You’ve probably heard already, but virtual events are kinda a big deal.
They were the saving grace for many businesses during the pandemic.
Now, they’ve earned a permanent slot on every event organizer’s calendar.
Why? Well, you’re about to find out.
(15 min read)
Virtual events are in-person-like events happening in an online environment. They deliver a rich networking experience without compromising the essence of a physical event. Using technology purposely designed to bring your events to life online, attendees can interact with their colleagues, speakers, and sponsors just like they would IRL. All you need is a mobile or laptop and internet.
Adopting virtual events in 2020 was a forced choice—but hosting an online event in 2022? Event organizers prefer it. Forrester Research found that 63% of the global marketing leaders they surveyed plan to host the same – or more – number of virtual events in 2022. With virtual events becoming a permanent element of how businesses market and interact with their audiences, this guide will explore if virtual events make a good choice for you, expert tips on hosting virtual events successfully, and the tools that can support you.
Organizations plan to host the same number or more virtual events in 2022
Virtual events are often kept in the same category as webinars, webcasts, and zoom meetings. But they can go far beyond.
Here’s the thing: while webinars and webcasts are technically subsets of virtual events, they are not even close to the full range of capabilities and formats you can leverage with online events.
Think about virtual workshops delivered in a multi-track series, immersive virtual expos with improv comedy performances, or virtual summits with John Legend guests appearing (we’ll explain later).
Here’s a list of some of the different types of virtual events:
With multiple types of online events to experiment with, you can remove the borders, position yourself as a thought leader, and be rewarded with new business opportunities.
The popularity of virtual events has exploded—and for a good reason. They’re a powerful tool for businesses to drive growth and take on new markets.
Let’s look at some main reasons companies host virtual events:
Virtual events cut through the barriers that limit the impact of physical events, like distance, weather, and pandemics. While a venue can have a limit, virtual events can accommodate potentially unlimited people across multiple time zones with ease.
Virtual events are often cheaper to host than live in-person events. There are fewer logistics involved, and there is no need to rent a venue.
Virtual events can be almost any length. They can be a short 30-minute webinar, an interaction-rich summit, or a multi-day conference with parallel tracks and sessions.
Virtual events are accessible to people who can’t attend in-person events. This includes people with disabilities, and those unable/unwilling to travel.
Hosting virtual events is a creative way to get your message out there. It can help you stand out from the crowd and make your brand memorable.
Build up a bank of content to repurpose across multiple marketing channels. Save costs on generating new content by using the recordings available and turning them into social media snippets and teasers. Repurpose interviews into Youtube videos or podcasts.
Measuring ROI is a pressing concern for event marketers. Virtual event platforms can help you collect event data via one centralized channel, making it easier for you to draw actionable insights and measure event performance.
According to the University of Michigan, the AirMiners online event produced 66 times less greenhouse gas emissions than an in-person meeting in San Francisco. It makes sense—fewer people use planes, or cars to reach the venue. Less printing of brochures, booklets, and signage for events.
Never before have consumers had access to so many tools, services, and experiences – giving rise to cut-throat competition, squeezed margins, and ever-increasing marketing costs. As a result, businesses need to rise above the competition with more memorable experiences and valuable content.
Enter: Virtual events. They can assist with pipeline acceleration, provide opportunities to warm up leads, and engage and build relationships with your prospects.
Your sales team gain efficiency—instead of one-to-one meetings, virtual events provide the opportunity to present to multiple prospects at once
Build trust & rapport with a friendly face—speaking to someone via the phone is very different to connecting with a human virtually. This helps to strengthen trust, easing the pathway to purchase
Discovering and engaging new audiences gets easier—move people further down the funnel with perpetual opportunities to connect and engage with them.
They enrich every stage of your funnel—for example, you can host speaker events, networking events, and conferences to boost awareness; trade shows, workshops, and thought leadership events for the middle of the funnel; and product demos, VIP experiences, and launches for your BOFU audiences.
When you adopt an Event-led Growth mindset, interconnected experiences follow—and when you get this right, you can engage your audience at the right time across a cyclical string of events throughout the year.
Lower complexity, easier to execute—you can host a string of interconnected events throughout the year, rather than one-off physical events that take months (even years) to plan.
Earn more mindshare and prospect at scale—Virtual events facilitate unforgettable experiences with your prospects, customers, employees, and community. This builds real connections, enhancing your brand awareness, loyalty, and impact.
You’ve got the ideas, but where do you start your planning journey? As with any type of event, it’s important to plan ahead. What are your goals for the event? What resources will you need? What type of virtual event do you want to host? How will you communicate with participants? What virtual event technology would you use to run it all from start to finish? Don’t worry. We’ve got you.
Here’s how to plan a successful event in 10 Steps:
Before you plan the agenda of your virtual event, make sure you know your event goals and objectives. Set SMART goals, and ensure the whole team understands what you want to achieve. Also, think about the audience you want to attract to this event.
It’s time to create an outline for the event—across two stages:
FIRST: Top-level details
At Airmeet it’s our job to build a robust, engaging, and feature packed virtual event platform. Thus, that’d naturally be our recommendation. But here are some tips you can use to choose a platform for yourself.
Time to start your outreach and get some thought leaders, hype people, and sponsors on board. Allow enough time to wait for responses and be prepared to slightly alter the date or time if there is someone you really want on board.
Start promoting your event well in advance. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the nitty gritty details. As long as you have the event time, speakers, moderators, and the general gist of the event worked out— you’ve got something to promote!
Yang Zhang, CEO of Plasmic, recommends providing a timestamped guide to sessions to make it more convenient for time-restricted individuals to attend your event: “even if they can’t stay for the entire duration, they can pick the ones that are most important for them”
Some other important things to consider while planning the agenda:
On top of your promotion, go the extra mile and send some swag to your attendees. Why? Because it gets them excited to attend your event and helps you get their mindshare. It motivates them to return the gesture or thank you by attending your event—Shannon Wright, The Forem’s Director of Community
Technical glitches happen, but you should still do as much as possible to avoid them from happening. Build a Plan B (even Plan C) in the event of any technical disruptions.
And make sure you provide the opportunity for speakers and moderators to test their technical set-up before it’s their time to shine.
Think about what next steps you want your attendees to take post-event. What can you send to them that may help assist—a summary email recapping the main points, an exclusive deal, a feedback questionnaire, or simply a warm thank you?
Let’s assume your virtual event was a raging success. It’s still important to consider what you can do to improve aspects of your event next time. How can you make planning more efficient? Could you have facilitated networking better? Did the results help you achieve your business objectives?
Once you have chalked out a plan to host your virtual event, you’d need to execute it, and put on your event manager hat. Virtual event management is about managing the entire journey of planning, hosting, and wrapping up the event with follow-ups, and gathering insights.
Both virtual and in-person events have their own sets of benefits and drawbacks.
Let’s compare the pros and cons of both formats.
Lack of focus: it’s pretty easy to switch between applications or get distracted due to your environment.
Passive participation: A little more prone to passive participation—you might need to put in some extra effort to spark up a conversation and enable networking at a virtual event.
Technical difficulties: Susceptibility to internet issues and other technical failures can derail your event.
Lack of serendipity: Imagine walking around in a physical venue and bumping into different people and spontaneously connecting with them. Spontaneous and organic conversations might be a little more difficult to happen at virtual events.
Prone to epidemics, and pandemics: One of the biggest concerns of in-person events is the risk that they could potentially spread disease. This is especially true if the event is being held in a crowded space with little ventilation.
High costs and super complex logistics: Due to things like venue rental fees, catering costs, travel, and accommodation for attendees.
Unable to scale networking: While it’s easy to find and spontaneously spark a conversation with people in a physical event, you might not be able to achieve the scale of networking that you might get at a virtual event with chats, and breakout rooms, and lounges.
The event industry was once solely about bringing people together to interact in the same physical setting. The 2020 pandemic abruptly expanded events to a virtual setting, where event organizers had to adapt quickly to a digital environment to keep the event running. Among these challenges, we’ve seen some amazing and innovative ideas emerge for virtual event design. Check out the table below for some inspiration.
Two weeks prior to the in-person event, the event organizers decided to deliver the full program completely online for the first time. They attracted 80,000 live stream viewers with more than 1 million views across social channels.
What they did well: Engagement
Hosted by Amazon Web Services, the virtual event was completely free. A full in-person conference ticket set attendees back $1799.
What they did well: Accessibility
Hosted by the curators (Airmeet) of the Event-led Growth narrative. The event was jam-packed with entertainment, engagement, insightful sessions and interviews.
What they did well: Real-time event promotion and Engagement
Adobe’s Digital Experience virtual conference in 2020 was the first online edition with 100,000 registrants and 450,000 views worldwide.
What they did well: Pre-recorded content over live-streamed content
Virtual events are events held online instead of in person. They can be live streamed or recorded and then made available for on-demand viewing.
Virtual events can be full of interactions as well, with participants being able to chat, participate in quizzes, compete in leaderboards, and network and meet each other virtually. There can be an interactive virtual stage that allows the audience to react and chat simultaneously. And then, there can be booths for people to explore different brands or themes inside a virtual event.
All you need is a computer or mobile device and an internet connection. This means that you can attend virtual events from anywhere in the world.
Virtual events can have a significant impact on businesses and organizations. They can help promote and sell products or services, raise awareness for a cause, or even just entertain and engage an audience.
While you may not have to necessarily plan for bad weather or travel disruptions with virtual events, you do have to plan for technical glitches and different time zones.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when you’re planning a virtual event:
To create the best virtual event you can’t get complacent with what you did last time. You have to keep innovating and evolving to deliver the best experiences to your attendees. .
With that in mind, here are some virtual event ideas to help you tap into your own creativity and best practices for your next virtual event.
Let’s talk about virtual event platforms. What are they? And what are some of the best ones available?
Simply put: virtual event platforms help you host your physical event in an online environment. They come with unique capabilities to facilitate networking and attendee engagement you never thought would be possible other than in real life.
This means you can bring all the magical elements everyone loves about in-person events onto a virtual stage with a range of visual, audio, and interactive elements.
Drive attendee engagement by providing a live stage experience where your virtual attendees can interact with other participants and speakers with emojis, live Q&As, and fireside chats.
Or facilitate networking with breakout rooms, chat messages, and virtual lounges.
Virtual events can facilitate end-to-end event planning too—with integrations or natively—via a number of different features:
You can get all-in-one virtual event platforms that come with a number of integrations to work with the tools you are already using in your business.
For example, improve your event registrations by integrating Zapier, export registration data to Mailchimp, or gain a holistic view of your attendees by integrating with your Salesforce dashboard. Or choose browser-based, no-download virtual events and webinar software solutions to broadcast your event on multiple platforms without any additional hassle.
Bare in mind: different virtual platforms fit different use cases, and some are all-rounders.
Here’s why Airmeet should be at the top of your list if you’re looking to make your events feel more human and engaging.
Imagine a virtual event that’s not only engagement driven, but also feels as human, cozy, and immersive as any in-person event. That’s Airmeet for you—all the great stuff of virtual and in-person events neatly packed into a virtual event platform. It’s the perfect tool to host events that get you more mindshare, growth, and a happy and engaged community.
With features like networking lounges, speed networking, interactive stages, gamified sessions, breakout rooms, and real-life-like networking spaces like Fluid Space, Airmeet is leading the innovation in virtual events.
Think about hosting engaging conferences, exciting networking events, powerful product launches, lead-churning demo days, reach-expanding summits, engagement-driven community events and so much more with Airmeet.
Airmeet has collectively helped event organizers achieve up to a 98% sit-through rate, multiply organic conversions by up to three-folds, and double event leads and revenue using the most in-depth event analytics and audience insights. You’d be in safe hands too—Airmeet is trusted by world leaders, including Walmart, Volvo, Philips, and Accenture.
Achieve a 98%
Virtual events should be centered around meeting the expectations of attendees. This experience is influenced by a few factors: the platform’s user-friendliness, how you facilitate engagement between speakers and attendees (i.e., chat rooms or speed-networking sessions), and what activities you include (e.g., trivia).
A great virtual event experience should aim to replicate one of the main features of in-person events—the opportunity to network and build meaningful relationships with brands and other attendees.
Think of it this way: when someone shows up to your virtual event, they are expecting something different. What people remember most are the real conversations they have with other attendees or the stories and anecdotes shared by speakers.
So how can you bring these impromptu conversations, storytelling, and networking moments to your virtual experience?
Freya Ward, Global Business Director at Headley Media is a big fan of using forums to create a more valuable and engaging experience for attendees.
“Open a forum a few days before the event and encourage interaction by using moderators to start conversations. Putting this extra effort into the aspect of networking can make a big difference in engagement and help people feel they have attended a successful event and not just a few online talks.”
Global Business Director
Virtual events need to be able to balance the right content, speakers, and technology that will give the audience something to remember, something to talk about.
Like Laura Ramos, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester, says:
“They want to be entertained, they want to be instructed, they want to be educated. They just want to have an experience that’s different than people talking to each other through tele-conferencing.”
VP & Principal Analyst
There are a few key things to keep in mind when creating a virtual event sponsorship strategy.
You’ll want to consider what kind of sponsorship opportunities will be most beneficial for your business. For example, if you’re looking to generate leads or boost brand awareness, you’ll want to choose sponsorships that will give you the most visibility.
Once you’ve identified your target sponsors, it’s time to reach out and start negotiating. When doing so, be sure to emphasize the benefits of sponsoring your event, such as the exposure they’ll receive and the opportunity to reach a new audience. You should also be prepared to offer discounts or other incentives to secure their involvement.
A few effective sponsorship strategies for virtual events
Sponsorship early bird discounts: One common approach is to offer sponsorships or discounts for attendees who register early. This can incentivize people to sign up for your event and help to increase awareness of your brand.
“Special Packages”: Offer exclusive virtual event sponsorship packages that include access to special features or VIP treatment. This can make your event more attractive to potential sponsors and help you to generate more revenue.
Sponsored sessions: Allow brands to reach a wider audience by promoting their products or services through your event by sponsoring specific activities or sessions.
Sponsored interactive capabilities: Experiment with different sponsorship packages that trade interactive capabilities — like participating in day-of-event gamification, polling, one-on-one virtual meetings, and virtual experiential/hospitality activities.
Sponsored gifts/swag: Send out physical or digital gifts to attendees before or during the event.
As virtual events have grown from nice to have into a necessity; there’s no question that virtual events are here to stay. From an event organizer’s perspective, hindsight is 2020. Looking back on the last couple of years of virtual event planning, here are some of the most common virtual event mistakes and how to avoid them when you host your next event.
Here are six of the most common mistakes, plus practical ways to prevent them.
Not having a clear purpose or goal for the virtual event: Plan and organize the event in advance, with clear goals and objectives. Ask: What is the point of the event? What do you want attendees to take away from it?
Not promoting the event effectively: Ensure that it is properly advertised and that potential attendees are aware of it. Use a variety of channels to drive as much audience towards your event, including social media, email, and even word-of-mouth.
Failing to do a proper technical test run: Make sure that the event runs smoothly and that there are no major technical issues. It’s essential to have a good technical setup in place before the event begins. And make sure you do a test run of your virtual event in advance.
Not partnering with a reliable virtual events provider: Let’s be honest, this is probably one of the easiest mistakes to avoid! It’s important to choose the right virtual event platform. When deciding, consider the customer reviews on third-party platforms and look at some of the success stories of other event professionals.
Not following up with attendees after the event: Use this as an opportunity to repurpose content and keep the audience engaged beyond the time of the event.
Not providing enough value for attendees. The goal of any virtual event is to drive sales and drive brand engagement, but it must also have something to offer. If your virtual event is simply a sales pitch and doesn’t offer something new or engaging, your customers won’t be interested in participating.
In short, virtual events are the real growth machines. They can accelerate your business growth, keep your pipelines fed, and supercharge every stage of your funnel.
But it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what your next steps should look like:
On that note, have you tried the king of virtual event platforms yet?
But don’t take it from us! See for yourself
Make your webinars 10X better with just 10 simple questions
Make your webinars 10X better with just 10 simple questions
Incredible Companies Use Airmeet
Most loved Virtual Events Platform
Incredible Companies Use Airmeet
Most loved Virtual Events Platform
Events can open the door to more connection, and more growth. Discover why Airmeet
is the #1 virtual and hybrid event platform, and how we can help you host events your attendees will never forget.