Since 2020, I’ve had to pivot from in-person events to virtual ones seemingly overnight. Now, I can practically put on virtual events in my sleep. I’ve seen my fair share of events – as I consider myself something of a connoisseur – and I never forget which ones put feathers in caps and which ones don’t quite hit the mark.
As people have different comfort levels attending in-person events as things start slowly opening again, I can confidently say that virtual events, or at least components of virtual events, are here to stay. Not only have we enjoyed the convenience of on-demand events, but businesses have benefited from the travel cost and time savings as a result.
To help you avoid virtual event mishaps, here are six strategies to incorporate into your next virtual event plan to make it a success.
#1 - Give the People What They Want.
Understand what makes your audience tick. Are you targeting social butterflies whose wings soar when chatting with others? Create an opportunity for them to network with others on the line. Are you educating your audience on technical updates? Encourage your attendees to ask questions, or take a quick break for trivia so they’re not lost in the weeds. Maybe they want a little bit of both? Educate your attendees on your new product offering then breakout into networking rooms with wine tasting. The possibilities are endless; however, the underlying message here is to understand why your audience wants to attend your event, then deliver it.
#2 - Select the Platform(s) That Accomplish Your Goals
Before 2020, businesses were already hosting virtual events and likely had a preferred platform in place. As the world transitioned to a remote work environment, a seemingly endless number of virtual event platforms – each with various capabilities – have come through the woodworks, making the platform selection process a bit overwhelming. Remember step #1 on the strategy of your virtual events? Challenge the status quo and spend time thinking through the various virtual event formats your company would like to host. Ask yourself these questions:
- How many total seats are needed? How many admin seats must we have?
- Is it important for attendees to network with each other?
- Will we require breakout rooms for meaningful and targeted discussions?
- Can we effectively communicate with attendees on the lines, and can they communicate with us?
Do your research and select the platform(s) that best suits your needs.
It’s not enough to simply have a slick virtual platform – be sure that the technology works flawlessly or that the vendor has good customer support options for any technical issues. Become the subject matter expert/platform guru/technical geek (whatever you want to call yourself) and learn the platform’s capabilities inside and out prior to hosting your virtual event.
#3 - Make Your Virtual Event Different Than In-Person.
Seems pretty straightforward, right? Oftentimes when planning an event, it’s tempting to revert back to thinking about events as we always have, then making minor adjustments to adapt to a virtual setting. The fact is, virtual events will always be different than in-person, so your approach needs to be as well.
Events that used to take place over the course of several days will quickly fatigue attendees in the virtual environment. Instead, break up sessions across multiple days and time periods to avoid losing your audience.
#4 - Over Communicate.
Now that you understand why your audience wants to attend your virtual event and you’ve nailed down how you plan to deliver, the most important part is to clearly communicate the benefits with your audience. While this is an obvious step, it’s one that is often overlooked and will directly impact audience registration and satisfaction. Show your audience how they will gain the most value from attending your program. While virtual events extend the traditional reach and quantity of attendees, the quality of the event should not be sacrificed in the process.
#5 - Redefine Your Success Metrics.
Just as you need to differentiate your virtual event strategy from your in-person strategy, you also must redefine your success metrics. Setting your virtual event goals with stakeholders and measuring against them holds your team accountable and establishes a vested interest in the success of the event. With your entire team rowing in the same direction, you’re more likely to achieve your goals.
While all businesses want to build their bottom line, it’s critical to note that not all virtual event success metrics are directly tied to leads and sales. Important metrics to track could include audience retention (was your program engaging enough for attendees to stay on the line?), audience engagement (was the content compelling enough for attendees to engage with you or others?) and audience satisfaction (were attendees happy with the event?).
Some virtual event success metrics may also include:
- Number of registrations or specific company/attendee registrations
- MQL/SQL/won deals
- Introductions made
- Cost per lead
- Press coverage
#6 – Learn from Each Event
Once you’ve hosted your first successful virtual event, you’ll be tempted to replicate and template it for all your company’s events moving forward. Don’t fall victim to the copy & paste approach! Just because an event was a homerun for one audience does not mean it will perfectly translate to another. Be sure to seriously evaluate the above steps for each and every virtual event you host.
One major advantage of virtual events is how much data can be collected throughout the process to better inform your strategy moving forward. Use this data to your advantage; study it and most importantly, learn from it. Each virtual event is an opportunity to learn something new to make the next one even better.
Any company can host a virtual event, but it takes a keen event planner to master the strategy for an excellent one. We, at The Agency at Sikich, have attended, planned and studied the inner workings of virtual events and are here to share our wisdom. Contact us to help you plan your next great virtual event!