How to Host a Virtual Event: Best Practices Walkthrough
Thanks to technology, we can connect with our family and friends effortlessly, anytime we desire through video, voice, and instant messaging platforms. Restricted human interaction due to the coronavirus forces us to begin using this technology to conduct all meetings, webinars, and conferences with our colleagues, management, and clients.
Do you have a business that is jumping into the world of online events for the first time?
We are going to explore all the best practices and benefits when it comes to planning and executing a successful virtual event.
Benefits of Hosting Virtual Events
Why should you host a virtual event? Physical events have many more moving parts to consider and can take several months to a year to plan and deliver. Online functions streamline many aspects of a traditional event and make attendance more practical for most participants.
Even after the pandemic, hosting online events can be something your business implements regularly.
1. Cost-effective: You don't have to book a venue or provide visitors with hotel rooms, cover travel costs or meals.
2. Feedback-friendly: You can provide real-time polls and surveys during the event, which increases the number of people taking the time to participate to provide valuable feedback.
3. Time-efficient: Your team may have to work to set up the event, registration, and advertising efforts to support the event, but you save time by not having to travel to and from the function and worrying about the setup and takedown at a venue.
4. Worldwide access: You don't need people to travel from far distances to attend the event; they could be registered and allowed to enter the event from their living room.
5. Attendee data: As attendees log into the platform, data collection occurs in the backend capturing information such as where they located, what time they logged on, and how they paid for the event – to name a few metrics. Ensure you’re up-to-date on different countries’ regulations, laws, and mandatory compliances with the use, collection, and storing of their citizens’ data.
Important Planning Considerations
Once you've decided on the type of online event you want to hold, you need to create a game plan that will align with your goals and strategies.
Ask yourself these questions:
What type of experience do you want your visitors to have?
Will the event be available to watch after its live debut?
What platforms will you use to promote the event?
What time will work for the majority of my audience?
Will admission to the event be free or have a price?
What type of data are you going to track?
What kind of equipment, software, and/or platform will you need in order to capture and host your event?
Do people have to register, or can they tune in whenever?
Is the app, software, and/or platform secure in terms of cyber security?
Tools for Webinars and Conferences
Now it's time to choose a platform that works best for your business' size and needs. Each platform has its own set of capabilities and pricing, so performing sufficient research before making a decision is ideal.
Here are the top 3 options and a list of other alternatives that may suit you better.
The set up is easy to administer
The user interface is simple to navigate
Participants can join the call quickly with no configurations required
If you have a large team, plans get quite expensive
The data you can collect on users is limited compared to the competition
No notifications for when a private chat commences
Polls and voting features
Live chat capabilities
Alerts and notifications for when the webinar begins
Unable to pull specific parameters in reporting, it's just a set report
Limited customizability of webinar email invites
The user interface is plain and dated
Easy to set up and for attendees to join
No install required for attendees to access the webinar
Webinar recording feature
Recordings are uneditable unless they are taken into an editing program and uploaded again
No folder organization of recorded videos
Limited amount of email types and templates for invites
Best Practices for Execution
Ensure your event runs smoothly by reviewing this list below to make sure you have all your bases covered before proceeding to go live.
Get the technicalities right:
Make sure you have a reliable internet connection that is preferably hardwired.
Test your audio components to check if they are working correctly and don't pick up too much background noise. (Use a dedicated microphone instead of your computer's built-in one).
Start broadcasting your event a bit earlier than scheduled to enable people to enter the waiting room and test your video and audio with them.
Get your participants involved in the event:
Take the time to get to know your audience if it's a smaller event to gain some insight as to why they joined the webinar and what they hope to take away from it.
Launch a poll as people enter the call to understand what audience members want to hear, gauge their knowledge levels on the topics, and gather any other information based on trends and public opinion.
To establish a two-way discussion, host a Q&A session to accomplish real-time engagement on a social media platform using a particular hashtag, or during the live event to increase participation and interest levels.
Open a live chat to get people to contribute their thoughts without having to bring the event to a standstill. Dedicate a few members of your team to be in charge of answering questions from the attendees. It's essential to relieve any confusion and provide immediate support to improve each attendee's experience with the event.
Have some colleagues join as attendees to help get conversation going if need be! They can start engaging and asking questions to get other attendees involved.
Post-event feedback is crucial to acknowledge the positives and negatives of your event. Learn from the feedback and incorporate those changes for the next event you host.
Get your event on other live stream channels:
Setting up a custom live streaming host can expand your reach exponentially as you will be on multiple platforms such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live and more.
It provides a direct and personal connection to each person attending by broadcasting over a platform they are familiar with and targets the individuals who didn't receive any promotional material surrounding the event.
Takes minimal effort to add these channels to your live stream and can produce a better result in terms of attendance, participation, and conversions.
Having to pivot and perform online functions should give you confidence to maintain continuity with your employees, customers, and overall business goals whenever necessary. Now that you have a firm grasp of the details associated with hosting a virtual event, you can add this method to your digital strategy.
Let us know how your next virtual event goes and DM us on Instagram (handle: @ciaccelerate)!