Virtual Event Management: Adapting to the New Normal
If someone suggested hosting virtual events a few years ago, you probably would have ignored it. Fast forward to the post-pandemic world, and virtual events are the latest trends in the meetings and events industry. According to Statista, virtual events have increased in popularity by 35% since 2020, while hybrid and in-person events decreased by 32% in 2020.
Whether it is a one-hour long webinar or an elaborate multi-day conference, the events industry has quickly adapted to this new normal. And they have also realized the benefits of virtual events for the marketing team—higher attendance and leads, greater reach, better data tracking, and lower planning costs! This is why 61% of marketers intend to boost their investment in online events in 2022, and 87% marketers believe that the leads generated from virtual events are a success.
So, how do you plan and host stellar virtual events? What are its key elements? How do you engage attendees and track data? Read on as we address some of these questions in our complete guide to virtual event management.
What Is a Virtual Event?
Virtual events replicate the experience of an in-person event in an online setup. These allow you to attend or host a global conference, trade shows, or product launches virtually, using a mobile or a laptop and a steady internet connection.
Due to the growing sophistication of virtual event management solutions, online events provide the near-same experience of a physical event, such as networking, breakout sessions, and sponsorship opportunities.
Major Elements of Virtual Events
The average human has an attention span of eight seconds, forcing event organizers to create content that grabs immediate attention. In a world where virtual events are on the rise, planners need to stand out and create events that quickly appeal to their audiences. No wonder virtual events can be hard to execute without proper tools and strategy.
Building an event centered around attendee engagement, content, and data is essential to cutting through the noise.
Virtual events comprise many elements as any other physical event, including event agenda and speakers. Even though such events save F&B costs, they demand top-notch video production quality and event websites along with steady internet connectivity.
Here are the other elements that comprise a virtual event:
- Event website: Build a beautiful, branded website that provides all event-related information to potential participants.
- Event registration: Sell tickets or generate leads by allowing attendees to confirm their participation through online event registration.
- Live presentation content: Create engaging sessions, presentations, and speaker profiles that add value and bring attendees a step closer to your brand.
- Live, one-way audio/video: Use the right virtual event management platform that allows screen sharing and one- or two-way communication between attendees and speakers.
- Question and answer: Give attendees a chance to ask questions to speakers and panelists and stay involved throughout the event.
- Live polling: Increase attendee engagement through live polling while also gaining valuable insights into your attendees’ preferences and behavior.
- Recorded video/ audio content: Record your event, send it to no-shows, promote on digital platforms or repurpose it for marketing other events in the future.
- Interactive video conferencing: Encourage networking among attendees and allow them to have 1:1 meetings during the breakout sessions.
- Feedback surveys: Understand the pulse of your attendees through feedback surveys and measure the performance of your event.
How to Host a Virtual Event
Nailing the execution of a virtual event is not easy, especially if you do not have prior experience planning such events. Here are the steps to keep in mind when planning virtual events for your brand.
1. Set Clear Goals
You need to have a compelling reason to host a virtual event—big or small. When you know the reason, it is easy to create a strategy, execute the actual event, and create an immersive experience for the participants.
However, setting goals is only the first step to planning an event. Create ways to measure the event success—what are the key metrics, and how will you track them?
2. Decide the Format and Theme
Finalize the format of the virtual event based on your goal and purpose. Decide the event theme, design, timing, speaker topics, and attendee engagement opportunities. You can host a webinar or an online conference depending on your budget and event goal.
3. Fix a Date and Identify Your Target Audience
Understand the target audience for the event based on your theme. Are you planning a B2B or a B2C event? Is it for the c-suite or techies? Can anyone join it? Will it be paid or a free event? These questions will help you understand your audience. The next step is to set a date, time, and day.
If the event spans an audience from multiple geographies, then keep in mind different time zones and set the time accordingly.
4. Finalize the Speakers
Reach out to speakers who you think align with the theme of your event. Collate all speaker ideas before reaching out to the shortlisted ones. Reach out to the speakers well in advance since you will face rejections, no responses, and time constraints. There is also a possibility that several speakers will seek monetary compensation for their time. Use your judgment to decide which ones to go after based on your budget.
5. Shortlist a Virtual Event Platform
To replicate the experience of a face-to-face event, select the right event management platform that is easy to use for not only you but also your attendees. The right platform will depend on your event format. For instance, if you are hosting a webinar, Zoom can be a great option. Similarly, if you are hosting an event that feels like an offline event, consider a more comprehensive solution that has breakout sessions and lounges.
6. Promote Your Event
This is a no-brainer. You cannot expect people to know about your event unless you promote it. You can run social media campaigns, send emails, and do other digital ads. Ask your guest speakers, if you have any, to promote it from their social media accounts. Create some share-worthy content for social media, use hashtags, do outreach campaigns, and use your email signature to promote the event.
7. Monetize Your Event With Sponsorship
Getting sponsors for your first virtual event might be difficult but not impossible. With a sleek presentation and a clear value proposition, gaining sponsorship may be easier. In the presentation deck, mention “what is in it for the sponsors?” Having sponsors can help you improve the ROI of your event and offset the fee of guest speakers.
8. Plan Content in Advance
Plan all the speaker introductions, agenda, in-event demos and videos, live polling, and other event-related content. Create some questions for the speaker in advance. If you don’t see as much engagement during the event as expected, then someone from your team can ask those questions.
9. Do a Dry Run
Do a test run of the event before the actual day to eliminate any chances of technical glitches and ensure everything runs smoothly. While testing the event, look out for the camera position, light, internet connectivity, and voice quality, among other things.
Ways To Engage Attendees at Virtual Events
Networking is one of the many reasons why people prefer attending events. However, with online events replacing physical ones, engaging attendees has become the biggest challenge for event planners. It is often a challenge to replace physical happy hours and one-on-one appointments with online sessions that are engaging and worth attendees’ time.
To create virtual events that are as engaging as offline events, you can try these tactics:
- Open up each session for live polling and Q&A.
- Use a mobile event app to allow attendees to create their profiles for networking before, during, and after the event.
- Mobile apps can also be a preferred networking platform that enables attendees to schedule meetings with one another, exhibitors, or sponsors.
- Set dedicated networking timings and create breakout rooms and lounges where attendees can meet.
- Gamify events to generate buzz and keep attendees on their toes. Create an online treasure hunt or an ice-breaker session.
- Integrate your mobile app with social media to boost engagement. Use a unique hashtag and ask attendees to post exciting updates such as the best takeaway from the event and office setup, using a hashtag.
- Create contests with a leaderboard to keep everyone involved.
- Create feedback surveys to show how much you value your attendees’ time and presence.
The possibilities for engaging attendees at virtual events are endless!
Analyzing Data from Virtual Events
Now that you know how to plan virtual events, it is time to make sense of all the data collected. Tracking and analyzing data is critical to measuring the performance of events. And the most significant advantage of a virtual event is that it uses technology that captures all the digital touchpoints of attendees, giving you access to data like never before.
# Before the Event
Tracking pre-event metrics is almost the same as it is for physical events. Email opens, click-through-rates, the total number of registrations, social media engagement are all just as relevant. All the pre-event data will give you insights into who is interested in your event, if you are appealing to the right audience, and how effective your event marketing strategy is.
# During the Event
Compared to live events, tracking data during the event is more accessible in a virtual setup. You can measure main KPIs such as how many people attended the event and for how long. Additionally, you can use features such as live polling, feedback, and Q&A to understand in real time the effectiveness of your content.
# After the Event
Once the event is over, send surveys to collect attendee feedback based on the data collected during the event. Personalize the survey as much as you can. Use the feedback and other data points to clearly understand areas of improvement for your next event.
Integrating Marketing with Virtual Events
Having virtual events as part of your event marketing strategy is worth all the effort. You can create almost the same experience as an in-person event with the right technology and strategy. Virtual events can help you increase brand awareness and deliver engaging and informative experiences to an audience anywhere around the world.
Start planning your events today with Growth Natives. Our experienced experts can help you promote your event, measure the performance, and prove the ROI of your marketing efforts. You can write to us at email@example.com.