Virtual Event Planning: A Guide for Businesses

virtual meeting with people in office and woman on screen

There’s one thing that all meeting and event organizers today know to be true: making connections in person is powerful. But the current situation has made this challenging. The pandemic considerably affected the day-to-day lives of people across the country.

People opted to stay home to avoid the virus, and this was highlighted by the increase in the number of virtual events when the pandemic started. Many virtual events promote a company’s products, while others are networking events that allow people to connect with other attendees.

A survey found that 70 percent of event planners moved their face-to-face events online due to the pandemic. Of those, 69 percent held a webinar instead of an in-person event, and 62 percent live-streamed their speakers.

The challenges have made it necessary for companies to adjust for business continuity. So an innovative business adapts to a crisis to stay afloat.

Even though the situation has improved, there are still many reasons why getting everyone in the same room might not be feasible. Due to this, virtual and hybrid events have been on the rise in recent years. With so much uncertainty surrounding live events due to the pandemic, virtual events offer a way to connect with people worldwide without leaving the living room.

What’s a Virtual Event?

Virtual events are online gatherings where people use the internet to interact in a simulated environment instead of coming together in person. These affairs usually comprise multiple webinars or webcasts and boast high levels of interactivity that rival traditional, physical events.

Types of Virtual Events

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Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

Virtual events come in different forms, including webinars, conferences, town halls, trade shows and hybrid events.

Webinars

Webinars are online events where a company hosts and broadcasts to a select group of individuals through their computers and the internet. It’s also called a webcast or web seminar. One advantage of a webinar over in-person events is it allows companies to share videos, PowerPoint presentations, or other multimedia content with audiences located anywhere in the world.

Virtual Conferences

Virtual conferences are more in-depth than webinars and can last multiple days. They take place online and often include keynotes, panel discussions, educational sessions, live entertainment, training opportunities, sales demos and solution sessions focusing on brand awareness.

Additionally, these events aim to generate leads, promote products, increase retention rates, and build relationships. This makes them essential supplements to traditional in-person conferences.

Virtual Town Halls

A virtual town hall meeting, sometimes called an All-Hands meeting, is where the company managers meet with their employees virtually to discuss various topics of interest. These events usually involve speakers with clear agendas for the participants.

Town halls aim to unify company culture, update staff about developments, foster professional relationships, or facilitate gatherings for people with shared interests. They use live streaming or on-demand video to make attendees feel more connected and a part of the event. Privacy is ensured by only allowing invited guests access to the event.

Virtual Tradeshows

A virtual tradeshow or a virtual trade fair is an event hosted online for a limited period. It’s the online equivalent of a traditional tradeshow or exhibition, where exhibitors and visitors connect on the web instead of meeting face-to-face. The goal is to create a virtual environment that replicates the experience of an in-person event and provides exhibitors with all of the features and services they typically find at a tradeshow.

These events are popular because they are more cost-effective than traditional shows, meaning businesses can reach more people without investing in physical space or travel expenses. They also allow exhibitors to reach a larger audience, as people from all over the world can attend virtual tradeshows.

Virtual and Hybrid Events

Hybrid events are a combination of in-person and virtual components. This might be as simple as a live lecture or panel discussion being streamed to viewers online who can watch and comment. Or it can be as complex as an event designed to have rich and interactive experiences for both live and remote participants.

By hybridizing aspects of both in-person events and virtual conferences, virtual event planners create novel experiences that offer the best of both worlds. Attendees can now participate without worrying about physical space limitations or expensive travel costs.

Advantages of Virtual Events

Companies hold a virtual event for the same purpose as an in-person event: to deliver messages that generate leads, revenue, and customer loyalty. Many people find value in attending virtual events for a variety of reasons. Besides that, there are also several benefits for hosts when they organize events held online.

Accessibility

By making your event virtual, you are opening it up to individuals who may have never considered attending in person and creating a more inclusive environment. With this new wave of exhibitors and attendees comes fresh perspectives and ideas. This shift is advantageous for your event’s attendance numbers and the growth of the industry.

Moreover, by providing accessibility to potential attendees through a virtual setting, you may increase foot traffic to future live or hybrid events.

Cost-Effective

Managing finances is one of the trickiest things about being an event planner. You want your gathering to be memorable and amazing, but that requires a luxurious venue and several suppliers–both of which drive up the price. Then you have to ensure ticket prices are worth it by providing enough value at the event.

Several advantages come with hosting an online event compared to a physical event–such as savings on food and travel expenses. This typically lowers the budget for an online event, meaning potentially significant savings from converting a physical event into an online one.

Easy Information Dissemination

An online event can ensure that all attendees get the information they need. With the right technology, it’s easy to customize and tailor content delivered to each attendee based on their registration details. It’s also possible to have targeted content according to individual interests or preferences.

Proper event marketing ensures that everyone gets exactly what they’re looking for when registering for an event and encourages better attendee engagement.

Easy to Monitor Attendance

Another benefit of hosting an online event is that it makes it easier to track attendance and engagement. With detailed analytics, organizers can better understand what content resonates with attendees and adjust accordingly in real time during the event. This data can also be used to plan future events, giving organizers a better chance of success.

Good Data Gathering Opportunity

With a virtual event, not only is it easier to disseminate information, but it’s also simpler to gather data about the participants. You can effortlessly monitor attendees online by supplying exclusive identifiers that link every attendee with their login and registration data.

Consequently, this gives you some advantageous data collection and analytic opportunities; since you’re able to trace how people engage with the event. You can use your gathered data to implement strategies for growing online brands. These strategies include email marketing and social media campaigns.

Virtual events offer a unique and rewarding experience for guests and event planners alike. Event planners can create innovative experiences that will draw larger crowds than ever before by taking advantage of the technology available. With these advantages and more, virtual events are quickly becoming the way of the future.

Planning Successful Virtual Events

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Planning a successful virtual event is similar to planning an in-person event. You must identify the audience, the type of virtual event to host, and the virtual event platform to use. Here are the steps to follow when organizing a successful event.

Identify the Virtual Audience

When planning a virtual event, it’s crucial to consider who your target audience is. This is different than for physical events, where anyone in the area can attend. For virtual events, you’re reaching out to people all over the world. This means you must create target profiles for the attendees you want to reach.

One of the main reasons to identify your virtual attendees when hosting a virtual event is so you can focus your event content on their needs. You want to ensure that the main problem you’d like to solve for them is the focus of your virtual event. Additionally, think about hosting speakers that wouldn’t usually be able to come to a physical gathering. This can add an extra layer of value to your event.

Another important reason to identify your virtual event audience is so you can create digital resources such as workbooks and templates that participants can use during and after the event. These resources can help them get even more out of the experience.

Decide the Virtual Event Type

Deciding on the type of experience you want your attendees to have is essential when you host virtual events. Do you want them to be able to ask questions and interact with the presenter in real time? Or would they prefer to watch a recording at their convenience?

Live streaming is the best format for conferences or workshops that involve a question-and-answer section between the presenter and the audience. This format allows participants from all over the world to join in on the conversation. However, if your event doesn’t include a Q&A, a live event may not be necessary – pre-recorded sessions can give virtual attendees the freedom to view when they have time or download and save the content for later.

No matter which format you choose, ensure your virtual event is engaging and interactive. Use tools like chatbots and discussion forums to encourage interaction between attendees and keep your content fresh and relevant. With the right planning, you can create a virtual event that rivals its in-person counterpart.

Know the Virtual Event Platform Software to Use

The virtual event software you’ll use has to be selected carefully. It should offer features that make managing presentations and interactive activities easy during the event. You also want software that supports multiple video formats, tools for live streaming, and analytics capabilities so you can measure success. It should also facilitate breakout sessions for group discussions among attendees. These sessions can increase audience engagement since they can speak in small groups.

Furthermore, consider if virtual attendees can access closed captioning or translation services within the virtual events platform. Lastly, decide if the software you select should be able to offer a virtual ticketing platform with integration capabilities.

It’s best to select services that integrate well with other third-party tools, such as content management systems and social media sites, so you can easily promote your virtual event on multiple platforms. Once you have selected an appropriate virtual event platform, ask yourself if the features it offers will help you reach your goals. If not, consider looking elsewhere. This way, you can ensure that your virtual event is successful and enjoyable for everyone involved.

If you’re hosting your first virtual event, remember to test the virtual event platforms. Once satisfied with the platform, you can use it for future virtual events.

Tools Used for Virtual Events

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Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

When you plan to host online events, you should consider the tools you’ll use for the event. And the use of virtual event technology is the core of a virtual event experience. It allows a virtual event planner to do things that were previously thought impossible, like online tradeshows, webinars and live-streamed conferences.

If you’re looking to create an event that will captivate your audience, here are some tools you need to host virtual events.

Virtual event website

Creating a dedicated event website for virtual events is just as important as in-person events. By having this designated space, you create a sense of legitimacy for your digital event. People consume information differently– some rely on social media posts, others on their email inbox, and others need to use both channels more frequently. An event website gives everyone a reliable source of news, updates, and the event schedule.

Event registration technology

An event’s registration is the connection between your marketing and virtual event. So, it has to be smooth, secure, understandable, and mobile-friendly. You can use a flexible event website design and sign-up platform that joins design with the registration process. Or you can put a link to register on an existing website. Regardless of your route, the registering and payment processes should be easy and safeguarded.

In most cases, registration will require the personal information of the event attendees and what they paid for, any sessions they have signed up for, and a summary of their selections.

Mobile event app

Mobile event apps can make your virtual experience more hands-on and engaging for attendees. Like your website, your app should have the same event branding and a clear explanation of its perks. And because you’re busy arranging everything from sponsors to keynote speakers, it should also be straightforward to construct.

Live-Streaming Software

Many event professionals use live-streaming software when they host a virtual event. To facilitate this, the event attendees should have the app on their devices to access the event, including training seminars, keynote speeches, and product rollouts. You have plenty of technology options to stream your event live, including:

  • Facebook Live
  • YouTube Live
  • Twitch
  • Periscope
  • Livestream
  • Brightcove

Digital video equipment

If your virtual event is entirely live-streamed or a blend of recorded and live video, you’ll need digital equipment to capture the event’s focus. This might entail capturing a panel discussion in a studio, shooting a remote performance on stage, or recording a keynote talk in someone’s living room. No matter if you’re hiring professional videographers or going as low-tech as possible, here are the tools required to capture those moments:

  • Digital video camera
  • Lighting gear
  • Tripods 

Virtual event platform

If you’re looking to host an interactive virtual event, such as a business meeting or networking session, some great video streaming platforms will enable you to do just that. Here are some of the top options:

  • Zoom 
  • ClickMeeting
  • Livestorm
  • GoToWebinar 

These virtual events platforms allow the host to share screens dynamically while holding conversations with the participants.

Planning a virtual event can be challenging, but with the right tools and technology in place, it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. By selecting the right virtual event platform and considering the needs of your attendees, you can create an online gathering that is both successful and captivating.

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