Virtual Events 

With the events industry ever-changing in response to the global pandemic, companies have adopted new, “safe” technology for their event planning needs. The popularity of virtual and hybrid events has spread like wildfire throughout the events industry as the go-to solutions for the foreseeable future. 

Though the value of in-person interaction can never be underestimated, hosting virtual events offers real value as a means of driving engagement, efficiency, and connecting audiences on a global scale.

As an event planner, it's more important than ever to have expertise in both virtual and in-person events.

If you are ready to become an expert at creating virtual attendee experiences that leave your attendees engaged, connected, knowledgeable, and spreading the word to all their friends and colleagues, then you'll love this guide.

What is a Virtual Event?

A virtual event is an online event that involves an audience interacting in a virtual environment, rather than meeting in a physical location. They are typically multi-session, multi-day online events that often feature webinars and webcasts. They can be global conferences, product launches, trade shows, conventions, concerts, and more.

What sets virtual events apart is that they are hosted with video conferencing technology. Like their live counterpart, virtual events require effective promotion, attendee engagement, content creation, meaningful connections, and memorable moments.

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Virtual Event Types

Webinars

Webinars allow speakers from an organization to share presentations, videos, websites, or other content with audiences that can be located anywhere. They typically last between 45 and 80 minutes using audio and video components. All webinars use some form of videoconferencing software that allows presenters to hold Q&A sessions, record content, and be viewed on demand once the webinar is over.

Virtual Conferences

Similar to in-person conferences, virtual conferences involve customized virtual event technology and live agendas. Virtual conferences are different than webinars and consist of breakouts, sessions, keynotes, virtual booths, live polling, and more. They often use a personalized virtual event platform that allows attendees to build their own agendas, view content on-demand, interact with other attendees, provide live feedback through polling and surveys, view real-time keynotes, and engage throughout the entire event.

Hybrid

There are both internal and external hybrid event opportunities. Internal hybrid events hold the form of training sessions, sales launches, company wide events, and town halls. External hybrid events accommodate people outside of an organization, taking the form of conferences, industry meetings, and trade shows. External hybrid events let people who can’t physically come to an event learn and participate without leaving their homes.

Check out the 16 questions to ask yourself before planning a hybrid event, here. 

Elements of Virtual Events

A successful virtual event leverages content, engagement, and data. The elements of a virtual event include:

 

Event domain and website

Legitimize and anticipate the event with a unique domain and website, which will be the authoritative location for any participant questions or concerns before the event. The website should communicate the value your event has, display all relevant information, include frequently asked questions, and a guide through the registration process.

Event registration

This is the first point of contact to collect data from attendees. Providing an easy to use, hassle free registration process encourages attendees to submit event preferences, personal information, and provide payment. Offer personalized access for attendees with online event registration that incorporates branded reminders and confirmations.

Live presentations and content

Virtual events are meant to foster a shared experience, which is why a virtual engagement platform should be accessible for live content attendance and engaging conversation.

Find the best virtual presenter tips and tricks, here. 

Recorded content

Recorded content is a great way to create a polished foundation for the event. In addition, it allows event goers to access content during and after the event for continued learning and sharing.

Learn how to create virtual content with a WOW factor, here. 

Networking and breakout sessions

Keep the feel of a live event by offering Q&A sessions, networking events, and breakout sessions during virtual presentations and keynotes. 

Live polling and feedback surveys

Live polling and feedback surveys provide you with data and insight during the event that can drive discussion, innovation, tangible event performance and engagement takeaways.

Learn what virtual event analytics can tell you, here. 

Benefits of Virtual Events

Flexibility

Added flexibility and agility. 91% of B2B buyers prefer interactive and visual content, which opens the opportunity for greater awareness and reach.

Cost-effective

Virtual events are cost-effective. Without the need for a venue, staff, and catering services, a virtual event's fiscal bottom line is a lot easier to look at.

Accessibility

A virtual event only reaches max capacity if the host decides it has—meaning that more participants are allowed without the need for a larger venue.

Hosting Successful Virtual Events

A successful virtual event requires strategic planning and attention. Innovative ways to incorporate engagement into an event are paramount to a virtual event’s overall success and foremost supported by reliable and versatile technology. 

 

Here are factors to keep in mind for a successful and high-impact virtual event:

  • Create a strategy
  • Promote the event
  • Choose the right virtual event platform
  • Keep your audience engaged with gamification and swag stores
  • Provide a mix of pre-recorded and live content
  • Provide feedback opportunities
  • Track event success

Check out how we engaged over 70,000 tech professionals at a virtual conference, here. 

Virtual Event Planning Tips

To start planning a virtual event, the first order of business is creating a game plan. Like in-person events, design the programming around the experience it intends to deliver. Similarly, choosing the right time and date for your event is crucial to start planning effectively.

 

Consider time zones and the group you are trying to reach as you narrow down when the event occurs. Promoting the event will drive attendance if you use the right vehicles to target your audience. Whether it be LinkedIn or Facebook, there are many avenues to explore that can help you get the word out.

 

Here are a few tips to help you plan a virtual event:

  • Understand your audience
  • Define your format
  • Choose the right virtual event platform
  • Choose an MC
  • Market your event
  • Choose a date and time

Virtual Event Attendee Engagement

Not all of your attendees have the same learning styles. Some may prefer to interact with other attendees throughout your sessions, while others want to zone in on the content. Creating an interactive virtual experience is paramount in getting and maintaining attendee engagement. Virtual meetings offer online Q&A, polls, quizzes, streaming sessions, and dynamic chat rooms for a lifelike experience wherever you are participating. Having feature rich event technology will increase attendee engagement and improve event performance.

Discover the best presenter tips and tricks, here

Virtual Event Connecting & Networking

Live events offer a wide range of networking opportunities that are essential to the attendee experience. Virtual events offer similar opportunities through technology that mimic the in-person experience and retain the value of human connection. Through chat, virtual meeting rooms, virtual happy hours, breakout sessions, and Q&A sessions networking opportunities can be fostered in the virtual environment. 

The Do's and Don'ts of Virtual Events

Executing a successful virtual event is more than turning on a camera and starting a live stream.

 

Here is what you want to make sure to do:

  • Establish a partnership with a virtual event provider. Not all virtual event platforms offer the same functionality. To identify the best option for your organization's virtual event, you must first establish what features are most important. Does the event's distribution technology need the capacity to stream globally, locally, or within a specific country? Are you trying to incorporate e-commerce or social media functionality? The answers to these questions will help you hone in your best option.

  • Encourage attendee participation. Incorporate event gamification throughout all elements and phases of the event. This keeps attendees engaged and present while improving their event experience. In addition to interactive programming, you can also get attendees to connect by creating an event #hashtag on Twitter. A social media hashtag makes it easy for participants to find others who are at the event.

  • Establish sponsorships. Sponsors often support in-person events, and the same holds for virtual events. Event sponsorship opportunities are abundant, as they can be incorporated into videos, webinars, or in other non-intrusive manners.

 

Here is what you want to avoid:

  • Don't forget about context. A virtual event does not speak for itself. Just like any gathering, it is only fruitful if there is a larger narrative driving the event. There should be a flow to it—an opening, a middle, and an ending that resonates with each participant.

  • Don't settle for technology that can't do the job. There are many options for virtual event planners, and they should all be explored. However, ensure that your final choice has all of the functionality that you need. An easy way to host a poor virtual event is by lagging video and faulty audio interrupting the program.

  • Don't forget about content leveraging. A virtual event creates a plethora of material that can be repurposed for YouTube videos, slideshows, blog posts, or even audio content. By stretching the resulting content, the benefits of the gathering will go even further, and can even generate some profit.

Tracking the Performance of Virtual Events

Data is the new gold, as all companies have come to learn over the last decade. Strategic data collection provides lucrative insight that can help streamline future decision-making and efficiency.

Multiple points can and should be measured: demographic information, marketing effectiveness, event session registrations, social media engagement, and solicited feedback from surveys or live polls.

It is key to have a virtual event platform that includes feedback and insights features to track attendee engagement and event performance. This allows planners to prepare and improve for future events.

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