Well, it’s happening. In-person events are coming back!
Talk about a long time coming. And even still more to go!
But that’s not to say that virtual events are going away any time soon. In fact, the past eighteen months have reminded us of the value of technology.
And the amazing capabilities a virtual event platform can provide. So before you ditch that online event to sit outside, consider these tips and tricks to maximize your online events overall.
But also, please, do sit outside. It’s been a long eighteen months and counting!
What is a virtual event?
Okay, this might seem like an easy question. So, the simple answer?
Virtual events are events held online – like a virtual Christmas party, for example. But that’s not to say that a virtual event experience is the same from one company to another.
In fact, virtual events really run the gamut of attendee experience. And because of that, it’s important for you to know the best practices of engaging attendees.
So don’t think that just because you’ve attended one virtual event, you’ve attended them all. That’s simply a way of limiting the virtual environment you’re actually capable of making!
Whether you’re looking to host your first virtual event or gearing up to host virtual events to come, use this guide. Seriously, we’ve got your back.
When it comes to making a successful event, we’re here to help you host one that your attendees will never forget. Not even after they’ve logged off!
Types of virtual events out there
That’s right. A successful virtual event can come in many different forms.
(Pro tip: if you’re struggling with virtual event ideas, use these below as inspiration! You never know where they’ll lead to.)
A virtual webinar is best akin to an online lecture. Typically, this kind of virtual event will last between 45 to 80 minutes.
And it will either be a live event or pre-recorded. In fact, many virtual events have started to offer on demand streaming as well.
And this has made webinars all the more successful. Some of the major webinar platforms include WebinarJam, EverWebinar, and Zoom, just to give you a taste.
A virtual conference allows for much more virtual audience engagement than a webinar. Sure, a webinar might include a question and answer session here and there.
But so could a virtual conference! The difference will be additional breakout sessions and they’ll encourage engagement overall.
Virtual and hybrid events
Hybrid events combine both an in-person event and a virtual event. And they can be broken up into two categories:
Internal hybrid events are held for those within the organization. So some employees may end up being in-person attendees.
But the will also be held on a virtual events platform for greater accessibility. Then, there’s the external hybrid event.
External hybrid events are held for those outside of your organization. This might involve a little more event planning since multiple companies and conferences will be involved.
Benefits of hosting virtual events
It’s true that in-person events will always have a special thing to offer that virtual events can’t. Human connection.
But that’s not to say that a virtual event doesn’t have its own set of benefits. Well, keep scrolling through!
Access to a global audience
What’s the best thing about virtual event platforms? They make you accessible to a global audience.
An in-person event can sometimes be limiting. Whether those limitations are in relation to travel, scheduling, affordability, etc.
But event organizers can bank on larger amounts of attendee networking when an event goes virtual. So when they say the virtual world, they really mean it.
No need to secure a physical location
A physical event space can cost anywhere from $100/hour to $2,000/hour. But how much does a virtual space cost?
(Sometimes) nothing! Of course, it will depend on which virtual event platform you choose to go with.
But in general, virtual event platforms are way more affordable than that Downtown ballroom you’ve had your eye on. I mean, do you really need that one archway to welcome in a select few when you could host a virtual event for the millions?
Event and meeting planners know that securing a space is only one teensy tiny bit of the battle. There’s catering, event marketing, photo booths, etc.
But all of that can easily be done through a virtual event. I mean, a virtual event booth, virtual networking, virtual meetings, virtual booths?
You know what all that sounds like? Like your next event won’t run you out of business.
A host of virtual engagement tools at your disposal
We all know successful events are the ones where attendees are engaged. Even if only from a mobile app.
Below are just a few examples of key features you can use virtually. They really do get folks excited for future events too!
If you’re hosting multiple events in one, set up some online polls to increase audience participation across the board. It’ll help string all attendees together, whether they’re fully virtual or hybrid in-person conferences.
Competitions aren’t going to land on every list of virtual event ideas. But if it fits your virtual event, keep folks engaged with competitions like “tag a friend” or “retweet to win.”
Q&A sessions are always a great addition to live-streaming. Folks can submit questions from anywhere through a mobile event app and this will help keep them engaged with the event virtually.
Better metrics to keep track of
The virtual event industry has tackled one of the hardest tasks of event planning: keeping track of metrics. But with an event website and virtual event platform, all of your data will be consolidated into one place for such events.
Ability to compress all of your content together
Offering on-demand content for attendees is a great way to keep all of your information in one place while easily circulating it around. Admit it, it’s impossible to keep a hold of all of those pieces of paper you get at an in-person conference!
Tips for hosting successful virtual events
Successful online events don’t just happen overnight. So make sure that you’re saddled up with the best virtual event ideas that will set you ahead of the curve.
#1. Be SMART about it
Yes, literally. But also, acronymically. (Keeping our fingers crossed that that is, in fact, a word).
Get specific about what goals you want to accomplish. How, specifically, do you want your virtual event to be experienced?
Choose a virtual event platform that will measure your success for you. You’ve got enough on your plate when you host a virtual event!
Lofty dreams are all good and fine. But focus on what’s attainable within your company constraints.
A virtual event isn’t just a chance to test out the latest and greatest video conferencing tool. It’s an opportunity to engage with a larger picture.
Time is the most valuable thing any of us has. So make sure you don’t waste your attendees’.
#2. Research virtual events platforms
The number of virtual event platforms out there is rather daunting. But all of them have something different to offer.
Maybe you want to offer on-demand content after the live conference. Or maybe you want a platform that will easily connect to any and all mobile event apps you want to create.
Whatever it is you want to achieve, make sure your virtual events platform can keep up. You’re steering the ship, so make sure the ship itself doesn’t stray off course!
#3. Determine what time the event starts
This seems rather self-explanatory. But remember: your audience is now global.
Choose a time that will be conducive to what you wish to accomplish. And consider the attendee experience in various time zones.
#4. Hire a seasoned virtual event host
A virtual MC or event host is an absolute must if you want audience engagement. And you know the best kind of host in our opinion?
One that makes your audience laugh. Seriously, there’s nothing like shared laughter to bring a bunch of folks together.
Even if that laughter is virtual! If you end up having breakout sessions later on during the virtual conference, it acts as a great conversation starter.
Not to mention that your virtual emcee can continue to do the rounds in breakout rooms, making people chuckle here and there. So step your virtual event up a notch with some corporate comedians.
#5. Use social media to your advantage
Two words: free marketing. Social media is the best tool you have to advertise your virtual event.
And it’s a great way to circulate information related to the event itself. So if you think Instagram is all coffee cups and beach day pictures, think again.
(I mean, you’re not wrong. But social media is what you make it, right?)
#6. Make an event website
An event website is a perfect way to consolidate all information for event attendees into one platform. It’s naive to say that any event will go off without issue.
Especially for virtual events. But a website can help you troubleshoot any and all obstacles that might come up.
#7. Engage with event attendees
You’ve been to a virtual event or two where there was no audience engagement, right? And how did that make you feel?
Unless it was a webinar, maybe it wasn’t the best feeling. So focus on how to use these technological tools as a way to access your attendee pool.
Sure, some events are set up as a lecture. But engaging attendees through corporate entertainers is a surefire way of making sure they not only remember the content of your conference, but feel personally engaged with it as well.
See Related: What Are The Social Benefits Of Laughter?
#8. Develop a clear agenda
Sure, a clear agenda can help you with time-management. But an agenda can also give you some leeway should any issues arise.
Let’s say one part of the platform isn’t working. Go right on ahead and skip forward to the next event on the agenda.
Or better yet, use it as an opportunity for virtual attendees to network and socialize. We’re not saying just throw them together into a breakout session.
Well, at least not without some icebreakers. You gotta have those icebreakers.
#9. Follow up with attendees
Just because your virtual event has wrapped up, doesn’t mean that your relationships with attendees has to. Reach out to attendees and ask for any feedback they may have.
The virtual event industry isn’t anything new but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. After all, your virtual event should be focused first and foremost on the experience of those attending.
And the best way to get that kind of data? Reach back out and follow up!
#10. Debrief and learn for your next virtual event
Like raising a child, hosting a virtual event takes a village. Or, more likely, a company.
So hold a debrief session with your staff and coworkers to see how the virtual event went for them. Ask what obstacles came up and brainstorm on how you can avoid those same issues in the future.
Again, no virtual event will go off without a hitch. It’s just the nature of the game.
But taking the time to look at what went right and what went wrong is a great starting place for the next virtual event. And let’s face it – there will definitely be more virtual events in all of our futures.
Logging off for now
Hopefully, this guide has introduced to you the vibrant and varied world of virtual events. And, as you can see, there are quite a few avenues that you can take with these virtual event platforms.
In a way, the virtual world is your oyster. And there are a million ways to shuck it open to get to the pearl inside.
Too cheesy? Too fishy? Well, we’ll leave you with it anyway!
Keep Reading: What Are The Benefits Of Humor In The Workplace?
Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular corporate entertainer, magician, and virtual speaker.