You have a big event coming up and it’s your job as the event planner to make it a success. Your director has given you the usual business objectives – target and convert as many attendees as possible into engaged customers while staying on budget, on brand, and on time, but also be fresh, different and memorable.
With an entire pandemic influencing the events industry since the opening of 2020, it is no surprise that 87% of the 1776 business event professionals and supppliers of the events industry stated they have cancelled – and 66% have postponed events as a result of COVID-19. Similarly, 65% of the B2B marketing professionals planned to relocate some or most of their live budgets to online events.
Now that we’ve established that virtual events are the future – as well as the present – whether you like it or not, the purpose of this article is to help you get it right!
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is an online version of a physical event, with added benefits that differs from platform to platform. Virtual events are a great way to connect audiences globally using chat tools, live webinars and digital content usually served via a visually rich interface.
Click here to learn more from Frequently Asked Questions.
The recent trends of the virtual event industry have shown tremendous growth from the past years, mostly as event planners and companies such as IBM, T-Mobile, and so on, have started to shift their physical events to virtual platforms after experiencing the benefits themselves.
The evolution of technology has provided virtual events the power to cut your costs dramatically, boost your reach globally and position your business innovatively.
Whether you’re planning your very first virtual event or you’re a virtual event whizz looking to sharpen your planning process, the real question is: what is the secret sauce behind planning a successful virtual event?
Based on our experience of running hundreds of virtual events, we at vFairs developed a list of 8 simple steps to guide your next virtual conference, virtual career fair, virtual university open day, online tradeshow or any other virtual event that you wish to host to success.
How to host a successful virtual event in 8 simple steps
Step 1: Set a clear objective for your virtual event
Sometimes people choose to do virtual events simply because “it’s different” or it’s cost-effective without clarity on how to maximize the benefit. Don’t make this mistake.
Virtual Events will give you the metrics you desire if you know how to plan for them. Decide on and write down your quantified objective and use it to inform every decision you make. For a virtual career fair, your quantified objective would be the number of quality candidates to retain. For a virtual expo, it would be the number of sales converted. For a virtual university open day, it would be the number of leads. Make sure you communicate this number clearly to other team members to support their decision-making as well.
Step 2: Choose the right virtual events provider
Researching and finding the right virtual events provider is as important as planning the nitty-gritties of your virtual event. You’re handing over a huge share of responsibility to your platform and need to be sure that they can provide you with the best service as well as the greatest value. What you primarily need is a seamless, visually impressive experience that consists of tools that drive engagement immensely.
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Step 3: Get your partners on board early
The importance of involving stakeholders early in the virtual event planning process cannot be understated. If they’ve never participated in a virtual event before, they will most likely be unfamiliar with what is required of them. In a job fair, for example, you need to make sure each of the multiple employers are notified, briefed and trained about what they need to do and material they need to prepare well in advance. Don’t forget to send out a notification to your departments that you’re hosting a virtual career fair. Similarly, be sure to include your vendors on alerts when you’re hosting an online expo.
Step 4: Set a Smart Date for your Virtual Event
You might be familiar with the dependence of property market value on “location, location, location!”. Similarly, virtual event success depends on “timing, timing, timing!” Here is a helpful list of dates to avoid: holiday weekends, around Christmas time or Election Day. Do some Google research beforehand and ask a colleague to verify the date. Also, avoid going for longer events. We’ve found the momentum and impact delivered with a smaller event (1-3 days) is much greater than a longer one (1-2 weeks). The latter will stretch and exhaust both you and your exhibitors with little incremental value. Whereas the former will create great traction in a short span of time.
Step 5: Maximize your current marketing channels to promote your virtual event
Now that your date and objectives are in place, and your stakeholders are onboard, you need to think about how you will get attendees to sign up. Strategize your current marketing channels such as social media, email marketing lists and your website. Set up your landing pages that properly convey your value proposition. Go for a catchy headline, use relevant visuals and most importantly, think about how you could get them to spread the word and share their page.
Also, use email marketing to your advantage. You really need to nail the subject line (A/B test if possible!) and ensure your email copy does the following well: (a) provides incentives for attendees to register immediately with compelling offers such as early bird discounts on items (b) instills urgency with phrases like “register now before the seats are gone” (c) promises a quick and simple sign-up process. Every event planner knows that events are dynamic and fast-moving. The key to ensuring that virtual event planning runs smoothly and effectively is to think about it as a physical event with technology being nothing more than a single component.
Click here to learn about building a solid content strategy for your virtual conference in 2020.
Step 6: Make room for troubleshoot
No matter how perfect an event is, as a host, you always need to cater to the possibility of the technology acting up. Make sure your event provider assigns you a troubleshoot team or a proactive help-desk that may respond at any time during the event.
Step 7: Keep tabs on your virtual event logistics
Before the event:
- you’ll need to choose the right virtual booth templates
- make sure your virtual event exhibitors submit their material on time (e.g. in job fairs, ensure their brand as an employer is well presented via visuals)
- make sure your operational staff is familiar with the objective of the event, key timelines, have relevant contacts and are empowered with certain decision making ability to support timely event setup.
During the event:
- Ensure maximum engagement by offering live chat tools
- Drive attendees to do the things you want them to do. Using a clear call to action on every screen (e.g. if you need them to go to a webinar, state “sign up for x webinar”)
- Gamification- adding leaderboards or scavenger hunts to your event can help direct your audience towards favorable actions (e.g. visiting a certain booth or signing up for a webinar)
After the virtual event
- Send attendees an email reminder. However, do NOT send too many signals at once but rather focus on one action at a time. The key is to use your objective as a guide so you don’t overwhelm your virtual event attendees with too many variables.
Step 8: Ensure inclusivity and diversity
The purpose of Virtual events is to invite a global audience based on their skills and relevance instead of restricting them based on their disabilities, culture or ethnicity. In order to maximize audience turnout, promote visibility to all. In addition to that, click here to read about the accessibility options that vFairs offers.
All in all, thorough virtual event preparation is key to success. Be sure to measure the main objective you were looking to achieve. Also, try looking for a technology partner that works with you to facilitate these 8 key steps.
Bottom line: Technology is a great enabler, but it’s not enough to score big with your virtual event. Looking for a quick summary? Get a checklist here.
Want to learn more? Read The Ultimate Guide to a Virtual Event.
At vFairs.com, we strive to build a top-class online event platform that will help event organizers make memorable connections with their target audience. We’re obsessed with taking out the hassle normally associated with physical events and leaving organizers and exhibitors to focus on what’s most important: engagement with the audience.