Virtual events have quickly become the norm, so planning them has become a large part of any event creator’s role. Virtual events can be incredibly successful for a number of reasons: not only can you host them from anywhere in the world, but they can save you money, increase engagement with your audience and potential customers, generate leads, build your brand, and help you establish yourself or your clients as industry leaders.
This guide will cover the basics of virtual events, the benefits of planning virtual events as opposed to in-person events, how to plan a virtual event, and how to host a successful virtual event.
From strategy, planning, and marketing to hosting and presenting, follow these hosting event tips and tricks to help you create an incredible virtual event.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is any event that occurs online. This includes webinars, demos, masterclasses, Q&As, panels, and interviews with celebrities or industry leaders. On a broader scale, they can include virtual trade shows, conferences, and company-wide gatherings.
Online events often give the audience direct access to the speakers. This builds trust with attendees and boosts your industry cred as a thought leader. Virtual events can also expand your reach since attendees aren’t required to be in the same physical place. This means planning a virtual event is an opportunity to present your brand to a global audience.
Planning a virtual event
When hosting an online event, there are some new considerations that creators need to keep in mind. Choose the right online platform for hosting your event and make sure you have all of the right technology. An online event is still an event though, and many of the same principles creators refer to when planning an in-person event still apply. We’ve pulled together a list of virtual events best practices, from planning and promotion to hosting and presenting.
1. Understand your audience
When choosing your topic, it’s important to remember that content is king. Your attendees are showing up to learn something, so prioritize what you believe they’ll find most interesting. Stay away from going too broad or vague, and hone in on one specific area.
For example, if you’re targeting dog lovers, focus on one breed you’re particularly knowledgeable about. Then, break down your knowledge about that breed into smaller details that may not be well known. This will help you stay focused and keep your audience interested.
2. Find a speaker
If you’re hosting a virtual event with speakers, make sure they have the right experience to talk about the topic you’ve chosen. Your speakers should hold considerable authority and credibility on the topic.
Do your research on possible speakers to see how they do in a public speaking context. That way, you can vouch for their abilities as a presenter. Not all public speakers have experience or are effective in a virtual setting, so consider requesting videos of the speaker at a previous virtual event. Take notice of how comfortable and equipped the potential speaker is during pre-event virtual meetings and if they seem like the right fit for your event.
3. Work with an events team
Working with a team can make virtual event planning much easier and smoother. With so many moving parts and different strategies to consider as the virtual event planner, it’s worth dedicating time to research and asking your peers what has and hasn’t worked for them. Make time to attend virtual events and take actionable notes to reflect back on when it’s your turn to take the driver’s seat. Add these insights to your event planning checklist.
If you have access to a team, find out who is the most tech-savvy and ask for their assistance. They can help you choose a platform with the right settings and features. On the day of the event, this person can also moderate attendee interactions, and sort out any tech difficulties on the day of your event. If you don’t have access to a team, picking the right platform is critical to minimize glitches on the day. We’ll cover more about choosing the platform later on. If presenting isn’t where you shine, consider having a moderator to present at the virtual event and keep things running smoothly.
4. Choose your format
Once you know your topic, it’s time to choose the virtual format you’re going to use. Test out the options you’re drawn to — or even try out a combination — until you find the one that’s most successful with your audience and easiest for you to implement.
Here are some popular formats:
- Single presenter: One presenter shares their insights or tips.
- Dual presenters: Two presenters can help inform and engage the audience from two different perspectives.
- Panel: Host a group of experts speaking on a specific topic.
- Q&A: Have an expert — or panel of experts — answer the questions your audience asks via social media or chat for maximum engagement.
- Interview: Host a popular influencer as a guest speaker to increase attendance and build your authority.
- Product demo: Promote a product and showcase what you’re selling with a product demonstration or tutorial.
- AMA: Host an “Ask Me Anything” to give your followers an opportunity to get to know you and your brand better.
5. Choose the right platform
When researching the right platform to use for your event, look at the pros and cons of each. Consider your budget, the platform’s features (like recording and survey capabilities), and the number of attendees permitted.
Platform options include Zoom, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, ON24, Webex, and Test Your Tech. Eventbrite’s event management software can easily integrate with many popular streaming or video platforms, and can help you stay organized during every stage of the event planning process.
Once you’ve picked your platform, set up a test. Try out every feature you want to use during your event and record a clip. Get a second opinion on your sound, video quality, backdrop, and anything else that will optimize your event.
6. Pick a time and date
When picking a time and date, think about the day-to-day activities of your audience. If you’re trying to appeal to the 9-to-5 crowd, a busy Monday morning is probably not going to work. But later in the week, when attendees may need a mental break from their workload? Much better.
Keep time zones in mind, too. One of the great advantages to online events is global reach, so if your event has interstate or international appeal, you’ll want to factor that into your start time.
7. Consider monetizing your virtual event
Even if in-person events are off the table, that doesn’t make online events any less valuable. If it fits your online strategy, see where you can raise money, opt for donation tickets, or charge a small fee for an enhanced experience. It’s important to price online events right, so consider how much value you’re providing to your audience and what they would be willing to pay.
If you decide to, you should look for a ticketing partner or payment processor to track who has paid so you can gate your event accordingly. Even if it’s free, you may still want to consider allowing donations or requesting people register for a spot so it’s easier to communicate with attendees and track registrations.
8. Promote your event
Depending on the type of event you’re creating and who you’re marketing to, you might consider creating a landing page. A landing page is an opportunity to get your audience excited about your event, so make sure to include juicy details on what they’ll learn. You can use it to get your attendees to register and provide the who, what, where, and when of your event in a digital format that’s easy to share.
Write a blog post to promote your event in advance. Introduce your inspiration for the event, why it’s relevant to your audience right now, and what they’ll learn. Then, share your blog post on social media to create excitement and drive traffic to register. Remember to use hashtags, or create a branded hashtag of your own, which can work well for attendees to ask questions or post their own content on social media during your event. This increases your audience’s engagement and expands your brand’s reach.
Use an email list to promote your event to your subscribers. Send email reminders to attendees who have already registered, or send them a “thank you for registering” message and then a reminder one or two days before the event, as well as an hour before it starts. Use email after your event to ask attendees for feedback that can be used to improve your next virtual event.
9. Create a script and interesting slides
A good script can make or break your event. Treat your script like a road map that will keep you on the right track. You don’t have to memorize every word you’ll say, but at least have a solid set of bullet points to reference. Try practicing it to sound like you’re naturally speaking off the cuff.
When you’re creating a slide deck, it’s easy to want to cram as much into every slide as will fit. Don’t make this mistake. To keep your audience engaged, use few words, even in bulleted form, on each slide. This will help you avoid the temptation of simply reading the copy on each slide as you’re presenting. Use a recap email to highlight important text instead.
Look through free photo websites like Unsplash and Pexels for striking photos that can illustrate your points. You can also try out different media formats like videos, animations, or PDFs to keep your event entertaining.
10. Do a dry run
Before the day of the presentation, schedule a dry run to prepare. Make sure all of your equipment is working properly, the slides are all in order, and the speakers know what they’re doing so you don’t run into any surprises on the event day.
This is also a great time to assess for background noise during your event. Check out your space to see if there are any potential distracting sounds. Mute notifications for apps running on your computer, and make sure kids and pets can’t access your space while you’re hosting.
Top tips for hosting a successful virtual event
Virtual events are popular, but that doesn’t mean all of them are successful. When planning an event that takes place online, it needs to be truly engaging and provide real value to the audience. We’ve come up with tips for virtual events that will help you plan an event that no one will forget.
Create an online event strategy
When planning a virtual event, it’s essential to understand your audience and come up with an event strategy that will appeal to your potential attendees and lead them to the point of buying a ticket. One of the best virtual event tips is to take the time to plan your strategy. Think about who will be attending your event, what challenges and problems they’re facing, and what their goals are. This will help you to create a strong foundation for a successful virtual event.
It’s also important to align your online event materials with your brand’s aesthetic. You might be thinking of your online events as separate from everything else you do, but it should be a seamless extension of your brand. Use the same logo, colors, fonts, and other graphics or elements that match your brand’s overall style. By doing so, you’ll create a consistent experience for your attendees, and you’ll make your brand more recognizable, too.
Many of your attendees will watch your event on their phones, so it’s important to optimize for a mobile experience when creating your materials. Select a platform with interactive features that support mobile devices so attendees can chime in no matter where they are.
Don’t be late
Your entire presenting team should be ready 10 to 15 minutes before it’s time to go live. If your event is an hour long, block off your calendar for an hour and a half so you have plenty of time to prepare and close down. To save on time, make sure you set the attendees’ microphone default to mute, and ask your audience to limit interactions until the end of the presentation, if necessary.
Sell while you teach
If you’re selling a product or service, don’t wait until the very end to make your offer. In fact, your entire event can be focused on teaching your audience how your product or service can help meet a current need of theirs. Then, when you make an offer, you’re giving them the opportunity to solve an existing challenge.
Prep for a Q&A session
Have a list of prepared questions ready, just in case the audience isn’t as engaged as you expected. If you have a highly engaged audience and run out of time before you’re able to respond to everyone, take the time to follow up with them via email. This is a great way to further strengthen your connection with attendees well after your event has ended.
End on a call to action
Don’t let your attendees sign off without telling them what steps to take next. If you want them to sign up for a limited-time offer or download a special report, provide them with the link during your event and send it in your follow-up email, too.
Make sure your offering is straightforward and easy to buy, a great deal that saves them time or money, something they can’t get anywhere else, or only available either during your event or for a limited time (such as 24 to 72 hours after the event).
Send a post-event survey
If you’re dying to know how your event went over with your attendees, ask them! With tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, you can ask your attendees to share their opinions with a quick survey. Their feedback can provide valuable insights into how and what to improve.
Track your results
Remember to track your metrics. How many attendees are registered? Where did your registrations mostly come from? How many attended? And how many minutes did they spend watching your event?
Getting your data and analyzing it is key to making your online events even more awesome. You can also present this data to sponsors as you prepare for your next event.
Get started with virtual events planning resources
If you’re excited to start planning your next virtual event, but you’re not sure what platform to use, check out Eventbrite’s virtual events platform. Easily connect to streaming platforms, sell tickets, and more.