2020 is the year of the virtual event.
With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, many large and mid-sized businesses have canceled their in-person annual gatherings. However, they have not canceled the opportunity to connect. Instead, they’re connecting with their clients and business partners virtually.
Many of these companies are wading into previously uncharted waters. They have never had a virtual event and they’re figuring out how to make it happen as they go along.
The benefit to you is they’re blogging about it. They’re giving you knowledge that you can take, learn from, and apply to your plans.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is just like an in-person event, but it happens online.
Virtual events aren’t usually affected by location or money restrictions. They can reach anyone in the world as long as he or she can connect to the internet. The attendee doesn’t have to worry about traveling halfway around the world to get to the event. He or she doesn’t need to worry about transportation or accommodations in a foreign city. All he or she needs to worry about is the ability to connect to the internet at the time of the event.
Virtual events are not only cheaper for the attendees, but they are often cheaper for the companies that put them on. You don’t need to book a venue or hire staff to take care of the attendees and that’s a lot of money savings.
Best of all, the data that you receive back from your event can be tremendous. You can track attendance. Tell how many people attend a specific session or how long the average attendee stays in a session. It’s an amazing insight into what your clients and prospective clients want and need.
What do I need to think about when creating a virtual event?
There’s a lot to think about when you plan something as large as a virtual event, but here are some key ones.
Pick the right date and time
Think about your customer. Are most of your customers or target audience located on the East Coast? Or maybe in Europe? You don’t want to start something at 7 p.m. Pacific Time when most of your customers live in the United Kingdom where it’s 3 a.m.
You also need to check the date of your event. Is it on a holiday that will affect attendees? Are there any other big events planned for that day that will attract some of your attendees instead? Does it fall in the middle of a holiday weekend?
You must choose a date and time that is convenient for your customer even if it is not convenient for you.
Remember the constraints of a virtual event
As much as you would like to, it may not be possible to include all of the amazing things in a virtual event that you would have had at an in-person event. That’s okay. Think about what’s going to work best virtually. Hands-on sessions are probably out unless you plan to send each attendee their own kit. You might also have to skip happy hour.
Stick to the items that are going to translate well virtually. Keynote speakers, training, and breakout sessions to start with. Start small and work up from there.
Create a game plan
A game plan is essential for any big event, but where to start? Hootsuite has a great list of questions to jump off from including:
- What kind of experience do you hope to deliver?
- Is the event be live, on-demand, or both?
- Where do I want the content to be seen?
- Do I use gated access or free?
- When is the best time for the event?
- Will you require event registration?
- How will you promote the event?
- Do you plan to work with an advertiser or other partner?
- Will people still have access to the event once it’s over?
- What KPIs and data do you plan to track?
Create a contingency plan for your contingency plan
According to an article on Inc.com, one of the big keys is a contingency plan for your contingency plans. Know that it’s not going to go perfectly and be prepared to pivot. If your next speaker’s computer isn’t working, what will you do? What will you do if the solution doesn’t work either? Being prepared means having a backup plan. If you have a backup plan and you execute it, attendees may not know anything went wrong at all.
Create a strong marketing plan
The word strong seems redundant since all marketing plans should be strong, but it’s added emphasis here. You need to create a word of mouth campaign that will increase attendance. Leverage your social media and encourage sharing. Give your email list time to respond and RSVP.
Your marketing should focus on the value the event offers its attendees. What will they get out of it? How will they be better afterward? What amazing, knowledgeable speakers do you have?
Marketing cannot wait until the last minute. It is the thing that will make or break your virtual event. Marketing for your event needs to be planned out and it needs time to grow. It needs to create a buzz.
Once the virtual event is over, follow-up with attendees. According to AVI-SPL, a company that deals with AV and video communications, one of the biggest things to do is make sure that you check back in with attendees. Send them slides from the events that they attended. Ask them to subscribe to your email list. Follow-up with content about the sessions that they attended.
You made the connection, now make use of it.
This year has been unlike any other and has been challenging for most business owners. For some more great marketing tips on handling this new COVID-19 era, check out this previous post.
Written by Erika Towne