How To Organize a Successful Online Event in the New Normal
In just a few years, the world has experienced massive changes that no one was prepared for. When the COVID-19 pandemic went out in full swing, countless industries were brought to their heels—including the event management industry. Since several health and safety regulations are in place that protects the public from the disease, holding in-person events becomes near impossible.
But, even if the future looked bleak for event professionals, the rise of technologies developed to connect people with one another saved the day! Say hello to virtual events.
What is a virtual event?
Simply put, a virtual event is a type of event that happens online. With virtual events, organizers now have the means to gather people again without worrying about the logistical nightmare COVID-19 has brought upon.
Why should you organize a virtual event?
Compared to in-person events, virtual events only take fewer resources to organize. Since the event is happening in the digital space, you don’t need to secure an actual venue (which is quite expensive especially given the current circumstances), book for a caterer, setup venue theme and design, and other event elements you have to think of when organizing an in-person event.
However, that doesn’t mean that mounting an event virtually doesn’t come with unique challenges for the organizers. Since these events happen remotely, event organizers have a hard time keeping their attendees actively engaged with the event. Event attendees are often surrounded by distractions—from noisy neighbors to poor internet connectivity. If the event is not planned with these factors in mind, chances are the virtual event is doomed to fail.
So, how can you make your digital event something to write home about? Here’s how!
How can you organize a successful virtual event?
1. Lay down your event goals
Just like before, you also have to set clear event goals and objectives first before you start planning for your event. These goalposts will guide your team’s effort to ensure that you will stick to the right path as you go along with your event planning—and these will also serve as your success metrics to see how well your digital event has performed in the end.
However, setting up goals isn’t as simple as saying, “I want my event to succeed.” Instead, it should follow the SMART formula. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound. When you are deciding on your virtual event goals, you should check whether it clearly defines a feasible end goal that is achievable within a specific time frame.
To explain it further, take a look at these two examples of virtual event goals:
Goal A: I want to make my virtual event successful.
Goal B: By the end of the event, I want to generate 30% more qualified business leads than last year.
Every virtual event organizer’s dream is to make their events a success—a noble and admirable goal, but too vague. There are different definitions of success, and that is why you should clearly state how you want to succeed, just like Goal B. On the second example, your definition of success is gaining more qualified business leads than last year’s event. With a specific goal like this, you can now develop a roadmap to strategize on how you can achieve the said goal.
2. Decide on your budget
Planning the budget for your virtual event is different from in-person events. Since the event will happen purely online, you wouldn’t have to worry about securing an event venue, catering, venue decorations, and more!
But that doesn’t mean that you can just skim through your budget planning phase with virtual events. Since you should have a different planning approach with a virtual event, you still need to prepare the essentials such as your digital event platform, speakers, marketing plan, and of course, sponsorship packages.
3. Be creative and inclusive in planning your virtual event program
Planning for virtual events requires a seismic mind-shit as an event planner. When organizing a virtual event, you shouldn’t simply replicate the in-person experience but instead redefine them.
Technology, mainly social media, is instrumental in connecting people in the New Normal society. Although it still can’t beat the genuine connections built during in-person interactions, recent innovations have brought new ways to communicate with each other—and you should maximize that opportunity to guarantee the success of your virtual event.
For example, it is a common challenge among event organizers to keep their virtual attendees engaged throughout the event. Since your virtual guests are attending from their homes, they are subject to all sorts of distractions. So here are some engagement ideas that you can do to keep them active throughout your virtual event:
- Have your virtual host regularly address your attendees by having them share their thoughts on social media while using your event’s hashtag.
- Break your virtual event into shorter sessions. Encourage your speakers to keep their talk at 30 minutes maximum to prevent your virtual audience from getting bored.
- Encourage your participants to engage and network with each other by hosting breakout sessions.
- Offer in-demand sessions for your attendees. If a number of your virtual guests live in a different time zone, this will allow them to still participate in the event at their leisure.
4. Create a clear agenda for your virtual event
Once you have nailed down your event program, you should now start developing your virtual event agenda. In your agenda, make sure to include the time of the session, the speaker, and other programs you want to highlight in your virtual event so your guests can plan ahead.
Having a clear virtual event agenda is necessary to keep everything on time.
5. Craft your marketing plan
No matter how much effort you give in organizing a virtual event, it will all go to waste if you don’t promote it. And one of the secrets for a high virtual event turnout is an effective marketing plan.
Nowadays, event organizers harness the power of technology to promote their virtual events, from boosting your event to your target audience to even reaching out again to interested participants who didn’t make a ticket purchase before but are willing to join at a later time.
To execute a successful marketing plan, here are some things you have to prepare first:
- Audience Demographics – Knowing who your target market is important in creating promotional materials that are relevant to them. If you want to target government contractors in the medical industry, your promotional materials should highlight your invited industry experts to entice your audience to join the event.
- Promotional Materials – Since you are promoting your virtual event online, you can get creative on executing it! You can create engaging posts on social media, launch an event website and mobile event app, ask your invited speakers to promote the event on their channels, and more!
- Content Calendar – Once you have your marketing content in place, you should find the right timing to publish it. Having a content calendar to schedule your materials will help you visualize how your virtual event marketing plan will pan out.
6. Scout for sponsors
Having sponsors supporting your virtual event can tremendously help you make your virtual event a success. Depending on the sponsorship packages you offer, your sponsors can offer financial and promotional support and even provide logistical support to your virtual event by giving exclusive use of their services, such as event platform hosting.
If you want to know how to secure event sponsors, check out this guide.
7. Choose the best virtual event platform
Your chosen virtual event platform can make or break your event, so you have to be careful in selecting which platform you should mount your event. Fortunately, there has been a rise in virtual event platforms for every format of virtual event imaginable, may it be for webinars, conferences, and even product launches.
When choosing your virtual events platform, try to create a checklist of the features that you need to make the event a success, such as:
- Event platform compatibility with your virtual event format
- Registration and ticketing capabilities
- Task automation (Session recording, audience data gathering, etc.)
- Customization (Customize the platform to reflect your branding and messaging across all channels such as event website and mobile event app)
- Speaker, participant, and panelist management
- Speaker and attendee engagement features (Breakout rooms, chat boxes)
- Social media integration so the audience can quickly share the event with their networks
- Live support and troubleshooting
- Data analytics
8. Have an event moderator to monitor online conduct
Observing proper “netiquette” and decorum while a virtual event is happening is essential in maintaining order in the event. Although unruly virtual attendees are only frequent during free and open-for-all virtual events, you should still include having a moderator on your team to help answer queries, resolve conflicts, or manage disruptive behaviors.
9. Prepare for any technical difficulties
Just like in in-person events, you should also prepare for emergencies during virtual events. And since it mostly happens online, you should be prepared to handle any technical issues your management staff, speakers, and the audience may experience during the virtual event.
If you are using an event platform for the first time, make sure to familiarize your whole team with the tool during the pre-production stage. It would be better to request a representative from your event platform provider to guide your team in navigating the platform’s features as well as provide live technical support as the virtual event rolls on.
10. Conduct a post-event evaluation
And last but definitely not least, perform a digital post-event evaluation. Evaluating your virtual event lets you see whether you have achieved your virtual event goals or not, which areas still need to be improved, and what you can do better in your next virtual event. Since organizing virtual events is still new to most event organizers, post-event evaluation is necessary for growth and learning.
To get accurate data and feedback for your post-event evaluations, here are some of the things that you can do:
- Ensure that your chosen event platform can gather event metrics from your virtual event’s registration phase to the end and analyze the collected data.
- Monitor your social media traction rate and see how well your promotional efforts have performed.
- As soon as the event has concluded, send your digital survey forms to your target people, namely your participants, staff, and sponsors.
Check out this comprehensive post-event evaluation guide so you can walk through the entire evaluation process.
What’s next for New Normal events?
In some parts of the world, health and safety restrictions are being lifted. Although social gatherings and events are still kept to a minimum, the virtual event experience has opened new doors to redefine the event-going experience in the New Normal. By merging the convenience and innovation of virtual events and the genuine feel of in-person events, hybrid events are now favored by more and more event planners.
Explore ways on how you can revolutionize your events by checking out this guide for organizing hybrid events!