New to online event organization? You might be feeling a little panicked at the idea of holding a virtual event. After all, they’re completely different from live events, so you might as well throw out everything you know about event planning—right? Actually, the opposite is true. If you’re wondering, how do you plan a virtual event, the answer is: in almost the same way as an in-person event. There are some differences, of course, but much of what you know about live events is applicable to virtual events too.
1. Start with What You Already Know
If you’ve organized live events before, you’re already halfway towards knowing how to plan a virtual event. Most of the concepts that are important at live events are also important at virtual ones. So, it’s just a matter of shifting your focus from the physical to the online environment.
There is a learning curve for your first virtual event, but it’s not as steep as you might think. For each aspect of a live event, there’s a corresponding aspect to an online event. You may not have a traditional venue to organize, but you do have a virtual event space. You still have an audience, sponsors, exhibitors, and content to organize. Some points to consider include:
- What kind of experience do you want to create?
- Will your event be live or pre-recorded?
- Is registration required, or is your event open to public access?
- How and where will you promote the event?
- Will you have event sponsors and/or exhibitors?
- Will content continue to be available after the event is over?
- What relevant data will you gather before, during, and after the event?
- What metrics will you track? What are your KPIs?
Make sure to also consider the date and time of the event. There should be no major or competing events that conflict with your preferred dates. While people can attend your event from the comfort of their home on Christmas Eve, for instance, it’s not likely that they will.
If you’re going for a national or global audience, remember that time zones will come into play. You may want to offer multiple sessions for live content or make content available after the initial live session.
2. Consider Your Audience to Define Your Event
For any kind of event, whether live or virtual, it’s your audience who defines what the event will be. What does your audience want from an event? What content do you need to offer to make your event essential for that audience?
Start by thinking about the format of the event. What kinds of content will you include? Live events often include speakers, workshops, and similar kinds of content in addition to exhibitor and sponsor booths. You can offer modified versions of the same kinds of content at an online event.
If you’ve previously held a live event that you’re now pivoting to an online environment, consider that your target audience may be larger as a result. It’s much cheaper and more convenient to attend an online event than a live one. People who avoided live events for these reasons or because of COVID-19 might be more likely to attend if your event is online, which may mean a larger audience with an expanded demographic.
To collect up-to-date demographic information, ask attendees to complete a post-registration survey. This will help you determine what your audience is like, so you can provide tailored content.
3. Pick an Event Platform/Venue
Once you have these initial questions answered, you can start to look at virtual event platforms. It’s important to consider event content first, however, because you’ll need to pick a platform that can support the kind of content you want to produce. Once you know about the content you plan to offer, you can look for an event platform that meets your needs. The simplest solution is an all-in-one platform that can host the event and provide tech support for content providers and attendees.
Another question to consider at this point is whether you need a virtual event venue. If you’re running a simple webinar, you may not. Instead of a venue, you might have a website with video conferencing built in. The next step up would be a 2D virtual platform that provides a flat view of rooms like a lobby and networking areas. But if you’re planning a more creative event or large conference, you may want a 3D immersive platform that attendees can explore and engage with in a more visually stimulating experience. With both 2D and 3D platforms, you will choose from standard templates or have customized venues created.
4. Content Creation: Find Sponsors, Exhibitors, and Speakers
All events need good content to attract attendees, but with virtual events, your content really needs to be valuable and engaging. It’s harder to keep people interested in virtual event content simply because you have more competition. At in-person events, attendees are focused on what’s happening around them at the event venue. During a virtual event, your competition is the entire internet. Add in the fact that people are attending from home or work, and there’s a lot of distraction that can pull attention away from your content. So it has to be good.
- Focus on adding engaging content that encourages attendee participation – It’s important to keep audience engagement high, and providing ways to participate in the event is a good way of doing this.
- Look for speakers who are experienced with online presenting – They should not only be good speakers, they also have to know how to interact with and engage an online audience.
- Put together sponsorship and exhibitor packages that play up the benefits of going online – Virtual events have plenty of sponsorship opportunities, plus the ability to gather high-quality attendee data.
5. Promote Your Event
Once you start planning your event content schedule, you can also start promoting the event. As with any in-person event, the content you’re providing is a key reason for attendees to participate. Your event promotion should focus on the most important selling points, such as content, speakers, or networking opportunities. Any marketing content you create, whether it’s emails, social media posts, or anything else, should make it clear that you’re offering content attendees will find valuable.
6. Schedule a Rehearsal
Before your event goes live, run a rehearsal so you can iron out any technical issues that arise. This will give your speakers and other presenters the chance to test the event platform and their equipment if they’re working from their own home or workspace.
Good Planning Makes a Great Event
Events of all kinds require a methodical approach to planning. When it comes to planning a virtual event, the same holds true. Pay careful attention to preparation and planning to improve your event, engage your audience, and ensure a good ROI for you and your sponsors.
Our team of experts can help fill in the gaps of your planning or take care of it all. Contact us to learn more!