With the dramatic influx of Zoom meetings taking over in-person conferences, virtual events are becoming the new norm for businesses. Creating a brand community is still integral to the success of your business, so creatively working around restrictions and regulations can be a great way to build consumer relationships. In this article, we hope to answer all your questions and provide some event ideas for your company to work with when planning your virtual events.
What Is A Virtual Event?
While online conferences were around well before the pandemic, virtual events have increased dramatically in popularity over the past year and a half. A virtual event like a webinar is like a regular seminar, but the content and sessions take part in an online venue, rather than in person. These events can include Q &As, live-streamed concerts, networking expos, industry conferences, or even something as simple as a poetry reading.
One of the biggest benefits of hosting virtual events is the saved costs associated with it. Instead of spending your budget on food, rentals, and venues, you can focus more on advertising and finding hosts for your events. While there will still be costs that come with hosting a webinar or online conference, there will also be plenty of costs cut.
From In-Person To At-Home
What once needed extensive planning, a large venue, hotel bookings, and millions of single-use plastics can now be done with a computer screen, a microphone, and a stable internet connection. When you decide to host virtual events, you will find that there is a lot more to it than just getting people signed up. While there is obviously much more to virtual event planning, there is a sort of ease that comes with events that are solely online. All that being said, here are some tips for virtual event planning that can help you take your events to the next level.
5 Tips For Planning A Virtual Event
If your company is new to the virtual event planning scene, you may be finding it difficult to organize and prepare ahead of time. As with any conference or event, there will likely be questions flooding in from vendors, attendees, and sponsors, and you may be overwhelmed with information.
There are so many things to figure out – from the event platform and format to the date and time of the conference. Maybe you are out of ideas and need some inspiration from your brand community. So, to plan and run a successful virtual event, you should take a few key steps to ensure that everything goes according to plan.
1. Choose Your Topic Wisely
While virtual events like webinars and online conferences may give you a bit more freedom, you still do not want to overwhelm your participants with too many programs, speakers, or topics. Depending on your business, you will want to focus on one or two main ideas. For example, if you’re a university hosting a meet and greet with a networking component, you could narrow it down to networking in the trades or the medical field. Narrowing down the topics and event ideas can help with registration and can increase audience engagement.
Know What Your Audience Wants
Choosing a topic can actually be harder than it seems. To get an idea of what your audience wants, you may survey your social media followers, send an email out to your email subscribers asking for what topics they’d like to see covered, or you can look at what other companies in your industry are doing. Maybe your followers want a Q & A session with a speaker instead of another session with more content. Or, maybe they are really excited about the open discussion forum but not the workshops. These kinds of insights can act as a guide and help you ensure that the audience has a great experience at your webinar or virtual conference.
2. Plan Your Speakers and Sessions
When you’ve chosen your topic, you can begin to curate speakers and organize content that fits into your virtual event. This content is key to your virtual event and can help bring in your target audience. Think about music festival posters – a lot of them have the big-name bands in larger print. This is because these organizers know that those bands are going to bring in a large number of attendees.
Excite Your Audience to Increase Engagement
For your virtual events, you can follow the same idea: curate speakers and plan presentations that engage your audience and bring in more people. You will want to really consider the experiences of the attendees and how you can keep the audience interested throughout the entire virtual event.
Some other sessions can include a discussion forum, a meet and greet, and introductions to the organizations that are sponsoring the event. These events allow your audience members to interact with each other and ask questions. While all of these sessions would happen on a computer screen, they can still have a great impression on the viewer and can make for a successful virtual event.
Use an Event Planner
To help you organize and host a virtual event, you may find that event management software can help make sure everything runs smoothly and that nothing overlaps. If more technology isn’t your thing, hiring an in-person planner can also help you out.
3. Choose Your Platform and Host
Once you’ve chosen your topic, the next step is to determine what platform you are going to use to host a virtual event. To determine this, you will have to think about a few different factors. You will want to think about the demographic and size of your audience, the type of experience you want the audience to have, and the types of sessions that are in your event.
Types of Platforms
Some ideas for your events platforms could include Google Meet, Zoom, Hopin, vFairs, Instagram, Facebook, or any other event platform. There are a lot of different ways you can take your event, and they all come down to what community you are trying to reach with your virtual event. You might not want to introduce new software to an audience full of seniors and you may not want to host a virtual event for teens on Facebook. Asking questions about your target audience is something you can do to help you choose your platform.
4. Pick Your Date and Time
Once the other aspects and the main content of your conference has fallen into place, the next step is to settle on a date and time for your events. While this might be a job for one of your event planners, your company will also have to work with schedules and time zones in order to figure out the perfect time and date for the webinar. Your audience engagement and experience will not be great if you host the event when it is 3 am where your followers live. Thanks to advanced event management software, choosing a time and date might not take as long as you think.
Allow for Flexibility
Because the setting is online, this allows for more flexibility when it comes to the date and time. Depending on the type of events that you host, your audience may be able to filter in and out depending on their schedules. This is an option for a Q &A session or a series of workshops throughout the day.
5. Get the Word Out There
Advertising your event is crucial to getting registrations and attendees. If no one knows about your event, no one is going to show up and your event planning will be for nothing. Advertising can take place through a variety of channels. It could be through a series of social media posts, advertisements on your website landing page, emails to your subscribers, or even formal invitations.
As hosts, the majority of the advertising effort comes from you. That being said, your sponsors or partners may also get the word out there to a different audience and reach even more people. Your advertising and marketing are some of the most important ways to get people to register for your event, so you have to make sure that it’s done well. One way or another, you have to get the word out there!
Use An Event Hashtag
Another strong advertising trick that businesses and organizations use is an event hashtag. Not only will the hashtag help filter the posts from attendees, but it can also help create energy and community surrounding the event. Think of the hashtag like your event’s slogan – it should grasp the main concept of your event in a simple word or phrase.
If you have businesses sponsoring the event, you can even get them to use the hashtag on their social media posts as a way to make the event more cohesive. This is just one of the many ways you can get the word out there about your conference, webinar, or other virtual events.
After all the pieces have fallen into place, you can run successful events. If you’re completely new to the virtual event realm, there may be some trial and error. But, as you host more webinars and online conferences, you will find that planning and organizing get easier. The best way to know if something works is to try it out.
Merged Media Has Your Back
Planning an online conference, webinar, or live stream can be a hassle. It takes a lot of organization and preparation for everything to come together. If hosting and planning isn’t your thing, Merged Media is here to help. Our team of experts can help you organize your virtual event from conception to implementation. Like you, we want your future events to be successful.