Every event planner knows that there is a lot at stake when launching a virtual event. Whether the event is live-streamed, a hybrid event, or a simulated live event, many processes need to be taken into account, each with its own unique set of potential problems. And of course, you want to run a successful virtual event. Most event planners spend months preparing for the launch of their event but, unfortunately, the coronavirus has forced many to shift to a virtual format on much shorter time frames. So, before you move forward, it is important to understand the very basics of launching a virtual event. With that in mind, and to help you get started, here is a list of virtual event dos and don’ts.[embed]https://youtu.be/c0E62zOKdtY[/embed]
At its basic level, virtual events rely on internet connections and technology to function properly. And sometimes these technologies are running in home offices with poor connectivity or on unfamiliar rental equipment. No matter the type of equipment you use, make sure to test your tools before the event. This includes testing the capabilities of the virtual event software as well as presenter tools and the presentations themselves. You will want to walk through everything each presenter will need to do, run through how your team can support each presentation, and perform a “walk through” of the virtual space that an attendee will have to navigate.
There is usually a flurry of activity happening at the event launch. But this is the time that you should be checking in on your presenters. While it’s easy to agree to certain presentation parameters and timeframes, things pop up. Even if your presenters are experiencing hardships, they will not want to bother with technical difficulties during the event preparation time. Instead, be proactive and reach out to them to check-in. Do they have the prepared materials? Are they confident with what they are going to say? Checking in with your presenters will not only give you the peace of mind that the session will go smoothly, but it will also give your presenters a boost of confidence. This is not to say that checking in with the presenters will eliminate any presentation anxiety but it can go a long way to calming them down and enabling them to engage with the audience in a real and authentic way.
No matter how familiar you are with your virtual event platform, testing network speeds, and optimizing bandwidth, you will most likely encounter technical issues. Since virtual event types can vary, there is a myriad of issues that any event can experience. For example, if you’re planning a live event by live-streaming the presentations, then you’ll need to secure a hosting platform that accommodates the number of streamers and viewers that you’re expecting. If you’re hosting breakout sessions, you cannot host too many with too many premium features. Your event must remain engaging and accessible. One of the ways to counter these technical issues is to make sure that you have a team in place to address them. Either hire on an IT team specialized in virtual events or choose a virtual event planning software that comes with 24/7 customer service support.
Event organizers should be looking at metrics to understand the dynamic elements of their event. This might include basic audience data, such as the number of attendees who showed up versus the number that registered, or it might be more detail-rich. A proper virtual event will have an event platform like Accelevents, that, in part, supports ticketing and registration. This platform collects basic personal information about attendees as well as identifying the duration an attendee was at a given presentation, trade show booth, or networking session. This information can be provided to your sponsors, booth presenters, and presenters, but it can also provide critical insight for you as the event organizer. Monitor daily and hourly traffic fluctuations as well so that you know when IT support might be more critical or identify the elements of your event that are received better than others.
While virtual events have many benefits, such as reaching wider audiences and promoting more diverse content, it can be hard to keep your audience as engaged as they would be at a physical event. Virtual events can be engaging, but you must stay tuned to the virtual experience during the event. If you don’t stay on top of engagement, you may be faced with passive audiences or audiences with high abort rates. Tips to focus on for audience engagement during an online event include adding gamification to the event platform, incorporating live polls during presentations, live-tweeting the event on Twitter, developing unique visuals, setting up giveaways, or sharing more about the audience like attendee spotlights. When done right, audiences will not only stay engaged but also retain valuable information from the event.Be sure to set the stage before the event by keeping the audience engaged on social media beforehand. Start a Facebook page as a way to engage with your future attendees there. Good for both marketing and engagement, keeping your event top of mind will help attendees to remember the brand and event experience long after the event has passed.
Since a virtual event relies solely on digital tech for broadcasting, you do not want to “cheap out” when it comes to using a virtual event platform. A high-quality and well-versed virtual event platform can provide you with a lot of benefits and functionality. But, more important than that is that the virtual event platform will make sure that things like tech glitches, poor video quality, and the like are minimal or non-existent. A good digital event platform can also support you with integrations for things like a CRM or marketing platform, as well as provide live chat and customer support.
Sponsors may be your virtual event backbone as they are often the primary source for much of the upfront costs. However you have your event set up, make sure to incorporate your sponsors as much as possible. While they cannot do the heavy lifting in terms of hosting the event, they should be front and center and active in keeping your participants engaged, elevating voices, keeping the sponsorship brand visible, and making sure that the event runs smoothly. After all, both of your brand’s ROI hinges on the success or failure of the event. Make sure your sponsors are aware of what they are buying into. Sponsors should be incorporated into the digital marketing campaign and are usually expected to share event information on their social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Getting a single event under your belt is a big success. If you are running a virtual event or have run one in the past, then congratulations! This is a big endeavor. Hopefully, it has encouraged you to continue to run virtual events. Whether or not you have decided on running more virtual events by the time your event comes around, don’t put it out of the question. Marketers can use the potential of having another event to educate your target audience about your brand and dissuade skeptical crowds from thinking you want to host a one-off event. Running open-ended marketing campaigns around potential long term virtual events can be a benefit even in the short term as potential attendees will feel that your team is more committed to the long term success of everyone involved. And, who knows, maybe you will continue to run a successful virtual event for years after your first one.
Whether this is your first time hosting a virtual event, or you shifted to virtual events due to the recent changes in the event industry, many things can go wrong at a virtual event. On the flip side, there are plenty of things that can go right!When launching your virtual event, you will most likely be producing it remotely. Be prepared with food, water, and ample resources on hand as you will likely be the main touchpoint for event coordinators. When preparing for your next event, consider these virtual event do’s and don’ts before its launch and reach out to Accelevents to learn more about how we can support the success of your planned event!