Over the last two years, event planners have spent considerable time and effort shifting one- or two-day conferences for clients online, reimagining them as virtual events.
These virtual corporate events have many parallels with live events – they attract key players within a given industry who want to discuss significant trends while providing a convenient platform to exchange ideas and network with fellow professionals. The biggest benefit is that they’re relatively inexpensive and can be held in multiple formats, such as an invite-only webinar.
Many of the virtual events that webinar.net produced in 2021 even featured help desks, delegate lounges and sponsor booths, further mirroring live events.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to jump in – the virtual and hybrid events industry is booming. In 2020, the global virtual events industry was worth USD 94.04 billion. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.7 percent for the next several years!
For your virtual event to stand out in 2022, you’ll need to be bold. As with live events, all the effort and planning into producing a virtual event will be for nothing if you fail to leave a lasting impression on your audience.
So, what is the secret sauce to planning a truly engaging virtual event?
We’ll break everything down and ensure you navigate the virtual event planning process smoothly. Here are seven best practices you should follow in 2022, whether you’re a rookie or a more seasoned producer, to master this critical marketing tool.
1. Content, content, content
The meat and potatoes of a good virtual event session is its content. However, you can’t just use anything – it needs to be something that resonates with your target audience.
Most businesses are overly focused on the topic they want to talk about, whether it’s about how successful their business is or how great their team is, but this can be a mistake. What you should focus on is what your audience wants to discuss.
So, what should you provide?
If you need ideas, it’s a good idea to start by talking to people on the frontlines of your business (i.e., your sales team or customer service reps) as they’ll highlight the current pain points of your audience.
Regarding your content, the team at webinar.net finds that case studies are highly effective. They showcase your company’s efforts to potential customers without explicitly trying to sell them your product and/or service. Not only are you highlighting a client’s success, but you’re also simultaneously suggesting that if they switch from another company to yours, they can expect to see similar results.
Other content suggestions include sector- specific research studies, keynotes and even panel discussions with leading executives.
A word of caution – don’t try to do too much. Part of the appeal of case studies, for example, is that their conflict-resolution structure makes it easy for the audience to pick up and digest all the information.
Overstuffing your virtual event diminishes its value. You want to be lean enough to whet your audience’s appetite without making them full, so they can’t help but come back for second helpings.
2. Don’t put your audience to sleep
People like stories. Not everyone feels that they have the power to tell a good one. The most common excuse is that they’re not ready and can’t cook up anything good on the spot.
We’re a lot more capable than we think. Everyone has this ability, innately, especially when it’s something we care about; stories forge connections among people and between people and ideas.
When it comes to your virtual event, you also need to tell a compelling story to hook your audience. You have a solid foundation for success if you care about the subject matter and have the right audience.
Maintain your audience’s attention by providing interactivity. Virtual events that lack attendee engagement are 150 percent more likely to be unsuccessful.
Polls, chat boxes, quizzes, surveys and so forth are great ways to make attendees feel like they’re a part of the story. Gamify the experience by rewarding audience engagement with your platform throughout the event – the more they ‘play,’ the higher they move up the leaderboard.
3. Choose the right presenter & host for your virtual events
You still need the right presenter and host to carry out your virtual event, even with the best material.
The problem is that most companies are looking in the wrong place. Contrary to popular belief, the best presenter is not always the smartest person in the room. Why? Virtual attendees won’t relate to your story if they are too high level to speak to your target audience.
Successful virtual events also need a good host. Their job is to keep the presenter on track, monitoring them so that they cover all the key topics without getting sidetracked and going over the allotted time. In our experience, the best hosts can elevate the talent and make your virtual event that much more engaging.
4. Format your content accordingly
Beyond having the right content, you need to present it accordingly. You’ll want to do the following:
- Be minimalist with your PowerPoint presentations. Use as few words as possible while including striking images to capture people’s attention. If anyone wants to know more about a specific topic, provide a link to your downloadable assets.
- Use a suitable medium to tell your story. You can use everything from videos to open-ended questions to make your point.
- Make sure that your attendees and participants don’t have to struggle to use your virtual event technology. If it’s too complicated to access your content, it will lead to frustration, and people will leave.
As we mentioned before, you want to provide your audience with just enough information to understand the topic while leaving breadcrumbs to follow if they want to know more.
5. Strategic promotion is key
Virtual events don’t sell out like live events. As a virtual event planner, you’ll need to get the word out in some other way. Not only that, but you also need to get the right attendees.
We recommend a four-to-five-week promotional campaign. You want to avoid over-communicating/over-promoting, as people will tune you out and unsubscribe from your emails.
The key here is getting your event into people’s minds but not being afraid to space things out. Don’t worry, if they’re interested, they won’t forget about you. You have multiple tools at your disposal, including:
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Sponsorships (depending on the size of the event)
Unlike the early birds for an in-person event, those who sign up early for your events online are less likely to show up. It’s in the final week where you want to make your big push. Most registrations occur just before kick-off – the perfect time to switch gears and push the hype train into high gear.
6. Don’t skimp on your virtual event platform
Choosing the right event platform is one of the most important but overlooked aspects of hosting virtual events. All of them offer different features, such as co-hosting with another organization or engagement tools (i.e., polls) that let you connect with your audience.
While you could use a virtual meeting platform like Zoom to host your virtual conference, if you want to ensure that you have a successful event, we strongly recommend a platform dedicated to webinars. Why? With dedicated virtual event platforms, you have access to more attendee tracking capabilities; this is crucial if your business is serious about building awareness and boosting conversions.
Be on the lookout for the following features:
- Social media integrations
- Networking and engagement
- Event management software integration
- Sponsorship opportunities
- Analytics and reporting
If you’re in the process of deciding on a platform, consult our detailed list of the four best webinar platforms for those on a tight budget. In under 60 seconds, you’ll be up and running, no matter the size of your virtual event audience. Best of all, there are no plugins, so attendees can show up and enjoy the show!
7. Be prepared for any technical and human issues
No matter how well event organizers prepare in advance, technical difficulties with audio or video during an online event are always possible. To avoid lengthy disruptions on the big day, make sure you add backup software and tech support to your virtual event planning checklist.
Things aren’t always civil in the chat section of virtual conferences, so it is also important that you have enough moderators on hand to keep the peace. The last thing you want is chaos to erupt.
While you’re at it, look out for these other webinar software red flags that can undermine your careful virtual event planning.
How do you plan a successful virtual event?
To plan a virtual event, you’ll be doing many of the same things you would do for an in-person event. The key difference with virtual event planning is how you research your audience, which virtual event type you choose, where you choose to host it as well as what virtual event technology you utilize.
How do you make a virtual event interactive?
To have a session, engagement and interactivity are a must. These are some but not all of the ways you can achieve this:
- Create quizzes and questionnaires.
- Encourage voting during virtual events.
- Create a fun learning experience.
- Create memories with an interactive virtual events platform.
- Enable real-time chat between attendees and event organizers.
- Provide a virtual networking feature to connect everyone.
Why are virtual events the events of the future?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, virtual events are the future. Not only is this event type more sustainable, but it also presents fewer entry barriers for speakers and attendees than the average physical event. Moreover, you have access to more engagement tools to shape your future event planning.
If you need more help putting on your first virtual event or webinar, reach out to an expert at webinar.net today! They’ll walk you through a live demo or if you want a more hands-on approach, try out the virtual events platform using a free trial.
Make your next virtual event a success. When you switch to the best online webinar software platform on the planet, you’ll be engaging your audience like never before!