With the upheaval of events for the whole of 2020, virtual has become a new norm. Organisations and businesses around the world have transformed their live physical events into a visually rich virtual space. The unforecasted advent of the global pandemic has been a catalyst for the sudden transformation of event formats.
Exponential growth in the percentage of virtual events has been witnessed in 2020 over the past few years. Virtual events are not new, they have been prevalent for a long time. Organisations that are widespread across the globe are utilising virtual event technology to connect with remote workforce and global delegates for a long time. COVID-19 outbreak motivated organisations who never hosted virtual events to take their live physical events on the digital media. Transforming in-person events into a virtual format is the only option left with organisations to sail through the challenging times.
Today, right from day to day meetings, conferences to AGMs, Town halls, trade fairs, exhibitions, and all the other physical events are hosted on a comprehensive virtual event platform. The number of increasing virtual event platforms nowadays indicates the future of the event industry lies within virtual hybrid events. To ensure a successful virtual event, leveraging the right technology and creating an effective virtual event strategy is a must. It helps in achieving optimal outcomes and boosts revenues for businesses. Selecting the best virtual event platform entirely depends on the business needs and requirements.
Every day marketers and planners are coming up with creative and innovative ideas to engage the audience with virtual events. Whether you have already hosted a virtual event or planning to host a virtual event, this article is for you. In this post, we have briefly enumerated how to host successful virtual event to achieve desired outcomes. Let’s get started!
What are Virtual Events?
An online event where people interact in a visually rich virtual environment over the web with an experience alike physical event.
A virtual event is defined as an online event organised over an online digital space instead of a physical on-site venue. It enables attendees from around the world to connect and network seamlessly in real-time from their remote locations.
Type of Virtual Events
- Virtual Exhibitions & Expo
- Virtual Conferences
- Virtual Award Shows
- Virtual Trade Fairs
- Virtual Networking Fairs
- Virtual R&R events
- Virtual Jobs and Career Fairs
- Virtual Product Launches
- Virtual Talk Shows
- Virtual Meetings (AGMs, Town halls, congress, conclaves, etc.)
A comprehensive virtual events platform enables you to host any type of virtual event with accuracy and efficiency.
Reasons to Host a Virtual Event
Virtual events are organised with the same agenda as offline events to deliver the company’s message, boost engagements, foster connections, generate more qualified leads, and drive business revenues.
Virtual events offer enormous benefits when compared to traditional event formats. We have listed a few reasons to transform your live physical events into a virtual event format. Without wasting any time let’s quickly sum it up:
- Enhanced reach
- Better accessibility
- Increased participation and engagement
- Reduced costs
- Improved ROI
- Reduction in carbon emissions
- Data tracking to measure performance metrics
How to Host Virtual Events? – Before, During & After Event
Whether you are planning to organize virtual hybrid events or in-person events, all types of events come with certain challenges. As in-person events may face various issues during the setup, virtual events may even have technical hiccups. To prevent any technical glitch during a virtual event we have listed the effective tips to host a successful virtual event, have a look:
- Determine the objective of hosting a virtual event
Identifying the purpose of organising a virtual event is a must. Whether you are planning to host a virtual event to enhance your brand visibility? Or to boost business revenues? Or you want to showcase your product offerings to a wide spectrum of global audiences Or want to host a virtual fair to tap the top talent across the globe Or want to simply organise a virtual conference with global delegates? In short, the objective of hosting a virtual event should be clear in the mind of the presenter to create an effective virtual event strategy.
- Create an effective virtual event strategy
Once you have determined the goal of hosting a virtual event, creating an effective virtual event strategy is a must. Whether you are planning to organise virtual hybrid events on a large scale or a small-scale, having a strategy is a must. If you create a game plan for your virtual event beforehand, it helps in delivering a successful virtual event with optimal results. Before creating any strategy answer the following questions to yourself and plan the strategy accordingly:
a) Will your virtual event be live, on-demand, or a mix of both?
b) Where do you like your content to be seen?
c) Will the access to your virtual event be free or gated?
d) What is the best time for hosting an event?
e) Do you need event registration for your upcoming virtual event?
f) What measures will you undertake to promote and market your virtual event?
g) Is your virtual event available on-demand if attendees missed it?
h) What KPIs and data are you planning to track and record?
- Create a budget
Outlining a budget is a must whether you are planning a physical or a virtual event. Create a budget for your event before leveraging the technology. The cost of the venue, accommodation, travelling, event setup, and more gets completely escalated with virtual events. The major investment with virtual events lies in investing in the right virtual event platform and promotions. Segment the budget accordingly before proceeding further.
- Leverage the right technology
Selecting the right virtual event platform is a must to host a successful virtual event. Out of many virtual event players available in the market, select a platform that offers a list of comprehensive features like access control, virtual networking tables, digital footprinting etc. Look for a platform that offers various features:
a) Live chat audio/video chat capabilities to enable attendees to interact in real-time same as in-person events.
b) Engaging tools such as live polls, Q&A, social wall, quizzes, contests, etc. to keep attendees engaged throughout the event.
c) Data measuring capabilities to measure the success of the event.
d) Digital footprinting to track every attendee move right from start to finish.
e) Customisable services suiting business requirements.
f) On-demand video content
g) Easy registration and navigation
h) Browser-based solution
i) Real-time support
- Promote the upcoming virtual event
Promoting the event is a must to amplify attendance at your virtual event. It does not matter how good and informative your event is, if your attendees are not aware it will not result in anything. Identify the key selling points of your upcoming virtual event to promote and market your virtual event. Create a promotion plan in advance to boost attendance and engagements at the event to achieve desired set goals. Leverage social media marketing to make your attendees aware of your upcoming event. Apart from social media integration, public relations, sending direct mails, running ads works well in promoting your upcoming virtual event. In short, promoting your next event in advance helps in amplifying attendee enrolment and engagement.
- Select the date and time according to your attendees
Keeping time zone considerations in mind is a must if you target global attendees. Select a date and time that allows maximum attendees to participate in the virtual event. While selecting the date and time for your event do a little research beforehand. Make sure your event does not clash with other competing events on the same day. It will directly affect the attendance at your event.
- Get yourself prepared for any technical hiccups
Before getting kickstarted with your virtual event, be ready with a plan B. As physical events may result in having hitches, virtual events can also result in having last-minute technical hiccups. Before going live, check your internet connection and technical equipment to deliver a smooth and seamless experience. If possible, run a dry test beforehand. It helps you in identifying the persisting problems thus leaving you with time to fix it. Additionally, you can prepare a FAQs page anticipating the troubles that people might experience during the event.
- Educate your performers/speakers beforehand
Have an induction with your guest speakers and performers of the event before going live. Make them familiar with the event format and offer any help if they need it in terms of technology. Guide them on how to proceed ahead and handle the unexpected issues that occur during the event.
- Educate virtual attendees about virtual events
Not every attendee is tech-savvy and the concept of virtual events may be new to some. Educating your attendees about the virtual event basics at the start of the event helps them to easily navigate throughout the event. As soon as your event starts, share a quick reference guide with attendees enumerating the basic procedure about how to access virtual sessions, get breaks, and much more. It helps attendees to get better clarity of the virtual events and to navigate the hotspots that hold the most value to them.
- Create engagement opportunities during the virtual event
Create engagement opportunities during virtual events to keep attendees hooked throughout the event. You can gain audience opinions by organising live polls, surveys, Q&A sessions, etc. Additionally, you can evoke an element of fun and excitement to your event by organising games, contests, quizzes. It helps in boosting your virtual attendee engagement while keeping them interested in the event throughout.
- Personalised interactions with different networking formats
In-person events allow attendees to have face-to-face interaction and foster bonds, but virtual events are not far behind. Virtual events have closely replicated the essence of in-person events.
Enable your attendees to have personalised conversions with other attendees, hosts, speakers, and exhibitors in real-time same as traditional events. Motivate your attendees at virtual events to have free-flowing conversations via different networking formats offered by the virtual events platform. Some of the most famous virtual networking formats are:
a) Live audio/video chats
b) 1:1 networking
c) Group networking
d) AI matchmaking
e) Virtual networking tables
f) Business card exchange
g) Whatsapp chat integration
Motivating attendees at an event to have personalised conversations via different networking formats helps in boosting engagements.
- Introduce breakout sessions during the virtual event
If your event is going to last for more than 45 minutes, introducing breakout sessions amid virtual events is a brilliant move. It allows attendees to get relaxed and refreshed. Breakout sessions offer a chance for attendees to interact with other attendees and have discussions using social media walls. Social media Aggregator curates all the feed across social media channels thus boosting engagements.
- Gather feedback from attendees
Once your event gets over, do not forget to gather feedback from your attendees. Send a follow-up survey to all the attendees via email. Ask them to share their insights about what they enjoyed the most at the event and what does not hold their interest. It helps in knowing the most engaging hotspots at the event and the areas that need improvement for future events.
- Share clips from your virtual events across social media channels
Promote your virtual event on social media channels once it gets over. Share the top highlights of your event on the digital network. It allows you to tap new audiences who were not part of the event but can be a prospective audience for future events.
If you are new to virtual events and planning to host one? The above-mentioned steps are sure to help you out to host a successful virtual event and deliver life-like experiences to attendees.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on 9 December and since then is updated for relevancy.