MAY 4, 2020

Virtual Event Planning

Weeks into our stay-at-home order, virtual events have become a welcome distraction for those of us not on the front lines, and a lifeline for those who want to continue to connect with colleagues, clients and customers in a meaningful way.

What is a virtual event? Today they can be described as any organized online get-together where people gather to share content. The event can be a simple daily morning Zoom meeting with colleagues, a once on-site public event brought online, a seminar turned into a webinar, or even an online fundraiser. Whatever the purpose, maintaining face-to-face connections now not only helps us maintain some sense of normalcy, but can also help build and strengthen the bonds we’ve formed with colleagues, clients and customers. They can also help minimize dissatisfaction, alleviate concern and even build goodwill.

So how can you plan an engaging and successful virtual event that makes an impact and benefits both your business and your audience? Here are a few tips to help you kick start your first virtual event with a remote audience.

1.) Understand Your Audience
It’s critical to first think about your audience’s general psyche. Are they tech-savvy? What subjects are they interested in? How familiar or active are they with basic social media?

2.) Define Your Format
Just like live events, virtual events can be planned in many formats. Do you want to plan a live event with one person taking the lead? Are you looking for participation? Will it be easier to pre-record some of your content?

3.) Choose a Platform
Many livestreaming services exist. Some of the popular options include Facebook, Periscope, Zoom, Livestream and YouTube Live. Before making your decision, test out your format and determine if your audience can access the platform you wish to use with minimal effort. Also see if you can get a free trial so you can decide which format works best for specific needs.

4.) Identify a Host
Engage an event host who is personally tied to the content, the cause or your business. The host should be comfortable presenting before a remote audience for a live event, or at least should at minimum have experience speaking in front of a group.

5.) Tips for the Host
When filming a video message, or setting up video before a live audience, film horizontally like a TV screen. Also avoid filming with your back against a window which will block light from your face, but rather try facing a window that provides good light and then point the camera at you, away from the window. Speak loudly/project and avoid background noises such as children, pets, lawnmowers in the distance, etc. Also try to keep your eyes approximately at the top third of the screen and don’t include too much head room (room at the top).

6.) Find Technical Back-Up
If you can, identify someone who is tech-savvy to be your behind-the-scenes technical support person. This way if issues arise during your event; you’ll have someone who can jump in quickly to handle.

7.) Pick a Venue
Your venue will depend on the format of your virtual event. If your event hosts and participants are home, thought should go into where in their homes they will be situated. Do you want to communicate a more serious office feel? A dining room might work if there is no home office. Do you want a more relaxed feel? A living room couch is a terrific spot. Just remember to ask family members – including your pets – to give you some privacy.

8.) Choosing a Time and Date
As many of your audience members might be working from home, determining the best time of day and the day of the week is important. Make sure also to check if other high profile virtual events are taking place if you’re planning an event online. Today we are all enjoying the many virtual celebrity events taking place, and you don’t want to compete against a celebrity.

9.) If Appropriate, Publicize and Market Your Event
Just like live events, if you need to build an audience, virtual events need to be marketed and publicized. Social media is a cost effective way to help draw attention and share details. Be sure to share log-on details in advance, so participants are all set on details before the event goes live. Use hashtags to popular, high performing supporting subjects so that people searching for events to watch can learn about your event as well. Remember to also tag event participants so their followers see details and have an opportunity to share with others. Share news of your event with local reporters to help generate even further awareness in traditional media outlets.

10.) Build Trackable Lists
Another benefit to staging a virtual event is that you can retain and reuse the email addresses secured from attendees for future marketing outreach. Personalized emails can be sent to attendees to support your business; e-blasts sharing business updates can also be shared.

Done right, virtual events can be a very powerful way to market your business, and yourself. With a little practice and the right digital platform for your audience, you can deploy a powerful communications strategy that will benefit your business now, and in the future.