What are Best Practices for Hosting a Virtual Event?
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Since 2020 was a challenging year for companies for different reasons, a large number pivoted to expand their use of digital means to connect with customers. Being a digital marketing agency, Yalo was at the forefront of a lot of those conversations with our clients and prospects. Our clients were looking for new ways to find new customers, engage with them, and build relationships with them. And while diverse digital marketing efforts helped find and engage customers, the piece that was lacking was the ability to further build relationships with customers, especially given that all in-person events, conferences, and gatherings were canceled. Thus, hosting a virtual event became a hot topic.
As virtual events exploded in the market in 2020, there were a wealth of tools and technologies from which to choose. And as the year progressed, best practices emerged for what constituted a good virtual event and how the technology solution can enable a virtual event to be a success or not. Here are some key considerations when preparing for your virtual event.
First, as you plan your virtual event, you need to set goals on what will success look like.
- Is it the number of registrations?
- Is it the number of attendees?
- Do your attendees engage for 50% or more of the event?
- Do the attendees enjoy their experience?
These are important questions to answer up-front, with agreement from your leadership team, so that everyone is on the same page going into the event.
Next key thing to consider is that a virtual event is not the same as participants attending an in-person event. There are things that you can do in-person that you just can’t do in a virtual event. And vice versa. You should look to maximize the advantages of a virtual event. A key advantage of a virtual event is identifying the brand aesthetic and experience you want your audience to have. Delivering your brand experience is vital when planning your overall event.
- How should your brand be showcased across the event? Logos, fonts, colors, imagery are all major factors to providing the best brand aesthetic possible to your audience.
- How should you organize the event? How many sessions should you have and how many people in each session? What kind of sessions do you want to have, one-way or two-way interaction, Q&A?
- How do you want to interact and engage with each attendee? Should there be chat (text, phone, video)? Should there be breakout rooms? Should there be lunch tables for networking? Should you have a fun event like a band or a mixologist?
Next, think about your audience. Key questions to consider:
- Number of invitations to send?
- Number of attendees expected?
- Ho do you want the attendees to interact with each other? One-on-one, group, vendor interactions?
- Should you send pre-event swag?
- What content will they want to see?
- Who do they want to hear from? Company leadership, industry luminaries, vendors, sponsors, peers?
- What will your follow-up communication and messaging look like to your audience?
Once you have thought through the above elements of your event, now you are ready to consider the technology solution. There are numerous ways you can host a virtual event from just doing a series of Zoom calls to something that is more like an event. If you decide to leverage a virtual event platform solution, be sure to get answers to the following:
- Does the platform offer more than just a logo for branding?
- How customizable is the design of the experience within the event? Are you constrained by a basic set of templates or can you fully customize the event?
- What functions and capabilities are offered? Custom registration, full branding, breakout sessions, chat, networking, resource library, content downloads, setting appointments, vendor booths, live Q&A, session ratings/reviews, entertainment space, etc?
- Is the navigation and user experience simple and straightforward? Will my attendees get lost or stuck in a room and not be able to find their way out? Keep in mind that several attendees are attending a virtual event for the first time. The user experience should be clean and intuitive.
- Does the platform provide a full suite of digital metrics about your event, including group data (how many attended any given session, most popular session, etc) but also individual attendee data (which person attendee which event, how many chats did they engage in, which vendor booths did the attendee visit)?
- Can the platform offer 3D and 2D versions of the event? Many people find the 3D visuals of an event confusing and will get lost. Offering a 2D visual simplifies and improves the user experience.
- Do you get a dedicated project manager and a team that will help you with planning, promotion, design, configuration, testing, event day support, and even post-event support?
- Does the platform allow you to keep the event available for some time period after the live event is over so attendees can revisit key session recordings?
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As you start the journey of your virtual event, how will you know if it was a double or a home run? The following KPIs are a home run.
- It is easy to register for a virtual event, and it is usually cheaper than an in-person event. So, you should expect 90%+ of your invitations to register for your virtual event.
- Since it is much easier to actually attend a virtual event vs. an in-person event thanks to flexibility, no travel, less planning required, etc, you should expect 85%+ attendance of those that registered.
- Using digital metrics, be sure to monitor where your attendees are going, how they are moving through the event, what features are they using. By doing so, you will get a picture of their engagement. If they are truly engaged, they will stay in the event for 70%+ of the total run time of the live event.
- If you have session ratings and reviews setup, you can track the success of the presenters and their content. Anything 4-star or better should be the target. Anything below 4-star means your presenter and/or their content is boring the audience.
- Lastly, by reviewing the Q&A submissions and the chat logs, you will get a clear sense of how well your attendees are enjoying their experience within the virtual event that you have created for them. A good chat volume would be an average of 1.4-2.1 comments per session per attendee.
After the event is over, sit back and have a drink, you will have earned it. Putting on a virtual event is just as exhausting as an in-person event. While you are having that drink, read those ratings, logs, comments, and chats. If you have put on a great event, it will show! Savor those positive comments, they are your reward for a job well done.
Sending you positive vibes for your next virtual event!