In 2020, Apple went live with their first virtual event ever. The 2020 WorldWide Developers Conference faced the COVID-19 challenge head-on and offered a unique virtual experience that had its attendees glued to their screens for two hours straight.
How did Apple manage this feat?
The conference had 20 different speakers that announced new features of the product lines from the technology giant. The location changed to a different spot on the campus each time a new speaker came on to switch things up a bit. No one spoke for more than 10 minutes.
Despite being pre-shot and virtual, the event was a huge success. This begs the question: how did Apple realize all the nuances of entertaining a remote audience? The answer is: with meticulous research and a carefully crafted virtual event strategy.
What’s a virtual event planner?
Like for a physical event, a virtual event planner is a detailed document that covers tasks to do along with their high-level details. These details can be task owners, important deadlines, or any further deliverables.
Such a planner is typically created before an event starts so all the moving parts can come together before you get on with all the hard work of the event setup. It acts as an event checklist so you can make sure you strike off everything in a timely manner. Let’s take a look at some of the sections it covers and how you can create one for your next event.
1. Define your event goals
Before you begin with the event planning, you need to understand why you’re hosting one in the first place. Clear event goals are the first step to enabling event success as they help hosts:
- Steer the event messaging towards the right target audience
- Plan activities that push them down the right conversion funnel
- Improve brand awareness
Along with this, you’ll have to carve out other details such as event name, live dates, and target audience.
2. Budget for the event
Costs rise up pretty quickly when you don’t start off with a budget for your event. At the end of it all, you won’t even know what hit you. A starting budget keeps you grounded from the very beginning and is a crucial part of an event checklist. It saves you from burying yourself in budgeting nightmares.
Virtual event costs can vary greatly, most of it coming directly from your virtual event platform. Most of these start from around $10,000 and go upwards as you stack features or use more add-ons. 65% of all virtual event hosts spend between $500 to $1500 per attendee, so it’s common for a host to spend around $20,000 for a small company event for 20 people.
To find the right solution for your budget, compare virtual event platforms before you pull the trigger on a solution. Virtual event platforms vary greatly in the features that they offer for the price they charge.
An early comparison will make sure your event has everything it needs without emptying your pockets.
3. Finalize event partners
Next up, get your event partners in order. A well-designed event planner needs to document all speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, and representatives. You probably won’t be meeting them before the event so coordinating in advance is absolutely critical.
Here’s a quick list of the things you’ll need to track in your event checklist:
- Partner name
- Partner contact information (number and email address)
- Deliverables such as speaking notes, marketing collateral
4. Put together the agenda
With your partners on board, start chalking up an agenda for the event. You want to do this before you set up your virtual event so you’ll know exactly what activities you’ll be hosting.
Your event agenda needs to have the activity information for each line item. This includes the activity title, name and credentials of the speaker (if any), and starting date and time for the session.
An agenda will also help figure out the time and place for your sessions. Do you want any concurrent speaker sessions? When will the keynote speaker be on? All these questions are best answered before you start working on the event layout so you know exactly what you want your virtual event platform to do for you.
Here are the types of activities you’ll typically want to add to your agenda:
- Welcome address
- Plenary sessions
- Breakout sessions/workshops
- Keynote sessions
- Games such as trivia and scavenger hunts
- The exhibition
5. Set up the virtual event platform
Now that most of the event details have been taken care of, it’s time to set up the actual event.
There’s a lot that goes into a virtual event’s setup. You’ve got to design the visuals, set up webinars, brand the platform, and much much more. This is why you need to track as many tasks as you need with an event checklist and cross them out as you go.
Here’s a quick list of items you can include in your virtual event planner while setting up the platform:
- First, get in touch with the project manager to discuss your needs and expectations for the event.
- Next, get your landing page up along with event details and a registration form. Until and unless this happens, there will be no way to market the event and get registrations.
- Integrate any additional apps with the software.
- Set up all the activities (including sessions and games) in the virtual event platform.
- Coordinate with exhibitors on their booth setups. Make sure you have everything you need from them.
- Create all relevant marketing collateral including banners, logos, videos, documents. Finalize the event layout with your project manager.
- Test the software, sessions, and equipment before the event.
6. Market your event
Once you have the landing page set up, it’s time to invite people! Virtual events are only as successful as their marketing strategies so you need to track every channel along with its deliverable in your virtual event planner.
Start with selecting the marketing channels for your event. Then, assign owners, set deadlines, and track deliverables. Here’s what you’ll need for your virtual event planner:
- A content marketing plan including any blogs, articles, PR posts for the event.
- A social media marketing plan for all your channels along with copy and graphics.
- An email marketing plan with the entire drip campaign planned out.
- Optional: A paid marketing plan with budgets and launch dates.
7. Analyze event performance
A hundred people registered for your event but only 10 attended the keynote session. What went wrong?
Tracking event performance helps accomplish four goals:
- Understand your target audience and their interests
- Flag areas of improvement
- Measure ROI and event success
- Improve future events
These make it essential to monitor audience engagement throughout the event and after it as well. For your virtual event planner, track all your relevant metrics along with your desired goal and the actual result. This will help you decide what worked and what didn’t, making it easier to plan for the future.
That sums it up! While event planning can be a long and laborious task, timely planning gears you up for a stress-free event. An event checklist will be a life-saver. Make sure to create a comprehensive virtual event planner before you start putting together the event. We don’t want you chasing speakers while pulling at your hair.
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