The quarantine periods and social distancing regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused the cancellations of many live, in-person events throughout 2020 and 2021, and many of these events have been replaced by virtual events as the result.
Soon enough, however, many businesses and event planners realized the unique benefits provided by these online events: it’s cheaper and easier to organize, and in a virtual event we can invite attendees and even speakers from all around the world without having to worry about geographical limitations and travel arrangements.
As a result, everyone is now doing virtual events, and many businesses have started leveraging these events as a powerful lead generation tool. In short, virtual events are here to stay, and the virtual event industry is only going to be more competitive.
So, are you currently looking to plan your first virtual event but don’t know where to start? Or are you simply looking for ways to improve your next virtual event?
You’ve come to the right place, and here we will share some of the most important best practices that are going to help you plan, organize, and manage your next virtual event to maximize attendance and success.
Let us begin.
The earlier, the better
The golden rule of planning an event is, the earlier, the better.
Although in virtual events you’ll have more leniency as opposed to planning a live event, it’s still important to make sure you have enough time to plan and manage the virtual events.
At the very least, you should prepare 6 weeks in advance to prepare and promote the virtual event. For larger events, however, you should prepare 2 to 4 months in advance to ensure enough preparations and maximize registrations.
Plan your technology stack carefully
In a live event, your venue is one of, if not the most important element of your event that will dictate many other aspects. In a virtual event, it’s your technology solutions, and especially the virtual event platform that you choose. If you plan to live stream your content, you may also need to decide on a live streaming platform and the necessary equipment.
For promotions, email marketing/digital marketing solutions, as well as a social media management tool may also be interesting investments.
You should also prepare and test your equipment in advance: webcam, microphones, additional cameras, encoder, and other pieces of equipment as required. Make sure everything is working properly, since malfunctions and glitches, even minor ones, can hurt your reputation badly and may prevent attendees from returning to your future events. \
Know your target audience
This might be a cliché, but it’s very important to really know and understand who the target audience of the virtual event is in order to plan an attractive event.
It’s best to start by defining the purpose of the event. For some events, the purpose and objectives may be fairly clear, but that might not be the case for others.
Once you’ve identified the purpose of the event, the next step is to identify the most ideal audience that can help you achieve this purpose.
The better you understand this audience, the better you can plan your event.
Develop a buyer persona, and gather as much information about your target audience’s demographics, behaviors, interests, and pain points. Use this information to plan your event.
Remember that in a virtual event, you can invite attendees from other countries all around the world, so you are no longer limited to geographical location. However, if you are planning to target international or even global attendees, take factors like language differences, cultural barriers, and different time zones into account.
Content is everything
In live events like in-person conferences or concerts, we can leverage many potential selling points to attract attendees and maintain engagement: venue location and/or interior, decoration, great foods, opportunity to meet new people, and so on.
In a virtual event? Not so much, and practically we can only rely on our content.
It’s important to design your event’s content carefully based on your target audience’s needs and preferences (as discussed above), and you should:
- Pick a relevant and relatively narrow theme
- Decide on the best possible event format to cover this theme/topic
- Plan on an effective structure that will support the delivery of this topic
- Plan speakers/talents that are best in covering this topic
- Plan every single detail of the content delivery
Choosing the right speakers and talents
Similar to the fact that you can invite attendees from all around the world, another key benefit in hosting a virtual event is the fact that you can invite speakers from anywhere in the world without having to worry about additional travel and accommodation costs.
However, go back to your event’s purpose and your target audience’s preferences when choosing the ideal speakers/talents for your event.
Develop a marketing plan
How you promote your virtual event can literally make or break its success. If you can’t attract enough attendees, then the virtual event is a failure.
Don’t underestimate the required time to successfully promote a virtual event either, so plan your marketing efforts early.
Explore the available marketing channels: write and send out an event press release, explore social media marketing options, and email marketing is always your friend.
Don’t forget cybersecurity
With the rise of virtual events in popularity, more and more cybercriminals are targeting virtual events.
If your virtual event’s security is compromised, it can hurt your company’s reputation, often permanently. Not to mention you might also need to deal with various financial risks and legal liabilities.
Choose your virtual event platform and supporting technologies carefully, and make sure to have a cybersecurity plan in place to support your virtual event.
While organizing a virtual event can be challenging, with the best practices we’ve shared above, you now have a solid foundation on how to plan a virtual event and maximize attendance.
The most important thing to consider when planning your event is to know your event’s purpose and identify the right audience that can help you achieve your objectives.