning equipment.
- Practice good time management and execution of the event schedule.
- Have an opportunity for the host and speakers to rehearse in order to be calm and confident working with this format. This will help to facilitate a natural atmosphere that is relaxed and approachable.
#9 Follow Up
A truly great event team will hit the track and start planning their next move as soon as the event has ended. Here is the potential for you to collect data on your event.
- Review your event goals and the overall technical effectiveness.
- Send out surveys by email or a social media blast that collects the opinions and thoughts of your audience.
This is a good time to debrief with your team using this data. Strategize ways to continue expanding your reach with your audience and ways to adapt for the next event you hold.
In an increasingly technological era, this is a time to embrace the new digital event landscape.
Pulling off a great virtual event is about elevating your expectations. It’s time to enter the new frontier of event hosting. Should you need some help, Vario is here to be your professional coach and training partners in the event world. We are leading experts in high-quality event production who believe in effective planning and excellence across all channels.
From step 1 to step 9, let us know if we can help.
- Forbes. Is VR The Solution To The Impact Coronavirus Is Having On The Events Industry?
- PCMA. Defining Roles During Digital Events. https://www.pcma.org/defining-roles-virtual-meeting/
- Business Insider. Live-streaming video format will likely see broader US adoption as the coronavirus spreads.
- Vimeo. Conference canceled? How to plan a virtual event, fast
- Dacast. How to Live Stream an Event.