While virtual events are nothing new, they’ve certainly had their spotlight moment here in 2020. Faced with the threat of cancelation, events big and small have transitioned online, resulting in bursts of creativity across industries.
At SimpleTexting, we’ve been amazed by some of the creative ways our customers have used texting to engage and connect with virtual event attendees.
So much so we were inspired to create this ultimate guide to hosting a virtual event for anyone interested in replicating the most successful models.
From workshopping your topic to delivering post-event feedback requests, we’ve got everything you need to know for each step along the way.
As we mentioned before, virtual events are nothing new. Webinars, online workout classes, and video conferencing have existed for nearly two decades! These are all examples of a virtual event—otherwise known as an occasion where all the elements of the experience, lesson, or demonstration are received online vs. in person.
Other than the qualification that a virtual event takes place over the internet, there’s no real definition or limit to what that could mean. These days, entire school years are technically considered virtual events, with concerts and conferences alike following suit.
Virtual events typically fall under a few different categories. Why does their classification matter?
Well, knowing more about your event type can help you estimate attendance, budget, time commitment, etc.
There are three main categories of virtual events an organization may find themselves hosting.
The largest of the three types, a virtual conference typically has a few hundred to a thousand or more attendees. 65% of marketers need more than six weeks to promote a sizable virtual conference if they want to drive the desired amount of registrations. Additionally, the average cost per attendee for a large virtual conference is around $1,000 to $1,500. You’re almost guaranteed to need help from virtual event software to help put on an event of this magnitude. Features of this type of software include:
Photo Credit: Kelvin Man
On a much smaller scale, virtual meetings are 60-90 minute round table events or webinars that typically cover one subject among 5-50 attendees. In the case of webinars, most people need between 3-6 weeks to promote the event successfully.
Virtual meetings will always be real-time events that are fully or partially interactive. As a result, less involved virtual meeting software is often helpful to have on hand to host the sessions. Some of the most popular include:
Photo Credit: NBC Los Angeles
The final type of virtual meeting is a bit of a potpourri. Similar to virtual meetings, virtual performances are generally live events streamed over a platform like Zoom or social media with an audience as small as two or as large as two million! A virtual performance’s key feature is the demonstration aspect that involves less collaboration than a meeting or conference. Examples of virtual performances include:
Photo Credit: Time Magazine
While anyone may be able to host a virtual event, there are a few things that need to happen to host a good virtual event.
No matter your virtual event’s size and scale, there are a few best practices that apply across the board.
Are you still feeling a little overwhelmed by the prospect of hosting a virtual event? We know the feeling.
Sometimes it can feel helpful to have it all written out step-by-step. So that’s exactly what we’ll do next!
Once you have a better idea of what kind of virtual event you’re hosting (conference, meeting, performance), you can spell out what your audience will look like. Are you sending individual invitations, or is your event open to the public?
This information will help you decide the “venue” for your virtual event. For example, if your brand is hosting a demonstration or product launch, you’ll want as many customers viewing as possible. Ergo, you may choose to live stream your announcement on social media to capture as many passing eyes as you can! On the contrary, if you want to host a more exclusive event complete with registration, you may opt for a password protected Zoom meeting.
The next thing you’ll want to do before your event is to narrow down the topic(s) you wish to cover. This point comes after your audience determination because who you want to target impacts what you’ll cover. You want to be sure your topic is both valuable and of interest to your target audience. You can do this by asking questions like:
Be sure to keep your topic(s) as focused as possible to give audience members a realistic expectation of what your event will offer.
Next up is the real meat of your event, the presenters. It may be someone from your organization or a third party, but it’s essential to find a credible industry expert to speak at your virtual event.
You’ll want to be sure to brief your speakers on the topic thoroughly and give them a clear goal. This is often phrased as “at the end of this presentation, our audience should be able to _____.”
You’ll also want to make them aware of any time limitations and the general order of events. Prepare some questions for them beforehand in the event of a slow Q&A and finally, share a little about your audience with them so they can tailor their material accordingly.
90% of people believe that a strong narrative in a presentation is critical for engagement. A crucial tool for storytelling is your visual aids. Presentations with visual aids are known to be 43% more persuasive than the same presentations without visuals. There are some awesome free tools that can help you set up dynamic visuals including:
As we mentioned earlier it’s best practice to send an invitation and at least three reminders before your actual event. Be sure to save attendee’s contact information and store it somewhere referencing their attendance at your event so you have a conversation point down the line for future engagement. It’s also a good idea to have a day-of event checklist so you can ensure you, your speakers, and your software are all set up and working properly.
After every event you always want to include an opportunity for attendees to share their feedback with you. This is a valuable exercise for both them and you. When writing a post-event feedback survey, be sure to:
Photo Credit: Eventbrite
COVID has created a lot of innovative examples of events you never thought could go virtual. With a strong focus on audience experience paired with the right tools, you’re sure to knock your next virtual event out of the park!