The COVID-19 pandemic forced event organizers to make a quick pivot from in-person events to virtual events. This transition forced a lot of planners and hosts outside of their comfort zone and left many wondering if they were even doing it right! Running a successful virtual event is easy if you are willing to learn from the mistakes that you and others have made. Here are 8 virtual event mistakes and some recommendations on what you can do to avoid them!
Here are some very common virtual event mistakes and a few suggestions on how you can avoid making them yourself!
Before you can get down to the nitty-gritty of virtual event planning, you need to have a proper grasp on what you or your client is hoping to achieve with the event. Make sure that goals can be properly translated to the virtual format and that you have a clear understanding of what metrics will be used to measure the success of your event. By taking the time to understand objectives, you can better plan and build your event around reaching that end.
Virtual events have many benefits. They can be offered to a wider audience, generate higher revenues, and allow for more diverse content. When you are not restricted by a specific geographical location, you can put together an incredible program with expert speakers and presenters from all over the world. But, there is such a thing as too much. One of the keys to a successful virtual event is finding the right balance. Not enough content and your target audience will not see the value in what you are doing and will either not register at all, or disappear partway through the event. But too much content and the audience is likely to feel overwhelmed and check out. Think carefully about the number of sessions you’ll be offering and the length of those sessions. Your audience will find it challenging to sit through marathon sessions and continue to learn new information. Your content will have to compete with lots of distractions at home and the more relevant and focused your program, the better. All speakers should be told to present their information in “bite-size” pieces. The more information they try to pack into their sessions, the less the audience can absorb and process. Speakers should be encouraged to keep things as direct and concise as possible. No one wants to sit through an hour-long PowerPoint presentation! Understandably, some topics make that more difficult than others but every consideration should be taken to prevent the audience from tuning out.
Virtual events, while currently more common than ever, are still a new experience for most attendees. It is important that you let them know what they can expect. You do not want anyone showing up to your event and expecting something similar to your live events. You want virtual attendees to know how to use the technology and what is expected of them in terms of participation. Let them know if they should prepare questions in advance or what networking opportunities are available. Relevant information, like how to log on and how to enter sessions or use chat features, should be provided on your event page and in your email marketing campaign. The more you can do to prepare your remote attendees, the more likely they will be able to enjoy, and benefit from, your event.
Virtual events are not easy for the audience. Without being in the same room with other attendees, it can be difficult to feel connected. Audience engagement needs to be a significant part of the event planning. It will be necessary to take steps to give your audience an engaging and connected experience. Simply trying to translate your physical event into the digital space will not be enough. It is a mistake to not focus on what will keep the audience active and interested. Consider offering:
Sponsors often play a large role in the success of any event. And virtual events provide a great opportunity to potential sponsors by offering greater insight into attendee demographics and behaviors. But you don’t want just any sponsor. You want a sponsor that will help set the tone and mood of the event. In fact, if possible, you might even want your sponsors to present or exhibit their products or services as part of your program. The best way to find the right sponsor is to begin by looking at brands that operate in an industry related to your event theme and have a similar target audience. Odds are good that their followers will be interested in your event content and your attendees will be interested in their products and services. By limiting sponsorship to connected industries, you can keep your attendees focused on the event topics and provide them with additional valuable content.
Whether you are live streaming your event or posting pre-recorded content, you will want to do a rehearsal. If you don’t do one, you may run into technical issues or timing troubles on the day of your event. Certainly, some issues may arise regardless, but most can be avoided with a little bit of practice. For best results, ask all presenters to join in from the room and computer they will be using to present on the day-of the event. You can test their camera, lighting, and audio. Encourage them to try starting their PowerPoint or run any supporting video they may be using. This will help you identify glitches and give the presenter peace of mind in knowing exactly what they need to do to get started. Run through your entire program as if it were live. Ensure that your customer support and tech support teams are a part of this process so they can understand how the day is going to flow and spot any potential weak points in your set up.
Choosing the wrong platform for your online event is a common mistake that can prove disastrous. There are many virtual event platforms to choose from and it’s critical that you find the one that has the necessary features to meet your specific needs. Some platforms focus on virtual trade shows while others are better suited to a conference environment, while others still are useful for virtual meetings and webinars. Identify your needs early in the planning process and choose your platform accordingly. Look for a platform that will support you from the planning stages to the follow-up. A platform like Accelevents can help every step of the way. With Accelevents you can design custom branded event pages and marketing materials. Email platform integrations make it easy to keep registered attendees informed about the event. Accelevents has integrated live video streaming and production features so there is no need to go looking for an additional platform for your video content. From ticket sales and registration to breakout sessions, virtual show floors, fundraising, and lots of real-time data, you can get everything you need in one place!
One of the biggest errors you can make as an event planner is to skip the post-event survey. It can be difficult to determine the true success of your event without asking those who participated in the event. Just because you generated massive revenues doesn’t mean your attendees had a good time or that there isn’t room for improvement. A post-event survey can be sent a day or two after the event, while it is still fresh in the minds of attendees. It will give you a better idea of what you did well and what can be improved upon in the future. Send this survey to attendees, your sponsors, your speakers/presenters, and your volunteers and staff. You will want perspectives from every possible angle.In addition to this survey, be sure to follow up with a quick “thank you.” Without all of the event’s participants, the event would not be possible. Make sure each and every person knows that you appreciate their involvement. Virtual event mistakes are easy to avoid with the proper planning and considerations. When planning your event, consult this list to ensure that every step you make is to your advantage! Virtual events aren’t going anywhere anytime soon so it’s smart to develop best practices sooner rather than later!