Best Practices: How to Host a Virtual Event
A Market Research Media report projects that the virtual events industry will grow from $14 billion in 2018 to $18 billion in 2023. This projection makes sense since netizens increasingly rely on digital tools and technologies to facilitate personal and business dealings. But now, thanks to COVID-19, many businesses have been forced to move their internal and external events online.
This has changed the nature of the events industry and event coordinators are scrambling to adapt. Event coordinators and marketing professionals are increasingly appreciating the power of virtual events. Using virtual events platforms to host live events or deliver pre-recorded footage has become the de facto means of bridging the online and physical worlds to engage attendees. By making your events virtual, you too can create unique moments and deliver maximum engagement to audiences around the globe.
What’s more – going virtual is a brilliant way to further monetize your event and efficiently reach a worldwide audience. It can help you penetrate new markets, increase customer acquisition capabilities, and save travel costs and time. Event planners and marketers should embrace virtual events and begin to see them as the new normal… especially since the post-COVID outlook is still uncertain.
How to Host a Virtual Event in 2020
Hosting a virtual event can be as taxing as organizing a physical one. It requires extensive planning and attention to detail. To achieve and surpass the objectives of your virtual event, you need the right strategy, best practices, and virtual events technology. Read on to discover best practices for how you can make your virtual events as engaging and stimulating as possible — while achieving your KPIs.
Tips for Planning a Virtual Event
Just as you can have hitches in a physical event, you could also have glitches in a virtual event. To prevent the latter and deliver an amazing experience to your audience, follow these actionable tips.
Before the Event
Formulate your goals and strategies
This is the conceptualization stage where you detail the goals and objectives of your event.
- What kind of event are you looking to host? Is it a webinar or an external hybrid event (industry conferences or user conferences)? Or an internal event — think department meetings, training, town halls, sales kick-offs, company-wide events, etc.
- How would you handle registration and the accompanying logistic hassles?
- What virtual event platform is most suitable for your plans? (Virtual events are hosted and facilitated via online events platforms).
Popular platforms are usually generic and may not suit your unique needs. And obviously, you’ll need to identify and inform the event speakers and sponsors ahead of time.
- What key performance indicators are you looking to achieve?
- When is the most suitable time for the event? What realistic timeline will work best for you, your speakers, and the audience? How would you promote the event?
Answers to these questions and others will help you develop a winning strategy.
During the Event
Engaging your audience is the name of the game
A Wild Apricot study reports that organizations that don’t try to engage virtual event participants are 150% more likely to be unsuccessful.
Just as virtual events are easy to join,they are even easier to leave. There are many distractions in the online space and it’s easy for audiences to get sidetracked with popups on their screens. Ensure you deliver top-notch content during each session. Use various engagement tools like hashtags to keep the discussion going on social media.
An EventMB report shows that 13% of event planners use social media to interact with speakers during events, while 49% use it to engage attendees. You should also create room for interactions wherever possible. This keeps your participants engaged and involved.
Prepare a mix of live and pre-recorded content. Organizing a totally live event can be risky — too many things can go wrong. To avoid this, it’s best to have a line up of pre-recorded videos you can switch to.
This gives you greater power over the outcome of your event. Ideally, you should pre-record the welcome and keynote portions of your program to ensure smooth flow. For that personal feel, be sure to add in a few moments of live content and do well to keep a contingency plan ready!
To increase engagement and ensure inclusiveness, incorporate real-time, live closed captions. If your virtual event is taking place on Zoom, Rev’s Live Captions for Zoom is a great way to make your event accessible to everyone. It ensures that event participants can follow and understand exactly what is being discussed.
Furthermore, Rev’s Live Captions for Zoom can help ensure inclusivity, especially for participants with hearing loss. It also acts as a focal point to keep attendees glued to the screen.
Create an immersive experience
One major drawback of hosting events online is that audiences don’t get to network as much. While it’s a tad more difficult to network during a virtual event, you can solve this problem by creating virtual lounges and live chat segments. Such spaces for discussion can help nurture the social component of your online events.
Do note that the success of your online event is largely dependent on engagement rates. You can use surveys and polls to ensure interaction between audiences and speakers/exhibitors/anchors. Gamifying your event can also deliver impressive results. Incorporating leaderboards or scavenger hunts can incentivize audiences to stay actively engaged with the programming.
Essentially, always endeavor to create an immersive experience during virtual events. Your audience can leave at the touch of a button. As such, you should keep your virtual events short and sweet.
After the Event
What you do at the end of your event is nearly as important as what you do during the planning and execution stages. Recording your live sessions and making them available to attendees is an essential practice.
Establishing a portal with captioned recordings of the sessions is a great way to get more out of your content and let your audience return to the sessions if need be. These links can be shared with event participants as well as those who were unable to attend. This way, no one is left out.
Recording all the sessions of your event also comes with additional benefits. They can help the host organization leverage event content into other content opportunities, like blogs, podcasts, and even an outline for an e-book. This is where tools like Rev’s speech-to-text services can be incredibly helpful. With Rev, you can easily order transcripts of your audio/video sessions and convert them into the kind of content your audience prefers.
Captioned recordings of each session can also be used as a marketing tool. You can gate your video page and use marketing tactics to capture more leads. Plus, sharing highlight reels or sound-bites from the event can be used to show non-attendees what they missed out on. You can strategically use FOMO to create anticipation and excitement for your next event.
Appraise your performance
The success of your virtual event is largely determined by the amount of impact it had on your business goals. This can be expressed in direct revenue (for paid and sponsored events), brand exposure, knowledge exchange, attributed revenue, consumer engagement, etc.
As such, savvy event planners always track the results of their events, whether physical or virtual. At the end of your virtual event, revisit your goals and objectives to see how well you performed. Check your KPIs and note areas in which you excelled. Then, analyze the data generated from your event (such as personal information, demographics, levels of engagements, etc.) and review the insights thereafter.
The event industry is undergoing a major paradigm shift. Organizations, marketing executives, and event planners should prepare for a drastically different future. While hosting virtual events can be challenging, the rewards are well worth the effort. With detailed planning, clear goals/KPIs, and the right technology, you too can achieve exponential results with your virtual events.