A person running a virtual event on her laptop

A Simple Guide to Running a Virtual Event with Best Practices

Virgil Wadhwa
• November 3, 2022

(8 min read)

In today’s world, virtual events need to be intentional, inspiring, and interactive to achieve optimal results. More importantly, they need to meet the expectations of the audience. This guide includes steps and best practices to help you run a virtual event that’s impressive, engaging, and drives growth for your organization.

Table of Content

The best way to achieve your goals is to understand how to run a virtual event, the steps it takes to make it superior, and know the best practices behind those steps. 

Step #1 Understand your virtual event’s purpose

An event should start with a question: Why are we doing this? In other words, there should be clear event goals and objectives behind it. 

To answer the question effectively, you should know your organization’s priorities, how your event will add value, and how the event will extend that value to attendees.

When you are thinking about the purpose of your event, it can fall into several categories:

  • To establish thought leadership
  • To nurture existing communities
  • To problem solve (either for an organization or issues attendees want a solution for)
  • For networking or creating connections
  • To feature products or ideas
  • For business growth
  • To innovate
  • To offer an impressive experience to stakeholders or VIPs
  • To share knowledge or information
  • For entertainment, celebration, or reward

Virtual event best practices for step one

One of the first virtual event best practices you can try is to start with a statement. We are holding this event for [audience] to [achieve this goal]. From there, break it down further:

Define your audience

The first part of your purpose statement is about discovering your audience. Your audience may be industry experts, decision-makers, prospects, customers/clients, VIPs, or your employees. It could also be a mix. Once you list what attendees you want, your next virtual event best practice is to dive into who they are. 

Empathize with them

Think about what channels they use or how they consume information. What problems are they trying to solve? Are they there to learn, network, or both? Do you have anything you want the audience to leave with?

Tip: If you think the audience will be receptive, send out a survey or questionnaire to find out more about them and what they want from a virtual event. Involving them in the event process can also build trust.

Define clear goals

The second part of your purpose statement covers goals. Goals can be anything from building connections to gathering feedback or generating interest in your product. 

Look at your organization’s marketing and business goals and recognize how the event aligns with those. This process includes:

  • Gather insights (for example, business priorities, how to provide value, or look at what competitors are doing)
  • Define the who (attendees), what (what elements define the event), when, where, why (goal) of your event
  • Break down your overarching goal into actionable and attainable objectives and steps
  • Create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.)
  • Set milestones and track your progress

Step one in action 

When looking at how to run a virtual event, it’s empowering to see something in action. Here’s an example of what an event purpose statement looks like, followed by a deeper audience description and objectives.

“We are holding this event for our VIP customers and brand advocates to introduce our new product. Our audience is active on social media and passionate about our brand and products. We want them to connect/network with our company and each other and learn about the new product and its reveal. We want them to leave with information about the product and how it’s valuable, so they drive excitement before, during, and after the product goes live. We want them to engage their followers and other people interested in our brand and products.“ 

Step #2 Choose a format to run your virtual event 

Once you have your goal and audience clearly defined, it’s time to choose your format.

Format

Just like in-person events, online events come in many formats—some are designed for entertainment, while others are more business related. Common virtual events include:

  • Virtual conferences
  • Networking events
  • Trade shows and expos
  • Virtual seminars, town halls, and summits
  • Parties, employee gatherings with entertainment, or virtual coffee breaks
  • Product launches and demo days
  • Career and college fairs

Consider your goals, objectives, and audience to see which format will fit best. 

Tip: If you’re not sure about the differences between types of events, learn what event content defines each. For example, conferences are geared toward industry professionals and used to provide information, network, and idea share. A trade show brings together companies from the industry to demonstrate products and provide information—and they’re typically attended by industry partners and customers.

Virtual events best practices to choose the right format

When thinking about choosing a format, a best practice is to look at other use cases. How have other companies run a virtual event, and why did the format they selected work for them?

For example, what virtual event platform features were used for a town hall versus a workshop, and what format fits best when considering the goal of your event? A couple of examples of selecting a format are:

  • Selecting a trade show because you need interactive booths for exhibitors and the ability to customize each of those booths with branding, downloadable flyers, and links to websites and social media
  • Choosing a networking conference because you will have a large number of attendees and want lounge and chat spaces, Q&As during speaker sessions, the ability to host multiple sessions, and the ability to live stream

Step#3 Run your virtual event using the best technology 

Since your venue is virtual, it’s essential to find a virtual event platform that offers you innovative technology and features that grab attention and encourage engagement. That’s why you want a virtual event platform.

What is a virtual event platform?

Your online venue can make or break your event. You’ll need to go beyond basic meeting platforms and use something that has the ability to plan, brand your event, and offer features that encourage interaction and engagement. When researching platforms that support successful events, consider:

  • Capacity – Is it scalable to the scope and size of your events
  • Feature and function customization – Will the platform allow you to reflect your brand both visually and with the overall style, and can you create all of the virtual event spaces you want
  • Usability and accessibility – Is the platform user-friendly and accessible for both planners and attendees, and does it offer support
  • Engagement tools – Are there abundant features to attract attention and maximize engagement
  • The human touch – You want your audience to be fully immersed in the experience and be able to easily participate—the platform should be able to create an event that brings people together in a way that’s truly memorable
  • Integrations – Does the platform integrate with your tech stack
  • Analytics – Can you track data that lets you improve future events

Best practices for step three: Understand what makes a standout virtual event platform

Not all virtual event platforms are created equal, which makes it crucial to do your due diligence to find the right one. Use the resources that are available to compare features, capabilities, user-friendliness, and ratings. 

  1. Look at what engagement tools and features a virtual event platform has: For example, does it offer exciting virtual networking spaces (lounges and breakout rooms), interactive elements, and gamification?
  2. Consider customization capabilities: Can you brand, scale to size, and add things like registration, a backstage area, or choose the number of stages or sessions?
  3. Ensure it’s easy to use: Is the platform user-friendly? Is there a demo available to see if you like it? 
  4. Find out if it offers security and support: Does the platform meet privacy and security standards, and does it have both host and attendee support available?
  5. See how Airmeet stacks up against other platforms on the comparison page.

Step #4 Plan your virtual event 

Planning the event is your chance to put your goals and objectives into action. Experienced event organizers see this as one of the best parts of their jobs—transforming their ideas into tangible experiences that create a successful virtual event. There are two major things to consider:

Timeline

Your timeline should cover pre-event activities like registration and marketing, the actual event, and any post-event projects like feedback surveys or thank-you messages.

Set a date and time for the live event, and decide if any recorded sessions will be available after and for how long. 

Each goal and objective should have a realistic timeline as well. For example, you may want registration to open three months before the event or all speakers signed on at least a month in advance. Everything you can assign a date to will make the process flow more smoothly.

Content

Content is the fun part and the core of all your efforts. This is your opportunity to shine, to offer an event that drives growth, creates connections, and leaves a lasting impression on attendees. Content should cover:

  • Workshops, classes
  • Speakers
  • Spaces (lounges, chat rooms, booths, etc.)
  • Breakout sessions
  • Engagement features (photo booth, gamification, surveys, chats, etc.)  
  • Q&A sessions
  • Networking opportunities

Hosting virtual events should be about grabbing the attendees’ attention and keeping it. Even more important is making sure they leave feeling they’ve gotten something valuable out of their experience, whether it’s new connections, information, or inspiration.

Virtual event best practices for step four: Think about attendee-first experiences

Everything should come down to your attendee’s event experience. What are they looking to get by attending? What message do you want to give them?

Empower your audience to participate, and as event planners, ensure that everything you offer them is worth their time. Everything should add value to their experience and make it more human. 

Think about what it feels like to be at an in-person event. Attendees can sit together and chat and ask speakers a few questions at the end of a session. They can also break into smaller groups to share ideas or learn about something.  

The content of your virtual event should provide these same attendee-centric moments and experiences.

Step #5 Marketing your virtual event

Prior to hosting virtual events, you’ll need to drum up some excitement. Think of it strategically the same way you would a marketing campaign. Starting from the first announcement or invite, let potential attendees know what you have to offer and why they should come to your event.  

Best practices to market virtual events: Utilize all your channels to market your event

Take an omnichannel approach with an emphasis on the channels your audience is most likely to use. Think of this virtual event best practice, just like a marketing campaign. You can use:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • Landing pages
  • Hashtags
  • Brand influencers
  • Calls to action (e.g., “Get your spot before they’re gone” or “Early bird registration ends tomorrow, act now”)

Step #6 Execute and follow up

If you’ve hosted events, then you know that you have to be ready for anything. Have your plans in place and backup plans as well. A successful event relies on you staying nimble—and having the best virtual event platform.

Remember this: As long as you have a clear purpose and have developed an attendee-centric game plan, you’re golden.

Virtual event best practices for step six: Use helpful integrations and have support in place

Integrations can help make your event more dynamic and help it thrive. Platforms may have integrations for CRMs, collaboration tools, engagement, marketing, and event management. This virtual event best practice also lets you streamline information between the event and your existing tech stack, making it easier to obtain and use any data you need. 

Some examples of integrations are:

  • Integrate with Eventbrite to sync ticket sales and registration
  • Sync with HubSpot for attendee data
  • Integrate with Interprefy to provide a multilingual experience
  • Connect with SurveyMonkey to send surveys
  • Use DonorBox to organize fundraisers

The second part of this virtual event best practice is to put support in place to ensure a seamless experience. You want to be able to address any technical issues right away and show your audience you’ve taken their digital security and privacy seriously.

It’s your turn to run a virtual event

You have the steps and best practices—now it’s time to use them. Today’s technology and virtual platforms give you everything you need to design extraordinary experiences and a top-notch virtual event.

FAQs

How much does a virtual event cost?

The cost varies depending on size, scope, or your platform’s plan. Reach out to customer service to get more details.

How can I see if a virtual event platform is a right fit?

Find out if the platform you’re interested in has a free demo. It’s a great way to explore features and functions and find out if it’s a good fit.

Do I need to be a professional event planner or event organizer to run a virtual event?

No. The best virtual event platforms have resources, tools, and a user experience that can help you. If you run into issues, they may even have a support team that can help.

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