Virtual events are turning into the next big thing within the events industry, and it’s our job to stay up to speed. By hosting a virtual event, you can connect with thousands of people from around the world for far cheaper than in-person, and there is endless flexibility and opportunities.
Before You Start Your Event
Determine Your Virtual Goals & KPI’s
As if you were planning an in-person event, understanding how you will measure your event’s success is critical. Some important event success metrics that you should consider when planning virtual events are: Why are you producing it? Who are you creating it for? Is your goal to raise money or raise awareness? Write out all of your goals around the event and determine how you will measure the event’s success. This will help you understand your target demographic–who you should invite, how it should be developed, and what content should be included.
What is your event, and how is it different from other virtual functions that are popping up? Write a list of your ideas and event elements you’re envisioning and brainstorm with event stakeholders, board members, or employees. Visualize the colors, themes, music, and the tone you’d like your event to resemble. Research and attend other virtual events similar to yours and write down a pros & cons list of what they did correct or what they might not have done. We enjoy using Google Slides to create vision boards, so we know exactly what we want the event to look like.
Create a Plan
Just because your event isn’t in-person doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan accurately. Virtual guests will be more likely to leave the event if there’s an error or an unexpected problem, whereas they might hang in there at an in-person, live event. Create a timeline or run-of-show to guide you and your entire team through the process. Make sure everyone knows what their roles are and their tasks before and during the event.
Determine Your Virtual Event Budget
To produce a successful virtual event, you must know your current financial situation. You will spend much more if you don’t set a budget before booking vendors, lining up speakers, etc. Your budget is going to help you clearly understand where you should be allocating your money and where you should minimize expenses. Make sure to include columns for both estimated costs and actuals. Monitor and manage your budget 1-2 times a week leading up to your event, adjusting your estimates as needed and as vendors are confirmed. Be sure to create a 10-15% contingency for last-minute emergencies.
Virtual Event Logistics & Planning
During COVID-19, a back-up event date is vital. With a virtual event, you compete with everything the internet, and essentially the world has to offer. Do research to see what else is going on during your desired event date to ensure there are no conflicts. Be sure all of your vendors (A/V, Studio, Videographers, etc.) are on the same page and have blocked off your dates. Communicate with them frequently throughout the planning process to ensure a successful virtual event.
Consider The Format Of Your Virtual Event
If you’re reading this halfway through 2020 or by the end, you’re absolutely tired of the tedious virtual calls you’ve been forced to take. Determine WHY someone would want to attend and be engaged. This all revolves around how you choose to format your virtual event. Will you have a panel discussion? If so, think about having it in a studio, if possible, so that beautiful backgrounds and decor intrigue your audience. Will you want your audience to engage with the speakers? How will you manage it? Do you want to have breakout rooms for networking? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before starting any part of the virtual event. Which option will suit your goals the best?
Determine Your AV And Production Needs
You’ve determined the format of your event, but you still need to produce a show your attendees will remember. Hire a professional AV company to make sure all aspects are covered from smooth transitions, commercial breaks, and efficient live streaming free of connectivity issues. Compare a few local companies, so you get the best deal and remember some companies offer their studio in their packages.
Your speakers are the show. They are the most important, and you must be sure they have a virtual experience. They need to understand the in’s and out’s and how to position their camera and microphone. They MUST be able to keep your audience engaged; otherwise, you’ll notice your attendance count dropping before you reach the halfway point. Choose speakers who have similar interests as your organization and people who bring value to your audience.
Recruit the Best Entertainment
It’s easy to include entertainers, bands, magicians, and artists who live-steam. The entire world can see and enjoy their performances from around the world. Most live events don’t consider these performers’ possibilities and how much value they actually add to an intermission of a virtual event. Be sure to request the talent for free. It never hurts to ask!
2 Months Away
Get Started Advertising & Promoting
By now, you should have content and graphics created and ready for event promotion. Ask speakers and stakeholders to post on their social channels about the event, partner with other organizations, create event pages, start online advertisements, and share personal feeds. If you have good relationships with online industry publications, reach out to them to see if they will promote your event. Many times, if it offers value to their community, they’ll let you do it for free as long as you link back to their website from yours.
1 Month Away
For best practices, contact your entire team and perform a trial run. Be sure all last-minute questions and concerns are covered. Distribute all of the materials to your organization, and create a private chat room for your team to communicate during the virtual event. Be sure to update your final budget numbers too!
During The Event
The day has come! It’s time for your first virtual event. Be sure to have FUN and create a comfortable space around you if you’re not in a studio. Make sure you have an appealing backdrop behind you free of distractions. Know who is who and who is responsible for everything. Be sure to collect feedback from your event attendees through survey software and give them an incentive. This way, you’ll know what needs improvement the next time around.
This was just a brief overview of everything that goes into a professional virtual event. If you’d like to learn more or need assistance from a Virtual Event Planning Company for your next virtual conference, non-profit fundraiser or any other virtual event, you can reach out to us anytime for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Brandon's extensive experience in event planning spans from non-profit community events to large-scale commercial events. He's a flexible, “take-charge” event planner focused on communication, reliability & punctuality along with outstanding customer service. Committed to bringing his clients’ visions to life! Brandon is experienced in all facets of branded, revenue-generating event production that exceeds my clients’ & employers’ expectations. Brandon is the owner of Treadway Events & Entertainment and the lead planner.