Running an event online is now the norm

Online events have become a staple of the business and education sectors. With the market for virtual events expected to grow for the foreseeable future, we’ve put together some virtual event tips to help make your event a success.

Some of the biggest events in the world are going virtual. The number and quality of free and affordable online event tools has also increased, meaning that virtual events are now a practical solution for individuals and businesses of all sizes.

If you weren’t already sold, there can be several benefits to virtual events, such as decreased costs, higher attendance, greater accessibility, and an international reach. Read on for some tips on bringing your virtual event to life!

10 virtual event tips

1) Choose the right software for you – Ensure you are comfortable with the main platform that you decide to use, and take time to test with colleagues before you plan your virtual event. Many of the major virtual event platforms have test run functionality, and it can be useful to do a dry run.

2) Use an engaging theme – Have a clear focus for the event, ideally with a selling point for would-be attendees. If you have any meetings or events already in the works, use the digital platform to push ahead and adapt these to a digital style.

3) Shout about it – Make sure that you make full use of the suite of marketing tools at your disposal, use your social media channels, company website and your database to reach out. Let as many people as possible know about your event and ensure you send out regular reminders before the due date so people don’t forget to join in.

4) Get creative – Bringing something new to the table will help your event stand out. Use this as an opportunity to get creative. Whether you want to inject some fun into the event, or use it as an opportunity to bring a community together, this will play a key part in the success and longevity of your campaign. We love this compilation for Rotterdam’s Philharmonisch Orkest.

5) Ask for feedback – Being flexible and listening to feedback will help shape any successful future virtual events. Be honest and share your experiences with others, make a list of what worked and what fell short. Get attendees’ perspective with a follow up message, thanking them and asking for feedback.  

6) Collaborate with other companies – Whether it be with your own clients, organisations similar to yours or businesses that compliment your offering, this is a sure way to save costs, double your audience and add value and engagement to your event. It may also be possible to secure sponsors,  who can further promote the event as well as financially supporting it.

7) Repurpose content – make sure you record the event and post it onto your website, send links to the event via newsletters and promote after the event via your social media channels. Much of the content can later be broken down into articles, blogs, tweets and LinkedIn posts. One significant event could generate enough content, if planned properly, to last for many weeks.

8) Have an agenda – Plan each part of the day, and know how long everything is expected to take. Have someone on hand to make sure everything is on track, particularly if you have external guests whose time you don’t want to waste. Communicate this schedule to attendees before the event, as more people may be tempted to attend even if they don’t stay for the duration.

9) Plan for things going wrong – Make sure you have moderators who are authorised to remove anyone or anything disruptive. You might also want to prepare a backup platform to move to, in case there is an issue with your first choice.

10) Make it interactive – Just because it’s not in person doesn’t mean it shouldn’t feel like it. Take questions from attendees, create smaller breakout rooms for networking, or have your guests take part in activities.

Tools for hosting a virtual event

You likely already have the essential tools needed, but here’s a quick rundown of virtual event tools available:

  • Event hosting platform – There are lots of video conferencing platforms to choose from, although the biggest names have all of the features that most events will require. We are currently using Zoom but there are lots of others depending on your needs including Google Hangouts and Skype. More can be found here at Virtual Event Platforms.
  • Webcam and microphone – Most modern laptops come with these built in. However, you may wish to purchase them separately. This can provide a better quality image and sound. 
  • A good internet connection – If you have an unreliable internet connection, you should try and fix this well in advance of an event. Some methods could be to use an ethernet cable rather than wireless, switch providers, upgrade your service, or reduce the number of people using the same internet connection. Other fixes can be found here: Improving Broadband Speed

Those are the only three things that are really essential. However, depending on the type and scale of your event, the following might come in handy:

  • Event management platforms – Whether you’re planning a ticketed event or just want to know how many people to expect, there are some great platforms to manage attendance and your event more generally. Some examples include Eventbrite and Hopin.
  • Polls and interactivity tools – The major video conferencing platforms have built-in features for creating polls and Q&A sessions during the event. You may also want to gather feedback after the event. In a follow-up email or in the event’s text chat, you can provide a link to an external survey or feedback form. Tools like SurveyMonkey provide a simple method of doing so.
  • Promotional tools – The tools you’re already using to communicate with your network of clients and peers, like social media and email, should be leveraged to raise awareness about your event. Social media management tools like Hootsuite can help you drive attendance from your online presence. 
  • Backup software – Sometimes, effectively troubleshooting a live event is not possible. Backup platforms may be prepared in case the event can’t continue on the main one. Just ensure everyone presenting is able and ready to use the backup software, and clearly communicate this change if it happens. 
  • Scheduling – Scheduling software can help you plan the timing of your event. Attendees will likely also want to know when each portion of the event is happening. You can provide them with a public version of your own event schedule (for example through Google Calendar), or create a static file with this information to send to them.
  • Accessibility tools – Live captioning can be used with the major virtual event platforms. Often this requires other software, but can be integrated into your main event hosting platform fairly easily. For example, StreamText can easily be connected with Zoom. 

Basic steps to organise a virtual event

At its core, planning a virtual event consists of a few simple steps. Give yourself enough time at each of these stages, and ensure you give people enough notice between your marketing and delivery stage, to maximise attendance.

  • Brainstorm – Consider what your goals are for your event. What would make it a successful event for you? Also, think about what your attendees would want to get out of the event, and how you could deliver this
  • Research – Find potential collaborators, whether these are guest speakers, similar businesses, or sponsors. Research the practicalities of the event, and what would be the ideal software for you to use. 
  • Plan and confirm – Put together a schedule for the event itself, getting confirmation from guests and collaborators on their attendance and their role.
  • Market – Tell people about your event, using every communication tool you have to raise awareness about it. 
  • Deliver – Deliver the event on the day, bearing in mind all the tips we’ve given.
  • Reflect – Use your own reflections and feedback from participants to learn and improve for your next virtual event.

Virtual gatherings are the present and future of events. The sooner businesses and event providers start to adapt to this, the lower their chances of being left behind. Hopefully, this article gave you some useful tips for organising a virtual event, and helped to demystify what can be an intimidating subject.