We’ll be surprised if this question doesn’t come up as one of Google’s “2020 Most Searched Questions.” It seems that amidst the multitude of life adjustments caused by Covid-19, converting to Virtual Events was one of the biggest changes in people’s personal, educational, and professional lives.
Some Virtual Event companies are being valued at over $2 billion. What does this mean for end-users who are trying their best to stay connected to their audiences? It means you’ve probably asked the question: “how do I host a Virtual Event?”
To host a Virtual Event, you will likely follow this lifecycle:
- Determining the Goals for your Event
- Choosing the right Virtual Event Provider
- Curating your Event Speakers & Content
- Selecting Virtual Event Features & Design
- Promoting your Virtual Event
- Virtual Showtime Management & Event Services
- Post-Event Follow-Up & Feedback
- Further Monetizing Event Content
1. Determining the Goals of your Event
There are many similarities between Virtual Events and Physical, in-person ones. This first step of your Event planning will likely look very similar to determining the goals of all your past events. You need to ask yourself:
- Who and how big is my target audience?
- Is this event meant to drive a strong ROI? Is it to foster innovation? Is it just for fun?
- What is my budget?
- How will I evaluate my Event?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
2. Choosing the Right Virtual Event Provider
Consider downloading our Ultimate Guide to Virtual Events for a full list of questions, planning checklists, and real-world examples that will make you an expert on all things Virtual & Hybrid Events.
These are some of the most important questions you should ask when assessing which provider is right for you:
Is it a DIY platform or a Fully-Managed service?
You will want to know who is in charge of doing the manual labor of designing the layout, getting assets properly sized and uploaded, building interactive features, and especially managing technical & customer support.
Fully-Managed services, like BeaconLive, will offer in-house design teams, technical operations, and customer support staff and will be the ones doing the tech-heavy aspects of Event Production.
DIY platforms will leave technical production up to the event planner. DIY platforms are great for one-off presentations or smaller organizations who need an efficient collaboration tool, whereas larger organizations, associations, and events made for scale will often go with a fully-managed service.
What are the Networking Opportunities?
Your Event Goals will most likely have something along the lines of “connecting people.” It is important to note what type of networking opportunities will be available amongst attendees, speakers, and sponsors. Does your platform offer live polling, interactive questionnaires, chatrooms, downloads, Q&A, speed networking, or cocktail receptions? What access will you have to attendee data? Will you be able to track and analyze the most engaged audience members? Will there be ways to do extra promotion, outreach, and lead-capturing?
Will you be able to offer Live, SimuLive and Recorded Content?
Diversifying types of content in your Virtual Events is beneficial to keeping engagement high. Live presentations are a pillar of Virtual Events. The shared experience of real-time content delivery is what draws people to your event in the first place. However, there are advantages to mixing up your event and incorporating SimuLive and Recorded Content as well.
SimuLive presentations are pre-recorded, but choreographed to feel live with introductions and handoffs to the next speaker. They run in real-time and with the speaker monitoring chatrooms, attendee engagement, and ideally being available for live Q&A. This format is great for people who have showtime stage-fright or if you want to make a concise, edited version of a presentation for a tightly timed event.
Recorded content is a great way to show off your brand. Consider starting the event with an engaging video with graphics to tell the story of your organization. Sell airtime to sponsors for them to play a commercial or video advertisement. Play snippets of TED talks or recorded customer testimonials as a part of engaging presentation media.
High-production value events will incorporate all three formats of media. Make sure your provider can offer all of them in the same event.
For a full list of questions to ask your Virtual Events provider, check out our Ultimate Guide to Virtual & Hybrid Events.
3. Curating Your Event Speakers and Content
This is arguably the most important part of curating your Virtual or Hybrid Event. You need to make sure that the speakers you choose and the presentations they give are aligned with your brand message, your event goals, and overall objectives.
Because utilizing Virtual platforms are almost always cheaper than the in-person venues and services, there should be more money in your budget for curating higher-profile speakers.
You will also not be bound by geographical barriers, so consider curating thought leaders from different parts of the globe. Make diversity a pillar of your event and prioritize global perspectives and conversations.
With Virtual Events, you are able to easily share downloads, eBooks, and slide decks directly with your attendees. Create complementary content to the presentations that your attendees can download and use as resources well after the event. Build excitement with exclusive information and make downloads a valued part of engaging in the event.
4. Selecting Virtual Event Features and Design
Selecting interactive features and the user experience of your event can either be tedious or exciting, depending on your interest in technical operations. Make sure that you know whose job it will be to implement technical aspects of your event: yours or the virtual event provider?
Some event features to consider:
- Public chat
- Live polling
- Live quizzing
- White-Labeling and HTML branding
- Pop-up messages
- CART accessibility and Closed Captions
- Language Translation
- Calendar links
- Landing pages
- Event Lobbies
- Sponsor Portals
5. Promoting Your Virtual Event
Event promotion is a science of marketing. Just like in-person events, you want to highlight and remind audiences of the whos, whats, hows, and whys behind your event. You will want to utilize email lists, social media channels, and potentially paid advertising or a PPC campaign.
Consider promoting your Event with a Video Teaser Clip. Write a blog post profiling your guest speaker(s). Create an email cadence to send out reminders two weeks before, one week before, the Friday before, the Monday before, and the day of the event.
Download our Virtual Event Promotion Checklist for a complete run-down of optimizing event promotions.
6. Virtual Showtime Management and Event Services
You’ve made it all the way here. You’ve planned times, dates, speakers, you’ve promoted your event across social media and email lists, you’ve done test-runs with speakers and tested links for all landing pages and downloads. Obligations for virtual showtime management and event services will be very dependent on who you choose for your provider.
If you are using a DIY platform, and you are in charge of monitoring speakers, customer support lines, and technical operations you will want to be extremely prepared for the time-sensitive tasks that will inevitably arise during the show. Much like in-person events, you will want to have a team of people ready to take care of all “backstage” details and technical difficulties.
If you are using a Fully-Managed service, you will likely not have to worry too much about showtime management and customer support. You can instead spend your time focusing on attendee engagement and “humanizing” the experience for your audience. As Cvent stated, the biggest challenge for Virtual Events is keeping attendees engaged. Consider spending your time and brainpower on the nuanced aspects of your event instead of spending that time muting attendees, managing slide decks, or dealing with technical difficulties.
7. Post-Event Follow Up and Feedback
Gathering follow-up feedback and attendee data is crucial to assessing the value your event had on your attendees, your organization and your goals. You should absolutely be sending out attendee surveys within 24 hours of the event and ideally integrated with your platform and immediately when the session ends. You should work with your event provider to run reports on user data and see where, when and for how long attendees showed engagement.
Consider gathering a Net Promoter Score for your events, and see if it’s worth it to produce more and/or what can be improved for next time.
Do post-event PR on the success of your event. Write blog posts with some of the most pressing questions and topics discussed. Entice users to engage with your social media channels and provide incentives for having them post on social media about their biggest takeaways.
8. Further Monetize Event Content
An enormous advantage to Virtual & Hybrid Events is the easy development of OnDemand content that can now be monetized and distributed long after the curtains have closed. Edit recordings of presentations and conversations amongst attendees, publish transcripts of chatrooms to enlighten others on what the buzzing topics of the day were, or build this content into a Continuing Education or Certification program that can be used in-house or distributed for further monetization.
Aggregate your recorded programs in your company’s Media Hub for internal access or build modules as part of a longer Continuing Education or Certification program. Charge users to access valued content in your organization’s Knowledge Base and issue them a certification upon completion of learning and development modules.
There are many ways to continue utilizing the curated content you provided at your Virtual Event. Be strategic in your planning process so that your content can work for you long after your event has ended.
If you are looking for a highly capable Virtual Event technology platform with a team of professionals to help you produce, execute and manage your event from start to finish, contact us at BeaconLive. Events are complicated; Let us handle everything. Yes, everything.
Other blogs you might be interested in:
- 6 Pro Tips to Humanizing Virtual Events
- The Future of Eventtech & Virtual Event Technology
- The 10 Types of Webinars Everyone is Doing
- 8 Best Practices of Polling During Virtual Events