Virtual events are a growing trend in the events industry. But with the recent outbreak of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever for events organisers to learn how to put on virtual events in place of face-to-face ones. Not only could virtual events provide a vital lifeline for events organisers and companies, but they could provide much-needed distraction and information for those self-isolating at home too.

Read on for our simple steps on planning your virtual event. You could also take a look at our how-to guide on Making a Virtual Conference Memorable On A Budget, How To Monetise Your Virtual Events or our full range of virtual event content.

Table of contents

What's a virtual event?
1. Define your audience
2. Define your event objectives
3. Establish the event format
4. Find the right tech tools and suppliers
5. Find a date and time
6. Market like crazy!
7. Nail the event experience
8. Keep your network engaged post-event
9. Measure
10. Repeat

What's a virtual event?

Virtual events are constantly shifting and changing; as technology evolves, so do they. But generally speaking, a virtual event (also known as an online event) is an interactive event where not everyone present is there physically.

An event can be completely virtual, with everybody connecting via the internet in their own private space, or you can add a virtual element to a face-to-face event. This might be as simple as providing a live stream of a seminar so that it can be accessed by people remotely.

Virtual events can include webinars, webcasts or live streams, virtual meetings, conferences, online trade shows, networking events and more. The only limit is your imagination! Our step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of putting on a memorable virtual event that achieves your objectives.

Virtual Events Made Easy

1. Define your audience

Your target audience should influence every decision you make regarding your virtual event, from the date and time to the platform you broadcast it on. So, it’s vital that you have a clear idea of who your event is for.

Try and describe your ideal audience as specifically as possible. Important details could range from their age to their occupation, level of tech experience and more. The better you know them, the more likely you are to be able to plan an experience that provides them with value. After all, if you don’t provide value, they won’t show!

Once you know who you’re targeting, ask yourself what your audience really wants to hear about. Perhaps they want to be educated about a certain topic, or perhaps they need a forum where they can ask questions about an ongoing industry concern. To find out what your audience really wants and to get to know them better, consider conducting some research or simply asking them questions on social media.

Audience
Photo by Nicholas Green

2. Define your event objectives

If you’re planning a virtual event, you must have a reason for it. After all, putting on an event (even if it’s virtual!) takes a lot of time and planning.

Defining your ‘why’ is essential to make sure you get what you want out of your event, plus it allows you to measure how successful it was once it’s all over! Remember that virtual events are different from face-to-face ones, so rather than just moving an existing face-to-face event online, take time to check that a virtual event would still help you to meet those objectives.

Your objective could be anything from making money to increasing awareness of your brand, building a brand community or simply helping out your audience. You could also try to achieve more than one of these things at once.

Defining your objectives will allow you to choose relevant key performance indicators through which to measure your event ROI. If you want to increase brand awareness, for example, you might choose to prioritise the number of views and shares (and make sure to read our article on growing your audience with virtual events). Or, if your goal is to help your audience, you might prefer to prioritise average viewing time and positive feedback.

Whichever objective you settle on, it’s important to keep it in the forefront of your mind throughout the virtual event planning process. If your objective is financial, you’ll need to choose a platform that makes ticketing possible, or perhaps a platform that allows you to easily link to a donations page. There’s no wrong path as long as it helps you to meet your objectives!

Virtual event objectives
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

3. Establish the event format

Virtual events come in all different shapes, sizes and formats. So, once you've settled on your goals, think about what format will best help you to achieve them. Will your content be best served by offering viewers a choice of many different talks and sessions, or would a simple seminar with one speaker do the job just as well?

Don’t forget to keep your target audience in mind when you’re establishing your event format too. It might be that networking is a key goal for your audience, in which case you might choose to prioritise peer-to-peer time over talks. Alternatively, a panel discussion might allow your audience to ask all the burning questions they’ve been dying to find the answers to!

Either way, it’s important to keep things interactive wherever possible because, at the end of the day, events are all about human connection. So, make sure you provide a way for viewers to ask questions or add comments or engage in polls. Or include a social aspect to your event with networking drinks post-event; why not try a wine tasting or some other activity to get people chatting. Check out our piece on Virtual Team Building activities, many of which can be adapted for larger scale events.

Planning the format of a virtual event
Photo by William Iven

4. Find the right tech tools and suppliers

When it comes to virtual events, your event is only as good as the tools you use. And, with a huge variety out there to choose from, you simply need to pick the ones that best meet all your criteria.

Choosing the right tech

When it comes to platforms for hosting your event on, you’ll need to think once more about the audience and objectives you defined. Questions to ask yourself include:

Does your audience find it easy to adopt new technology?

What social media platforms does your audience use?

What features are needed for your event to run smoothly?

Do you require networking or audience engagement technology?

Do you require break out sessions or multiple stages?

Perhaps you can meet your objectives with a simple live stream for free on a social media platform like Facebook Live or LinkedIn. But in many cases, you may need a tech platform that allows multiple streams, networking, polling and Q&A and more.

A tool that offers personalised event platform can help you to create a more advanced event with a choice of stages and sessions to join, networking with instant chat, live polling and Q&A, on-demand content, exhibitor booths and more. They also make it easier to ticket and monetise your virtual event.

Be sure to investigate the options available and to prioritise those tools that help you to meet your objectives and your target audience’s needs.

Hire Space has done all the legwork for you and can offer an impartial virtual event consultation to help you select the right tool for the job (and help you save money at the same time). Get in touch with one of our virtual event experts today for a consultation to help you find the best solution for your event and budget.

Picking suppliers

You might think that a virtual event doesn’t call for any suppliers. However, there are lots of amazing virtual event suppliers who make it their mission to add something unique to your virtual event.

From virtual quizzes and scavenger hunts to event catering that can be delivered to the homes of your delegates and even wine deliveries for virtual wine tastings, there’s something for every kind of event. Rather than replicate the same virtual event template that you’ve seen ten times over, it really does pay to think outside the box – and getting the right suppliers on board is what makes that possible.

Check out our piece on '10 Team Building Ideas for a Quarantined World' which has loads of ideas that can be adapted for events of 1000+. If you need any help finding the right tools and suppliers for your event, just book a consultation with Hire Space's Virtual Event Experts.

Virtual event tech
Photo by Gabriel Benois
Virtual Events Made Easy

5. Find a date and time

Virtual events make it easy for attendees to join from all over the country and even the world. But you’ll still need to think carefully about what date and time would be best for yours.

If you’re going to be streaming your event live to multiple countries, make sure to consider any time differences and always avoid big public holidays and events that could cause yours to sink into the background.

On the other hand, it's important to remember that your virtual event doesn't have to be live. Even though most people currently work from home, there are still lots of distractions, from children to pets. An event that's centred around a specific moment in time (like a product launch, announcement or Q&A) will probably benefit from taking place live. But lots of educational content could also benefit from being available for viewers to watch and absorb in their own time and at their own pace, with video on demand.

Even if you decide to stream your event live, you'll never be able to pick a date and time that pleases everyone. So, it's still worth considering making your event available to access on-demand after the date itself. That way, you can be sure to reach as many people as possible.

Online calendar
Photo by Zan

6. Market like crazy!

You won’t have as many overheads to cover when you’re hosting a virtual event as opposed to a face-to-face one. But you’ll need to market your event just as hard in order to get the turnout you deserve. In these difficult times, with most people staying at home as much as possible, online marketing methods are likely to prove most effective. Plus, they’ll help you to reach a wider audience beyond just your local following.

In terms of social media, the world is your oyster. Be sure to use tactics such as paid social, using hashtags for maximum reach, posting the bios of speakers you have involved… there’s no end of possibilities! And it may sound obvious, but if you’re going to be hosting your event on a social media platform, make sure you remember to promote it on that platform! There’s a whole audience out there just waiting to be engaged.

Marketing online
Photo by Marvin Meyer

7. Nail the event experience

When the big day rolls around, you’ll have put most of the wheels in place already to make sure your virtual event is a success. However, there are a few things to remember, so don’t take your foot off the gas just yet!

Firstly, make sure it’s really clear how your audience should join your event. Even if your event is ticketed, there’s nothing worse than half your delegates failing to show because they couldn’t find the right link or they’re trying to sign into your event with a different email address!

You should send your delegates a number of communications in the run-up to your event, explaining what they need to do before the event and how they can access it when the time comes. Be sure to send out an additional communication out an hour or two before the start time because until the event is imminent, many of your attendees may put off checking their emails or creating any accounts they need to access your event platform.

Make sure that you also communicate with any speakers or contributors before the event starts. It might be worth jumping on a video call with everyone involved to make sure that you’re not missing anyone. Plus, it will allow you to remind everyone of the brief, answer any last-minute questions and introduce any panellists to one another so that they feel comfortable and supported.

You’ll also want to check your tech tools are working and that all your contributors know how to use them. In short, you’ll still need to do everything that you usually would before a live event – but when you’re working remotely, it can be easy to forget the little things!

If you're using a platform that has numerous sessions and push notifications, make sure to send regular prompts out when a new session or activity is starting. Prompting your audience throughout the event will keep them engaged and focussed on your event.

Finally, once your event has started, it’s a good idea to document it in some way. Consider allocating someone to tweet about it while the event unfolds, and don’t forget to record it too! You might just want to use the recording to write up post-event summaries, or it may be that you can increase the value of your event by making the recording available on-demand to people who weren’t able to attend.

The virtual event experience
Photo by Chris Montgomery

8. Keep your network engaged post-event

Hopefully, your delegates all enjoyed your event and you managed to reach some people beyond your usual following. And if that’s the case, you’ll want to capitalise on that!

Be sure to send out post-event communications to keep your network engaged. If you took a recording of the event or you’ve written up any post-event summaries, send them out to those who attended so that they can recap on what was covered. Package up your on-demand and event content and send to all the delegates along with a post-event feedback form. Use this as an opportunity to get constructive feedback for any future events, to find out more about your audience and to make them feel listened to.

Perhaps most importantly, make sure you encourage your audience to join your mailing list so that they can stay in touch with your brand long after your event too!

People live streaming
Photo by Robin Worrall

9. Measure

Your event may have finished, but you mustn’t put it to bed just yet! Measuring is a vital step that will help you to reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what you should change for next time.

Hopefully, you identified some KPIs to track as part of step two, where you defined your event objectives. Now is the time to measure those, to see whether your ROI lived up to expectations or not.

Just a few things to identify include:

Number of views

Rate of engagement on each piece of content

Number of viewers yet to engage

Drop off points where your audience numbers go down (and set up systems to find out why people drop off when they do, either onscreen or after the event)

Make sure that you set up some segmented measurement, breaking the audience down into relevant segments such as age and job title and analysing the engagement of each segment. It also pays to collect audience feedback through polls and surveys before, during and after the virtual event.

Most importantly of all, don't forget the objectives that you defined at the beginning of the planning process. At the end of the day, it's meeting those objectives that really counts!

Measure your virtual event performance
Photo by William Iven

10. Repeat

Once you’ve pulled off your first virtual event, hopefully you’ll have caught the virtual event bug and will be raring to start planning your next one!

Of course, there’ll be some elements of your last event that you loved and will want to replicate, but be careful not to choose the easy option using the same tools and suppliers each time. Instead, follow these 10 steps again, starting by identifying your audience and objectives. Don’t forget – if those change, the rest will probably need to change too!

Make sure that you also refer back to the factors you measured in step 9, using that as a chance to learn and improve on what you did last time.

So, as you’ve seen, hosting a virtual event isn’t rocket science. By following our 10-step process, you’ll be on your way to virtual success in no time!

If you're ready to get going, why not book a consultation with our Virtual Event Experts? From registration and ticketing to AI-powered networking, they've got your back when it comes to planning your virtual event.

 

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