The best part about a virtual event is that it’s a low-cost way to reach many people at one time. Considering the pandemic, families, friends, and businesses have all had to get creative with face-to-face communication and collaboration. As a company that operates remotely, we know that this is the way of the future, even when stay-at-home-orders are lifted and businesses can resume as normal. The benefits of operating events and business procedures online are many! Here, we’ll discuss the steps to plan and execute an engaging virtual event and how it can help boost business in a time when most companies have gone into hibernation.
1. Make A Plan And Work Backwards.
What kind of experience do you want to deliver? Will the event be live, on-demand, or both? Where and when do you want the content to be seen? These are the types of questions you must first answer to plan the event. This allows you to put together a timeline to work off of.
Obviously, deadlines are important no matter what type of business you’re in, but when your entire team works remotely, a solid timeline will ensure everyone is held accountable for their contribution without needing to be micromanaged. Trello is a great tool for timeline management of an event.
2. Live Or Recorded?
Now that you know what type of event you want to host and have a solid plan to ensure it goes off without a hitch, decide if it’ll be live or pre-recorded. For example, if you’re hosting a seminar with a guest speaker, you may want to pre-record your chat with the speaker, and then host a live Q & A afterward. Pre-recording the video lets you post it on several platforms at one time. However, you can record live and give people access to re-watch it when the event ends. A VA can help with technical set-up for live recordings, help moderate comments and answer questions from participants, and even transcribe the event and post it on your website as a blog.
We now have an abundance of technology that offers free and easy ways to connect and host a virtual event, like Instagram or Facebook. These are great options for smaller events where guests may pop in and out. For larger events, consider spending a little money on a professional service to help. Integrate a few different tools to customize the experience depending on the interaction you want attendees to have.
3. Choosing The Right Time.
Being online means the audience can expand to any time zone. To go global, try to pick a time when customers or followers will all be awake so they can take part live. If that isn’t possible, or too challenging, make the content accessible for those who couldn’t make it or plan multiple events for different time zones.
A VA can research when your customer demographic or social media community is online. For example, many people visit Instagram between the hours of noon and 2 PM as this is typically when they take a lunch break. With more people working from home now, that may fluctuate but it’s still a great guideline for when to post to get the most people engaged. If the event is flexible, post a poll or send out a survey to see what time most of your customers would prefer.
4. Building The Relationship To Warm Up Your Audience.
Build up the excitement and anticipation of the event by engaging with attendees beforehand. Ask your customers and social network questions about the kind of content they’d enjoy or allow them to submit questions or comments. Post fun polls about related content to get a feel for who’s interacting with you.
Increase traffic and engagement overall by being available to customers. Create a community for them to participate and share in the excitement of your upcoming event. Use chat tools to post “Ask Me Anythings,” quizzes, live tweets, or tag your followers; they’ll want to stick around and see the answers or outcomes.
5. Promote Your Event.
Whether you’ll be teaching a skill, hosting a speaker, or giving the audience an opportunity to network, make sure the key selling point of the event is clear in the marketing and that the marketing is consistent with the brand aesthetic.
Emailing invites is great, but take advantage of social media tools to reach even more people; create an event countdown on Instagram Stories or make a Facebook event page with the who, what, when, where, and how. Other great sites to advertise include Eventbrite, LinkedIn, Eventful, Meetup, and Zvent to name a few.
If you have a guest speaker, use their influence to help advertise and promote. Starting a fun and unique hashtag for the event can also help track and drive conversations about it. Remember, no online event marketing should be without a link. This is an online event so show people where to go!
6. Offer A Freebie And Double Your Traffic.
Freebies are a great way to hype up the event, increase your email list, and increase your site’s traffic. It should be relevant to your event or business. It could be a download for printable calendar pages, a free pdf guide or tutorial, a WordPress theme, or even access to another exclusive or limited online event or course.
Everyone loves a freebie and to get a little more bang for their buck. It makes people want to stay in touch so they’ll be the first to know if there are other offers, and it gives them an idea of how you do business and the quality of products or services they can expect. Freebies turn into repeat customers and are great word of mouth.
7. Conveying Your Message.
Set an agenda of presentation points to stay on track on event day and share it with guest speakers to ensure they’ll convey the main message and stay on topic. Particularly when you’re presenting on social media, where the audience can dip in and out of your feed, you’ll want to make things concise and to the point. You’ll lose your audience if there’s a lot of filler talk or speakers are feeling around aimlessly trying to find their point.
If you’re going to pre-record the presentation, break up the talking points into shorter clips to keep things concise. This way, you’ll minimize the time you or the speakers take to think of the next talking point.
Presenting images, templates, or slides during the event will also help engage the audience, give the speakers cues to work off of, and tie everything together. The bottom line is that the event should be presented as professionally as possible to build your customers’ confidence in you, even if you’re presenting from your home.
8. Great Video And Audio Quality.
Virtual events depend on great visuals and great audio to be successful. Whether you’re presenting live or recording ahead of time, be sure to film in a well-lit, quiet room. Using natural light and sitting facing a window is the most flattering if possible. Try to avoid sitting in front of a busy background and wearing anything with a distracting pattern. Don’t have anything going on in the background that could take away from you.
Place the phone, web cam, or camera centered at eye level so you’ll look as if you’re having a one-on-one conversation with the audience. Practice the best angles and lighting ahead of time so you’re ready to start without complications on event day. This will help you achieve the best ratio in case you want to add a business logo, captions, or share images or slides on the bottom or side of the video. You can also share full screen views of the slides while you narrate over so make sure you know how to do that already or have a VA help on the day.
Since the sound quality may vary between your computer, phone, cabled headphones, or a Bluetooth headset, do a test recording before the event. Good audio is critical so make sure it’s clear, static-free, and not picking up ambient noise in the background.
Above all, a strong and stable internet connection is the key to putting on a successful virtual event. If you don’t trust the wifi, connect with an ethernet cable just to be on the safe side, and remember to turn off or disconnect any other wifi-sucking devices you’re not actively using during the virtual event.
Virtual events are easy and affordable to create and host. You can reach a wider audience and increase your customer engagement by creating an inclusive, global gathering. If you’re having trouble getting started, or online gatherings are new to you, start with a list of everything you’d need to do to throw an on-site party or seminar. Chances are, many of the ways you’d prepare, advertise, and host your event will remain the same.