With the Covid pandemic, in-person events have significantly declined. Yet, the reality is that work and networking have to continue as usual. Event managers have had to resort to digital platforms to host events.
One thing working in their favor is the tons of technological innovations to help with tasks. Such include video conferencing facilities, registration, and database management software.
Let’s say you are planning an event for an association. Associate management systems help with tasks like registrations and database management. Further, mass communication with members is easy with the software.
Planners get access to tools that help with payments and the financial aspects of the event. Best of all, everything happens on the cloud. It ensures data security, easy access, and higher efficiency.
The benefit of virtual events is that you can achieve a lot on a limited budget. You don’t have to deal with issues like getting a physical location. There are no logistical elements like transportation or catering to deal with.
The organization also gets the opportunity to reach a broader audience. The same may not be possible with face-to-face events. With that said, event managers must still ensure proper planning. You will need the same level of attention you would give an in-person event.
Our article provides a detailed guide for online event management. We will share the right steps to ensure success.
1. Have Clarity on the Event and Attendees
Coming up with goals and objectives for the event is critical. Why are you hosting the virtual event? What do you hope to achieve? Who is your target audience, and why would they want to attend?
Next, decide on the type of event. You have tons of options, including networking events and webinars. Others are conferences and even panel discussions. Take the example of an investor meeting.
A networking event may not be the best option. A better choice would be a seminar or panel discussion.
The third step is to focus on the content, topics of discussion, and speakers. This may be the most difficult part because it is critical to achieving the goals you have set out.
2. Draw Up a Budget
Like any other event, you will need to come up with a budget. You may not end up spending as much as you would for in-person events.
Yet, there will be some costs you will need to take care of. Such include:-
- Setting up an event website if you don’t already have one
- Some of the tools you will need may need you to subscribe to get access to advanced features
- Will you need any special virtual branding elements? If yes, budget for the cost of hiring creatives?
- Will you need to run any promotions to get information out to the audiences? A marketing budget is critical for public events
Take time to come up with a checklist of any areas that will need you to spend.
3. Decide on the Hosting Platform and Tools You Need
Hosting a successful virtual event requires that you have the right tools. You achieve higher efficiency and can complete tasks in a short time.
The advantage is that there are so many resources available depending on what you need. Such include:-
- A website for event communication, promotion, registration, and so much more.
- Registration tools for RSVP and data collection. The right tools will also have a portal for accepting payments. If the attendees are paying to take part, use automation to handle the payments. It frees up the teams to handle other urgent matters.
- Take advantage of email marketing to increase engagement with the right messaging. It also provides a fantastic tool to keep the communication channels open. In case of any updates, sending out the information can happen in minutes.
- Mobile devices account for 54.8% of website traffic worldwide. The trend has been constant since the beginning of 2017. It is understandable because such devices are convenient. Participants have information at their fingertips anytime they need it. Virtual event managers have no choice but to embrace such technologies. Including a mobile app will give attendees quick access to information. Event planners can also use the apps to upload important links. They can also collect data on attendees.
When deciding on the best hosting platform, factor in the following:
- What type of events are you having? Zoom, for example, is ideal for small to mid-sized conferences, seminars, or meetings.
- Do your members have access to the platform? Even if they do not have access, how easy is it for them to register?
- What kind of experience do you want to deliver? Live stream applications like Facebook Live and YouTube Live offer video conferencing facilities. You can host many participants at a go. Those in attendance can join or leave without causing any disruption to the event. But, the attendees can only take part via text chat. For the teams, it makes it easier to manage the larger events. They do not have to deal with video or microphone input.
- What is the format of the event? Will you, for example, need break-out rooms?
4. Send Out the Invitations
If you are working on an invite-only event, you should already have a list of the people you want to attend. Send out the invitations and start recording the RSVPs. Collecting RSVPs lets you know if you have enough resources to handle the numbers.
Once you have the RSVPs, you will need to keep up the communication. You can share any expectations you may have. Such expectations include equipment or tech requirements and even time frames. You will also need to communicate event details and share access codes.
For public events, you need to market or promote the event. Some of the platforms include social media, email marketing, sponsorships, and even advertising.
Consider using an influencer to bring the right people to your event. If you have famous panelists or speakers, they can also put the word out there.
5. Prepare for Any Eventualities
If you were hosting an in-person event, you would have a plan of action for anything that goes wrong. You will, for instance, have a standby generator in case of power fluctuations. It is not uncommon to have an ambulance or fire extinguishers on standby for outdoor events.
You must carry the same thought process when planning for your virtual event. You depend a lot on technology for the success of the event. But, even the best tools may experience glitches. You can also not assume that all the attendees may have the technical know-how.
Take preventive steps like:
- Identifying any possible issues that may occur and have a plan of how to deal with them
- Communicate with attendees before the event to explain the tools you will use. It doesn’t hurt to come up with a guide that you can share with them
- Walk everyone through the order of the event. Break it down as much as possible in days, hours, or even sessions
- If possible, have a dry run with some of the attendees and participants. It will need you to use the software so that you know how it performs.
6. Ensuring Engagement
One of the most critical elements is ensuring engagement at the virtual event. Yet, it is one of the most difficult things event managers will need to deal with. It can be difficult for participants to sit through hours of presentations.
It is also easy to lose interest if the speaker or sessions are not interesting. With a simple click of a button, they could leave the session without you even being aware.
Here are some ways to keep audiences engaged at all times.
- Ensure the presentations are interesting. Use plenty of audio-visual cues to break the monotony.
- Even if you are using pre-recorded content, add some live sessions. It helps generate more interaction. The advantage of recording sessions is you can keep within specific timelines.
- But, it can get pretty boring for the audience. In case of a technical glitch, you may have blank screens that show a lack of proper planning.
- Keynote speakers should be engaging, knowledgeable, and have great delivery.
- Have live polling sessions to check on interest levels
- Incorporate some Q&A sessions so that it breaks the monotony of long discussions
- Use mobile apps to set up the meeting and encourage live chat
- Take advantage of social media with relevant hashtags and event pictures. Encourage participants to comment, share, and tweet. It would be an excellent idea to tie in a promotion or prizes for best comments, pictures, etc.
After the session, it is critical that you make all the content available to the participants. The advantage is you do not need to print out or photocopy any documents. You can upload everything on the event website. All the participants need thereafter are the login details to access the content.
7. Collect Feedback
After the virtual event, it is a good idea to collect feedback. It provides valuable insights on what you can do better the next time around. Create online surveys; remember to keep them short and simple. No one has time for lengthy documents.
Creating a virtual event requires time and effort. But, with the steps we have highlighted above, you will have everything set up and running in no time. Further, you have technologies like virtual association management tools to increase efficiency. Good luck with your online event!