Table of Contents:
Many organizations and individuals who have met the demand for virtual events saw the value in convening audiences and virtually delivering content.
There’s no question that virtual events have hit their stride. And it’s clear that virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. The rest of the world has been warming up to the idea that virtual and hybrid events might be a permanent part of the future.
This Ultimate Guide will cover everything you need to know about virtual events: from critical stakeholders to industry-wide trends to checklists for producing your virtual event and combatting things like "zoom-fatigue."
If you understand these trends and master these tips, you will master the art of planning a successful virtual event.
A virtual event is a lot like a physical event, but it takes place in a virtual environment. Attendees can access these events from anywhere in real-time.
Planners use an event management platform to develop, execute, and follow up on their online events. They are an excellent way to engage a global audience, offer networking opportunities, and collaborate regardless of borders and time zones.
A host can choose from several different types of virtual events to engage their audience and communicate their message.
Type Of Virtual Event
What It Looks Like
Much like a live conference, sign up to attend sessions, but they attend virtually for one or more full days.
Organizers engage their audience and convert leads with different exhibitor booths, live demonstrations, and live webinars.
An engaging online event, usually lasting 60-90 minutes, where one or more speakers inform an audience about a specific topic.
Online events are a great way to reach new members of your target audience and show them what your company is all about. Let’s look at why hosting a virtual event is an excellent move for your business.
At the beginning of 2020, this question might have a less obvious answer. But as COVID-19 dictated how our world operates, socially-deprived professionals and academics warmed up to non-conventional methods of convening large audiences, sharing ideas, and promoting commerce.
Although COVID-19 forced our industries to an abrupt transition, many organizations realized the cost-saving opportunities and value-add of utilizing virtual events.
Marketers and thought-leaders can extend their reach through Virtual Events. Diverse audiences can convene for a few hours at a virtual event in an economical and accessible way like never before. Global scalability is available at minimal additional cost.
According to Grand View Research, the Revenue Forecast for the virtual events industry is expected to exceed $404.45 billion by 2027. One of the most prominent advantages of producing Virtual Events is data collection. Marketers can access event attendee data and the interests and patterns they exhibited.
Gone are the days when you hope to come home with a handful of business cards. Now, marketers can access the names, emails, and engagement patterns. They can audit and analyze the content they deliver and generate leads through attendee engagement.
As Chief Marketer stated, "Virtual Events offer true marketing intelligence, as there is web-based reporting that tells you everything an attendee did. You know which conference sessions they attended, how long they attended, and what questions they asked. You know what booth they visited, the collateral they downloaded, and demos or other viewed assets. You even have transcripts of conversations the attendee had with your reps. It is incredibly rich marketing data."
The ROI for Virtual Events is more exponential than that of physical, in-person events. There are free tools like; happily, that can help an Event Producer calculate the ROI of a virtual event.
In an interview Forbes did with Tiki Barber, a retired NFL star turned business entertainment entrepreneur, said, "We had a couple of clients who would say the ROI of these Virtual Events outpace anything that they have done before. They are asking us to find ways to do more of them. On some days, we'll do five bespoke custom events for clients. We see the need for sure."
Expect to see reluctance from individuals to pay for expensive event tickets and hesitation from organizations to spend time and money now that the cost-benefit of Virtual Events has been uncovered.
We expect to see hybrid components for an extended engagement with events that do return to in-person. Event planning teams are recognizing they might be great at putting on live events and perhaps DIY Virtual Events, but seamlessly stitching both together is where the help of expert teams and innovative software is needed.
The Events Industry suffered in 2020. Canceling business travel affects organizations and event sponsors and the airline, hospitality, and restaurant industries that support it. Supply-chain disruption and travel restrictions caused widespread economic crises.
Like Travel Agent Central, many claims that 4.6 million travel-related jobs are affected by these drastic changes to our economy and will inflict an $809 billion loss.
This awesome infographic, put out by Data Connectors, reveals some of the most drastic statistics our quickly changing economy unveiled.
The unprecedented hits to our global economy have forced innovators to put their heads together and develop creative solutions to these pressing issues. While some industries suffered, others have grown and will continue to grow.
Event Producers have partnered with virtual event platforms to promote their services. SWAG companies have utilized drop-shipping to distribute company-branded loungewear and WFH gear. Software companies have gone into double-time to build technology concurrent with relevant trends.
The Global Virtual Event market is witnessing exceptional growth. The use of virtual events nearly doubled in 2020 and will continue to do so as more organizations get acclimated to this growing market.
Virtual and Hybrid Events are here to stay. Once many organizations understand both the monetary and experiential value, many will continue to include virtual aspects in every event.
Event organizers in the industry predict that all events will at least have a virtual component, leading to the rise of hybrid events.
A hybrid event is any in-person conference, trade show, celebration, presentation, workshop, or lecture with an added virtual component.
Hybrid events utilize webcasts and webinars with added virtual components like breakout sessions, chatrooms, live polling, sponsorship and networking opportunities, custom websites, and virtual technical support staff to ensure a seamless integrative event.
According to IMPACT:
As of 2022, video traffic accounts for 80% of all internet traffic
86% of participants in online meetings report an equal or higher level of engagement compared to in-person meetings
Virtual Events allow conference organizers to invest in more programming and speakers.
Some attendees even find Virtual Events a more enjoyable experience. A virtual attendee of the JPS Virtual Trauma Symposium, produced by BeaconLive, said, "This virtual platform is fabulous! It makes it so much more accessible! Hoping they keep this as an option, even post-covid."
The best an organization can do in this rapidly evolving event landscape is to embrace the changes and embrace virtual.
One of the biggest hesitations towards taking events virtual is deciding on the right platform. Like in-person events and venues, virtual event platforms are not all made the same. The internet has become littered with ads, promotions, and even phishing when enticing customers to choose the right platform.
Below, we've outlined some critical questions you should be sure to ask of your virtual event provider:
Smaller-scale Virtual Events will often go for a Zoom or a Webex platform. These platforms offer a monthly fee in exchange for a do-it-yourself platform where the presenter is expected to moderate the call and monitor all technical difficulties, including coaching members through mute buttons and screen sharing and breaking up attendees into their respective networking & breakout sessions.
DIY platforms are great for individuals and thought-leaders looking to get their message out in one-off webinar presentations or smaller organizations needing an efficient collaboration tool.
Fully-Managed systems are designed to help organizations scale to tens of thousands of attendees, offer in-house professional moderators and technical support staff, and customized client event solutions. A fully-managed event should have white-label capabilities and branding opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors of the event.
Any enterprise marketing a "fully-managed" virtual event should work closely with their clients to ensure a perfectly produced event, from start to finish. BeaconLive is an excellent example of a fully-managed, professional Virtual Event platform.
Although many Virtual Event platforms fall somewhere in the middle, it is good to ask your provider: who will be expected to manage all components of a high profile event, like:
Data analytics and reports
The more features your virtual event platform can offer you, the more functionality you’ll have when designing your virtual event. So choose a virtual event platform with customizable features representing your brand.
Large Organizations often use existing APIs to manage and monitor their data. When it comes to attendee tracking, it is essential to know how the platform you choose will integrate with existing software and analytics programs. Marketers will benefit from API integration to prove the ROI of events, and sales reps will help by targeting the most engaged attendees.
The most important goal for an in-person or virtual event is to connect audiences. You should be well aware of all networking and interactive features offered on your platform. As your provider, they should:
Offer breakout sessions
Allow attendees and exhibitors to connect and exchange information
Provide opportunities for live polling, questionnaires, downloads, chatrooms, Q&A?
Will create and implement these features
Can monitor chatrooms and answer technical questions
These questions are essential for knowing how to plan your event and deliver your content.
Knowing how your platform will perform on specific Operating Systems is crucial to ensuring a seamless event.
If the platform requires downloads, extensions, or plug-ins, you must ensure your attendees have compatible Operating Systems and appropriate IT policies.
People in different industries or countries will often use other systems that may face compatibility issues. This can become a problem when trying to scale your event. Your safest bet is to find a browser-based platform that can work on any OS.
Event planners know how to plan their virtual events down to the minute to engage a global audience. And if the event is faced with technical issues, event engagement is in jeopardy.
However, many overlook the technical planning process. As you work with your virtual event platform, ask these questions to get to the bottom of how the technological process will look.
Will your provider expect you to implement all the interactive features beforehand, or will you be given an in-house technical support staff?
Will your provider work with you to do a tech run before the event?
Will you get any formal training on how to use the software?
Did you come up with a game plan should anything go wrong?
Does the ROI stop when your event stops? It shouldn't. To make the most of your virtual and hybrid events, find out if your platform can host your content in an On-Demand Content Hub for future monetization.
It may also be worth asking whether your provider incorporates Continuing Education and Certification opportunities. This is a great perk to offer attendees.
Since you have already put in so much time and effort to curate speakers and deliver optimal content, you should be able to record it for later use and distribution. Be sure to ask how the recording of your event continues to spark an ongoing conversation surrounding your brand and your value proposition.
Not all content is built the same. You may want to pre-record promotional videos to play during a live streaming session. You might want your keynote speakers to pre-record their presentations so that they can monitor live Q&A.
You might want to host all of the content in an On-Demand Content Catalog and have attendees watch speeches and presentations at their own pace.
You should ask your provider if you will be able to integrate Live, SimuLive, and OnDemand content all in the same event.
Utilizing different components of Live, SimuLive, and On-Demand content makes a virtual event so dynamic and customizable. You can design your event's agenda to play to the power and strength of each format.
Your virtual experience must be accessible to all audiences. Include closed captioning in your event. It can help with language barriers, offer extra assistance to those with hearing impairments, and even boost SEO.
If you are looking for ways to monetize your content further and increase attendee engagement, adding value through Continuing Education and Certifications is an excellent option. Attendees can gain a unique value-add by engaging with your brand.
Learn how the Pharmaceutical, Biotech & Medical Device Sales companies add value to their engagement process through CE and Certifications.
For many, selling branding opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors of events is critical to affording production costs. Make sure your chosen Virtual Event platform hosts opportunities for those key stakeholders to promote their brand and content during the show.
Your event is only as good as the data it produces. Ensure that your provider can give you detailed reporting of attendee information and engagement. This is how you will prove ROI to your C-Suite, how you will be able to follow up with leads, and how you can assess attendees' behavior patterns to optimize future event experiences.
As VP Operations at GES, Jeff Youngs, wrote: "It’s possible to collect data – from registration, pre-event activity, user visits, engagement interactions and drop off trends during your event and post-event activities. In addition, post-event survey feedback offers qualitative, in-depth opportunities to measure your attendees’ feedback and mindset. This allows you to measure overall event effectiveness and develop improvement strategies and tactics on specific elements of your event."
Now that you have all the tools to choose a virtual event platform that works for your needs, you can begin planning. Producing a Virtual Event is not for the faint of heart, especially if you want to pull off kick-ass presentations, high attendee engagement, and impact your industry.
Although your goals for a Virtual Event might have been the same as your goals for an in-person event, your content delivery should be a little different. As GES stated, "Focusing content and delivering it in shorter, quicker formats with higher production value is a must."
The rest of this guide will give you a glimpse into a tried-and-true virtual event planning timeline and checklist and some presenter best practices to help craft a stellar attendee experience.
Whether you are planning your first virtual event or have experience with online event organization, this checklist will help key you on track to host a user-friendly, highly successful virtual event.
Select the topic(s) of your event
Select your presenters
Determine your goals for the event
Identify your target audience
Select a date and time of your event
Delegate tasks between the presenter, host, and event services team
Determine a theme for your event
Determine if and how you will want to repurpose this event
Determine the length of your event
Determine how you want your attendees to register for your event
Compile a list of prospective attendees
Create a webinar promotional plan
Craft your email marketing strategy
Prepare a marketing promo kit for the sponsors, presenters, and hosts
Optimize your virtual event landing page
Monitor and analyze promotions
Finalize the script for the speaker
Send email invitations
Get familiar with the webinar platform
conduct a tech run with your event provider
Prepare your post-event evaluations
Review event registration page
Do one last promotional push on social media
Write an introduction script for your presenter
Preview event management software
Prepare for follow-up messaging
Check internet status to prevent video streaming issues
Send an email reminder
Join the web room
Check your recording status
Preview live customer support feature
Analyze your KPIs and other metrics
Review & edit your recording
Brainstorm key takeaways to share with attendees
Follow up with attendees
Answer your Q&As in a blog post
Keep the conversation going
Repurpose your content for further monetization
Use this checklist to guide you through every step of the way to ensure you don’t miss a beat before, during, and after the virtual event planning process.
Now that you’re well underway to organizing a successful event, how can you guarantee it goes off without a hitch? Here is a checklist you can use
Have an alternative dial back phone number ready for your event moderator in case of emergencies
Remind everyone to put cell phones on “Do Not Disturb”
Show virtual attendees where the live customer support feature is, so they know where to go in the event of technical issues.
If using a phone and computer, remember to mute your phone while not speaking
Mute your computer speakers to eliminate feedback noise - any incoming calls, chat, messages, reminders can be heard on both the live and recorded version of the call
Try to keep background sounds to a minimum (kids, pets, lawnmowers, etc.)
Silence all external devices, such as cell phones
Keep the background of your call as clean and basic as possible
Choose a space with optimal lighting, ideally towards your face
If using a laptop webcam, try elevating your laptop, so the camera is straight-on, not directed upwards
Ensure the conference platform isn’t mixed in with an abundance of other tabs
Have a hard copy of your presentation materials
Work with your Event Contact to upload all slide decks, PDFs, and handouts
Work with your Event Contact to ensure desired attendee engagement features like quizzes, polling, Q&A
Work with your event contact to ensure the intended recording of events
Have a glass of water nearby
Speak at a moderate pace
Be mindful of the time
If background sounds should occur, do not try to speak over the noise
Should technical issues arise, look to the chat window for direction from the support team
Have the moderator practice the first and last names of everyone they will be introducing
Exit out of any internet-based programs or tabs you do not need during the call
Test the strength of your internet connection during a tech run
Try to keep other household members off of Zoom, Netflix, and other video streaming sites
Full computer access for presenters with webcam & audio
Use a reliable headset with a built-in microphone
Have more than one device ready to dial in as a backup
Use the same phone and computer in the tech run that you’ll be using in the live event
Use the most optimal internet browser for the software
Charge all devices and keep charging cables handy
Participants should not use speakerphones unless they are specifically designed for conference calls
As the Virtual Event industry grows, we will have to innovate new ways to stay relevant, capture attention and add value to our attendees' experiences. As you plan and produce virtual events, you will consider different platforms, different types of events, and the integration of various interactive features. But the value-add should not stop there.
Incorporating Continuing Education Credits and Certifications into your Virtual Event can draw a larger audience, increase attendee engagement and provide tangible value to the attendees' experience.
Many great platforms in the industry can provide live polling, chatrooms, and the suite of interactive features. Why not take your event to the next level?
Monetize your content through certifications and CE credits. Create Live and OnDemand modules that keep your audience coming back for more. Track users' progress and build up an audience. Integrate your Virtual Events with an end-to-end Learning Management Solution explicitly tailored to your organization.
You can also track important metrics that will help you determine the success of your online event, making it great for event marketing and planning. Consider working with BeaconLive, a platform that seamlessly integrates Continuing Education and Certifications to any Live, SimuLive, or On-Demand Virtual Event.
Ensuring attendee engagement is arguably the most critical part of delivering a virtual event. It’s what encourages attendees to show up on the big day and keeps them glued to their screens.
As Cvent stated, the biggest challenge for Virtual Events is keeping attendees engaged. As attendees experience "zoom-fatigue," the effectiveness of your event will dangerously decrease.
Offering freebies is a great way to humanize your virtual events. SWAG builds brand awareness and reminds attendees about what they learned, who they met, and the value they gained after the event. Turn to your CRM to determine what SWAG will make the most significant impact on your attendees.
Curate experience boxes and have attendees open up certain items at specific times of the event. Choose items that are valuable to recipients and make your virtual attendees feel special, like an event t-shirt, branded mousepad, or new earbuds.
Don't sell yourself short when allotting time for smaller breakout rooms and one-to-one conversations. Your virtual attendees want to experience thought leadership by interacting with keynotes and other essential presenters.
Check in frequently with your attendees to make connections. Build-in times for virtual networking opportunities, like virtual happy hours or meet and greets. You can even do some matchmaking and connect attendees with similar backgrounds and interests.
This will help mirror the feel of a face-to-face conference and add another layer of value to your online event.
Your online events need to be more than just virtual meetings. Presenters should consider pre-recording their speeches so that they can be available for real-time Q&A.
The best hybrid event platforms will enable conferencing features that connect onsite participants with virtual attendees. Incorporate chatrooms, gamification, live polling, and quizzes to ensure you are continuously sparking engagement from both sides of the screen.
Social Media is FREE - use it wisely! Create an event hashtag or entice your audience to interact with your social media channels with special offers and giveaways.
Turn to platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to engage your audience. Consider launching a contest where users post about your event using a unique event hashtag. This will help you generate exciting content to promote your event while engaging your audience.
A hybrid conference may be new to some, so it will also help clarify how the event will run so that event attendees will know that virtual and in-person attendees will have equal opportunities to engage and connect.
Surprises can lighten the mood of your event and make it overall more fun. Increase anticipation with countdowns or email teasers to guest speakers or product launches.
Tease these surprises through push notifications on your mobile event app or posts on your event social media pages. This will let attendees know that they are in for a special treat if they attend.
Live entertainment will make your event far more enjoyable. Audience members will appreciate this attention to detail and feel more comfortable and relaxed, allowing for more natural and casual conversations throughout the event.
So book a band to play a short set or an industry comedian to lighten the mood. This is a great way to perk up attendees and get them excited about your next virtual event.
Virtual and hybrid events have become a staple in the event planning world. Your company must harness the power of online events to engage its target audience and increase event ROI.
This guide should give you all the tools to produce a beautifully curated and successful event. Take the time to tailor your event to your target audience. Use the checklists to ensure you’re prepared before, during, and after the event.
To market your webinar, create a landing page for your event, write blog posts about the topic, and add links to the registration page in your email signature.
When you write survey questions to ask attendees in a post-event survey, focus on their experience, how they felt about the content, and what they think could make your next virtual event even better.
Simultaneous events, on-demand viewing, and hub-and-spoke events are just three types of hybrid events you can host to engage both virtual and in-person attendees.