HOW TO PLAN A SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL OR HYBRID EVENT
Virtual and hybrid events give businesses a way to connect to their target audience without needing to travel. They’re often cheaper, more efficient, and more scalable than in-person events. However, the process isn't as simple as taking an on-site event and then streaming it. There are several things that you must consider to get the most out of your online event. Neglecting to consider or plan for these points will result in a low return on investment and could even leave a negative impression on the participants. We've compiled a list of things to do which will help you create a memorable virtual experience for everyone involved:
Set a goal for your event
Although this may seem obvious, people often get distracted by all the new functions and features available. Before adding more features to your event, always ask yourself if this feature will help you reach your goal. Assigning KPIs to your goals will also help you measure your ROI and indicate areas that can be improved on. For example, you can measure:
Number of registrations
Email Open and Click-through Rates
Post-Event Survey Results
Social Media Engagement and Reach
Choose a production partner
Choosing the perfect platforms, tools, and functions for your event from the countless available can be quite daunting. Finding a virtual event production partner can help you get the right mix of tools to communicate your goals and vision effectively. The more communication you have with the production team, the more likely it will be to achieve your goals.
Consider the technical challenges
Virtual events have their own set of unique considerations that will impact their success. Check if your staff and presenters have a strong internet connection and, if not, how/where you can source one. Ensure your audience is familiar with the platform you are hosting the event for a smooth event experience by sending pre-event information. Your production team should arrange with you an external communication platform, so challenges during the event can be addressed as a team and solutions deployed quickly.
Prepare your staff and speakers
It is crucial to have all your keynote speakers ready and familiar with the space they will be working in, along with the event's schedule. It would be best to equip them with a high-quality microphone, webcam, and laptop to maximise the audience’s engagement. We highly recommend holding rehearsals with your speakers to ensure they are comfortable and confident with presenting on the platform and tools that have been integrated. Rehearsals are also a good time to identify potential issues and solve them.
Promote the event
Think about the channels available to you which you can use to promote your event and drive engagement before it even starts. Social media, email campaigns, as well as dedicated pages on your website, all act as important points of contact through which you can promote. Create exciting content for your audience, such as video tours of the venue (hybrid) and studio, speaker vlogs, and sneak-peek videos. You should also release the agenda to get registrants talking about your event.
During The Event
Setting a duration for your sessions
Hosting a virtual event for prolonged periods can quickly lead to audience fatigue, resulting in a lack of engagement. We recommend a session lasting between 30 to 60 minutes to keep your audience absorbed in the content. Try not to hold sessions any longer than that, as people need to get up, stretch, and replenish themselves with food or a drink.
Starting the event
Just before your event starts, send one final communication with any related and up-to-date information so attendees can connect without any complications. Give people a couple of minutes to log in and get familiar with the features of the platform. Finally, be a good moderator, keep your eyes out for any questions and comments that may appear in the live chat – this is especially important for technical difficulties as the audience logs in for the first time.
Keep the audience engaged
Providing multiple points of interaction during your virtual event has been proven to increase audience engagement. Polls, live chat, Q&A sessions, and even quizzes can keep things interactive and give remote participants a way to feel connected. You could even establish virtual networking rooms to allow remote participants to chat with each other. What matters is that you establish an intimate relationship between the presenters and the audience.
Gathering event data
Data is a powerful tool which reveals insights about your audience and can be used to improve future ROI. In a digital world, capturing this data and then producing analytics is more important now than ever. Some platforms and providers may offer built-in dashboards or reports to break down audience and event performance. Data also gives you an excellent way to evaluate the performance of your event. It tells you what the audience liked about it and what they would like to see in the next one.
Don't forget that the measurement of success for a virtual event is not the same as an in-person event, so the results might look different from what you expect. Discuss with your production team ways you can improve on the functions and delivery to further increase the effectiveness of your next event.
How can I keep my audience engaged afterwards?
It is important to continue engaging with your audience to maximize your returns and convert leads. Right after the event ends is when you’ll get the most relevant feedback from your participants. It’s also the best time to confirm their attendance for the next one, while their experience with you is still fresh in their minds. Monitor for social media activity and reply to comments from participants. Post recordings on your website/video hosting service and share them with audience members who may have missed out.