With the covid-19 pandemic limiting travel and crowded in-person meetings, virtual conferences and events have replaced their in-person counterparts. Rather than these disruptions slowing down planning, there are more events than ever, including webinars, launch events, and industry conferences.
Due to how common these virtual events are now, preparation and an established strategy are key to standing out from the crowd. Virtual events are not a new concept. Direct-to-consumer businesses often only have digital product launches, and social media features make them easier and easier.
Types of conferences and virtual events
A good amount of in-person events can be converted into digital experiences, as long as you plan ahead of time. Industry conferences are filled with presentations and speakers working in a virtual environment. Still, you’ll also need to think about how the usual networking piece of an in-person event will operate virtually. People attend these events partially for impromptu conversations and satellite networking events that occur.
In addition to industry conferences, we’ve seen many examples of virtual events, including festivals, concerts, product launches, corporate meetings, and even happy hours. There is a virtual alternative available for almost every possibility out there.
1. Budget, budget, budget
Just because it’s now a virtual event doesn’t mean you can throw your budget away. You can save on printing, in-person technical support, venue reservations and signage, but don’t eliminate marketing. Virtual events have less overhead than in-person events, but the more activities and attendance you have, the more you’ll have to budget, especially for supporting technology.
An event venue replacement is a software or app you will use to host the event. The number of attendees, both speakers and attendees, and the desired level of interaction will determine the type of management platform you will use. Some events took place entirely on Instagram Live, while others are pre-recorded videos released at set times.
Sponsorship is an important part of event planning, so if you still want to send gadgets or host virtual happy hours, be sure to tweak your sponsorship plan to suit the needs of a virtual event. That shop in person who was going to be at the event? Now it can be an online dropship store with special offers or offers for attendees.
Other budget items you will need to consider related to virtual events include a social media-heavy promotion, real-time captioning, comment moderation, and hosting videos and documents after the event. Smaller events like webinars and live streams all day won’t need all of this, so check out what you should prioritize and what you can cut from your budget.
2. Mix live streams and pre-recorded video
Deciding on your schedule and attending speeches, you don’t want to miss important parts of a conference. The advantage of a virtual event is that you can usually watch the lessons you miss. But then, what’s the point of joining if you can watch later? Enrich your events and make them more attractive to live attendees with fun live streams, virtual interactive rooms, discussion chats, and other interactive material.
The pre-recorded videos leave your speakers off the hook for any tech glitches and even allow for editing if needed. At the end of each of their sessions, you can have speakers join a live video or chat room to answer questions, just like in an in-person event.
3. Prepare the speakers
For an entirely virtual event, make sure your speakers are fully prepared. Larger events should test for internet speed, comfort level with technology and microphone controls. Live to stream and using whatever event platform you choose could be a new experience for your speakers, so it’s best to prepare them for what they might encounter. Will they be required to moderate the comments themselves? Should they share the screen for a slide show?
Some common scenarios to prepare for include:
- Find the best physical environment for your speaker to minimize interruptions and have clear sound. Test, practice and prepare your equipment to ensure that all speakers are broadcasting at roughly the same sound level to avoid surprising volume changes for viewers.
- Whether sharing a screen or live streaming, tips on what to disable on your computer include putting all notifications on hold.
- To comment or not to comment? Ideally, you will have a separate person who will moderate comments so that the speaker can focus on her speech. Please make sure they are familiar with the event code of conduct and how to handle abusive commentators.
- Technological problems. What if the speaker technology fails to do this or if the software doesn’t work or the slides don’t work? Make backup plans for all these possible problems.
Finally, speakers are another source of promotion for your event. You want them to advertise their speech so that current audiences feel like the event is worth attending. To make this easier for speakers, prepare several promotional materials in ideal social media size format and suggested captions. All they have to do is program the content and paste in the captions.
4. Establish expectations for participants
Whether it’s a large industry conference or a single topic live stream, you need to communicate what attendees should expect effectively. It sucks to set aside time to attend an event only to realize the topic is too broad or aimed at a different audience. Be clear about what the event is about and who it is for. How does it stand out from all the other virtual events out there?
If you’re converting an in-person event to a virtual one, you should talk about what the main online features will look like. What do the attendees of a welcome reception and keynote speaker look like? Just like any event, post a schedule. Let them know if it’s pre-recorded if comments are available, if thepresentation will be saved, and what the interaction will look like. Will attendee videos be turned on or off? Hashtags are general, so live-tweeting or additional Twitter chats are possible?
Make it very easy for attendees to create an event schedule and have the right links to go to when it’s time to join. If an virtual conference platform is used, please send guides on using it and if downloads are required. Accessibility features such as real-time subtitles and translations should be taken into consideration. With a virtual event, you can expand your attendance base and generate more potential leads and meaningful engagement. Those who have not been able to attend the event can now participate in the virtual one.
Finally, spend some time networking, especially if it’s an industry conference that usually has this component. Sponsor-hosted happy hours, quick one-on-one conversations, and topic subgroup rooms are ways to encourage networking. For whichever platform you decide to host the event, encourage attendees to fill out their profiles completely to connect with industry peers more easily.
5. Plan the promotion: before, during and after
Marketing, especially social media, will be an important part of your preparation. Paying for social media ads is a must for digital events, but don’t forget the Destin pages action of events and newsletter mailings.The effort doesn’t even end with the day of the event – virtual events offer plenty of opportunities to reuse live streaming and digital content for weeks after the fact.
Fortunately for you, virtual events make it easy to track your ROI. You need to know how your campaign is performing between social media listening, keyword and tag analysis reports, and digital advertising analysis.
Hosting virtual events with video sessions means you now have a treasure trove of content at your fingertips. Reuse content in other formats like podcast episodes, graphic citations, and long-form articles.
When the event is over, thank everyone involved and use the follow-up polls to understand what you can work on next time. These survey results can also become testimonials to promote next year’s event.
Planning and preparation are the pillars of hosting a successful virtual conference or event. When everyone involved – speakers, attendees, moderators – know what to expect and how to participate, the experience is much smoother. Virtual events have the advantage of having a lower cost, wider audience participation, and easy-to-track analytics, but that doesn’t mean you should save on other necessary.