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How to run a successful virtual event

Four key steps to engaging your community of customers with an online event

 

With lockdown and social distancing likely to be part of our lives for some time, many large events have been cancelled or postponed. But there is an alternative to cancelling altogether – have you considered hosting your event online?

A large portion of your customers, suppliers and staff may be working remotely right now. So, if you have an idea or topic that may interest, inform or entertain them, a virtual event could be a great way to connect.

People are looking for ways to better themselves by learning new skills during this period and a virtual event allows you to encourage that sentiment – while also being a relatively cheap way to raise engagement levels with your brand. Many businesses shy away from virtual events as they can appear complex and difficult to pull off. But by correctly approaching the different elements that go into a virtual event, you’ll be able to create an engaging and productive experience that will both promote your business and add some value for those attending.

In this blog post, we’ll cover everything from how to pick the right video conferencing platforms and create an agenda, to which technologies you should use to keep things as interactive as possible.

1.  Picking the right video conferencing platform

Once your audience becomes virtual, considerations change. The size of your audience will no longer be determined by the size of your venue but by the digital platform you choose to use.

There are several video conferencing (VC) platforms capable of hosting a virtual event, with the most popular choices being:

Each has its own pros and cons, so it’s worth taking the time to investigate them all first. Things to consider include:

  • What is the maximum number of people that can join?
  • Do all attendees need a licence or just the host?
  • Can you mute and unmute attendees?
  • What interactive tools does it have?
  • What will the layout look like for the audience and presenters?
How to run a successful virtual event infographic

2.  Preparing for the best user experience

Without a physical meeting room full of colleagues and customers getting together and catching up, you’re going to need to create buzz before the event even starts; you need an exciting agenda!

Your agenda should trigger interest in potential attendees the second they see it. So make it clear, concise, and very relevant to the needs of your chosen audience.

Some things to consider:

  • Make all presenter sessions short – a maximum of 30 minutes
  • If you go longer, schedule plenty of breaks and clearly state when attendees should return
  • If you have a lot of content, consider breaking it up over 2-3 days
  • Actively encourage presenters to include a variety of interactive content in their presentation, such as Q&As, polls, quizzes or wordclouds.
How to run a successful virtual event infographic

This could also be a new experience for your presenters, even if they are experienced speakers. So run through their presentations with them beforehand to ensure they are striking the right tone and that they are comfortable using the interactive tools ahead of the event.

Remember, it’s a lot harder to hold your delegates’ attention when they’re sitting in front of a laptop, so you can never make your virtual event too interactive.

Tools like Slido and Mentimeter are ideal for a virtual conference and easy to use. They allow you to conduct quizzes and polls that engage and relax both your presenters and audience. They also allow you to collect feedback via surveys throughout the event.

Just make sure you test your chosen tools in advance (with your video conferencing platform of choice) by creating test questions and trying it out both as if you’re the audience and again as a presenter.

3.  Marketing the event

With a digital event it is worth remembering that you should not only market your event to maximise the number of attendees, but also remind people when your event is.

Start by reaching out directly to those who’ll be interested in coming. If it’s something your current customers would engage with, consult your email list and send out digital invites – personalising them as much as possible to optimise engagement.

Outside of your own pool of contacts, you can promote your event through advertising. Placing social media and PPC (pay per click) ads is a great start. You can also try submitting sponsored content to publications, working with influencers in your industry, or simply listing the event on sites like Eventbrite

Once you secure an attendee, make sure you send out a reminder email a few days before the event, and on the day itself – and don’t forget to include any links or passwords they may need.

4.  Hosting and getting feedback

The trickiest part will be making it all come together on the day.

Preparation will be your best friend, so collect all the content at least a week before the event and make sure you have:

  • Run through each section to ensure the content flows, with no duplications or contradictions
  • Left enough time for Q&As to maintain engagement and ensure you land messages clearly
  • Created a script for the person controlling the content, detailing when each action is meant to happen
  • Prepared a dedicated IT support team for presenters and delegates
  • Clearly communicated how delegates can access content from the event afterwards.
How to run a successful virtual event infographic

Finally, give a lot of extra time for questions, especially if you’re using one of the aforementioned interactive tools. It may surprise you how many questions you have at the end.

Encourage delegates to leave feedback too, either through the interactive event tools or a traditional feedback form in a follow-up email. This will help you assess how successful the event was, tackle any information that might not have landed, and make positive changes for your next virtual event.

For more support you can also speak to one of our Business Advisers by phone or web chat. Wondering what you can ask? Our team can help with a range of digital topics

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