Irrespective of whether you’re a veteran event planner or a newbie, every online event you plan will pose a unique set of challenges for you to face. And through this article, marketers and organisations can get a good head start in their virtual event planning journey.
Here, we intend to pose the right questions about planning a virtual event and guide you through the entire process while discovering the answers that best suit your business goals. Every question is based on an essential aspect of virtual event planning, and we have added examples and checklists to direct your thinking process.
So without further ado, let’s start with the most pressing question:
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Is the Virtual Event format suitable for my target audience?
There is no doubt that virtual events, in the current scenarios are unequivocally more beneficial than in-person events. They boost your audience reach and attendance beyond geographic boundaries and do so within highly affordable budgets. But the real question to ask here is whether it suits your niche audiences and would it be able to engage them in a way that they would easily grasp.
Hence, before you rush to set up an event format or choose an event platform, try to answer these simple questions about your niche audience.
- How tech-savvy is my average audience? How aware are they about social media?
- What kind of format would they best engage in about an industry topic or discussion?
- Have they attended online events before?
- Would they be comfortable using the modern virtual event features?
- Would they prefer a free registration or gladly agree to a paid entry?
One smart way to go about it would be to come up with some more of such questions and turn them into a survey questionnaire that your niche audience can answer for you. The resultant data would not only help you decide if you should conduct an event, but it would also give you key insights into your audience’s expectations, potential attendees, and budget limit. You can utilize this data as you move ahead with your plan.
What format is the event to be?
Virtual events can be devised in various formats. But the format has to serve a specific purpose. Hence, you must then ask yourself this question, “What do you wish to offer to your audience through this event?”
- Is it supposed to be an online seminar (a.k.a. webinar) where all your attendees are enlightened by a single presenter?
- Is it supposed to be a conference where professionals from multiple industries come together to share and learn ideas?
- Is it supposed to be a tradeshow where multiple products are to be launched or showcased?
- Is it supposed to be a job fair where several recruiters and candidates would meet and exchange information?
You must try and identify which in-person event are you trying to replicate through this virtual event and what it shall offer to your audience. Having a clear purpose for your virtual event will guide your succeeding decisions in the right direction. Answering this question will also help you set a foundation for your virtual event and help you choose an appropriate platform.
Why am I planning this event?
A virtual event is a significant investment. Hence, defining finite and realistic business goals and objectives is imperative. In the marketing world, these are known as the key performance indicators or KPIs.
- What do you wish to achieve from this virtual event?
- What form of revenue do you expect?
- Is it increasing the awareness about your brand or products?
- Is it increasing the signups and registrations to your community?
- Is it increasing the number of subscribers to your digital product?
- Is it attracting elite professionals?
- Is it boosting your sales?
Create a set of your unique KPIs and design your content and presentation around them. During the event, compel your audience into performing specific actions that would help achieve those KPIs. The elements that allow them to perform your desired action are known as call-to-actions or CTAs for short. That takes us to our next big question.
What type of content would justify this event & compel the audience?
Here, “content” doesn’t simply mean what goes up on the screen. It includes everything that the audience sees on the screen, the speakers say in a session, and the media formats used to convey specific information.
Be warned, the type of content that works for an in-person event won’t necessarily work for a virtual event. Here’s a quick checklist of questions to jot down a rough layout:
- Would the audience prefer the event to last for an hour, a day, or multiple days?
- Should it be a single event or a series of multiple events?
- What key topics or subjects should the event conversations revolve around?
- Do you need multiple speakers? If so, what kind of format would best suit the event?
- What type of content would interest the audience? (slides, infographics, videos, real-time tools. etc.)
- What level of audience interaction is best for the event, and how can that be provided?
The more engaged your audiences are, the more they would comply with your CTAs, and the more revenue you would generate through a single event. Fortify your event with a content plan that would offer your audience the best experience and help your sponsors gain their desired results.
How do I get sponsors on board for my virtual event?
If you’re planning a large-scale event, you will need a secondary source of revenue. For events, this revenue comes through sponsorships. For corporate events such as conferences, product expos, award shows, etc., sponsors are considered the backbone of an in-person event budget. The same goes for virtual events but from a whole different perspective.
If you want your desired sponsors to venture into your online event, set up a sponsor plan based on the following questions:
- Which businesses would be relevant and interested to sponsor your event?
- What are the key targets of the sponsoring businesses?
- What can you offer that will interest potential sponsors?
- How can your event help them achieve their KPIs?
- How would you ensure sponsor-attendee interaction in the event without imposing on the audiences?
- What virtual event platform would offer the best sponsor experience?
Airmeet, for example, allows you to create virtual sponsor booths with logos, videos, graphics, etc., where they can offer demos and discussions to interested attendees. Additionally, you can also collect analytical data about the booth visits and leads generated to track sponsor performance.
How do I maximize audience reach?
A major advantage of virtual events over in-person events is the sheer audience reach you can achieve, which is limitless. While a brick-and-mortar venue is limited by its geographic distance and capacity, a virtual venue allows attendees from around the world to attend your event, up to a few hundred thousands at a time. The only challenge here is reaching the right audiences by utilising the right channels.
Before you go haywire with paid promotions across all social media channels, create a targeted and cost-effective marketing plan by analysing the following questions:
- How updated is your niche audience on social media?
- What social channels do they frequent the most?
- What kind of content would surely get their attention?
- Based on your attendee limit, how much should you spend on online promotions?
The other aspect of audience reach is live-streaming your event. To ensure that your audience can attend from different social platforms apart from your event platform, arrange live streams across different platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Where do I host my virtual event?
So far, you must have realised the gravity of choosing the right specific virtual event platform. Most of the success-driving factors mentioned above can only be achieved through a platform that is decked with the required features. Here’s an essential Yes/No questionnaire to crosscheck while juxtaposing different potentially suitable platforms:
- Is the platform interactive and appealing enough to keep your niche attendees engaged?
- Is it integrated with the specific event format, promotional channels, live-streaming features, and audience engagement tools you plan to utilise?
- Does it allow you to highlight and strategically place your sponsors throughout the event?
- Does it allow the attendees and speakers to seamlessly communicate in creative ways?
The success of any event largely depends on the experience it offers. Take a look at this case study of how e-commerce startup ‘New Black’ who hosted their conference on Airmeet and gained unbelievable conversion rates.
Now that we’ve covered the fundamental questions that will guide you in the right direction while you execute the painstaking task of planning a virtual event, you’re all set to start. Just remember that things may not always go your way, and you may have to improvise midway through your plan. To avoid such haphazardness as much as possible, to refer to this comprehensive e-book on ‘Getting started with virtual events’. Needless to say, you will always find the most valuable questions through your journey of planning multiple events.
The key to the success of a virtual event is seamless engagement among the attendees and speakers. To achieve it, you can mix in some live video with audience polls and Q&A sessions to increase the connectivity of the event. Create a social media campaign that engages the right attendees in the right way. Finally, practice as much as possible!
Ideally, the length of your event should vary depending on its format. For example, a virtual conference lasting around 3-4 hours offers a great long event format experience without losing the audience’s interest. However, you can change it according to your content format.
First, create a list of everything you’ll need for the event. See what you already have and where you would need to invest. Also, determine which entities would incur a one-time cost and where would you spend recurrently over a period of time.
You can find a plethora of pricing options from different virtual event platforms. Your average virtual event cost will depend on factors such as the features you are looking for, your event format, expected audience size, etc. you might find some good virtual event platforms that may offer your desired features for free.
Here are some simple ideas to make your event engaging.
1: Incorporate icebreaker activities
2: Utilize interactive features
3: Let the people decide what they want to do
4: Play games throughout the event using 3rd party tools
5: Keep your event short and on-point
6: Tease your wow factor