The Definitive Guide to Successful Virtual Events in 2021

Planning Your Virtual Events

Planning a virtual event is very different from planning in-person events. If you want to get it right and have a great event, there are a lot of things to consider. From conceptualizing the theme to the more complicated endeavor of choosing the right technology, everything needs to be accounted for. With the sudden arrival and increasing importance of virtual events in today’s event industry, many planners are learning as they go and perfecting the process one step at a time. We’ve been doing the same thing here at All American Entertainment. Here are all of the things we keep in mind when planning a virtual event.

Ideas For Virtual Events

The planning process always starts with an idea. Before you get into the logistics and start choosing the right speaker, you need to know what your virtual event is going to be about. There are a wide variety of tried and true virtual event ideas to choose from, as well as unique and innovative events being held every day.

Virtual Conferences: Due to government regulations, many companies have had to pivot to virtual conferences instead of their normal in-person gatherings. These types of events can span over a few days and include multiple keynote speakers, Q&A and mentoring sessions, and even one-on-one style break out rooms. The increasing popularity of virtual conferences is due to low set up costs and a more global audience, so don’t be surprised if virtual conferences continue to stick around for some time to come.

Virtual Team Building: It is easy for companies to feel out of touch with one another while working from home. The connectedness and team bonding that happens in the office is no longer an option for everyone, so it is important to regularly have company wide virtual meetings to boost morale and stay in touch. Team building through virtual events can be done through virtual trivia, team lunches, puzzle games and more.

We even had our own virtual lunch that focused on gratitude and brought our team together in a time where getting together is hard.

Virtual Performances: Virtual performances like concerts are filling the void that has been created by limited social gatherings. Instead of traveling to an in-person concert to see their favorite artist, people are populating virtual chat rooms and enjoying music through a livestream. Colleges and universities are leveraging virtual events like this to keep students engaged and interacting with one another. It doesn’t stop with concerts though, you can also book other entertainers like comedians or popular celebrities.

Great virtual events start with our virtual event guide.

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Monetizing Virtual Events

When deciding on how to monetize your virtual event  there are two main ways to go about it. Similar to in-person events, selling sponsorships and generating ticket sales are the most popular options. Virtual fundraisers are also a great way to generate money for a good cause. While they are normally done in-person, there are many advantages to fundraisers done online.

Sponsorships: There are plenty of opportunities for sponsorship placements within your virtual event. Whether it be an on-screen visual during the event or ad space on the event landing page, you want to be sure you are communicating clearly with your sponsors so they know exactly what kind of value they are receiving. Many virtual event planners also offer sponsored speakers. While the majority of the lineup will be hand selected, opening up a few speaker slots for sponsors can be another way to get them involved.

Ticket Sales: Ticket sales are also a bit different for virtual events. People are not as willing to pay full price to attend virtually, so keep this in mind if you are looking for high attendance. A great way to solve this problem is to offer multiple ticket levels that grant access to more content at certain price points. Consider offering real-time access for free, and a recording of the event for a price. Many people will pay to have that extra flexibility instead of being bound to a start time that may not work for them. Get creative with the ticket options and offer content that your audience will truly value.

Fundraising: While fundraisers are typically done in-person, there are plenty of virtual fundraiser ideas that have more advantages than you might think. They are more cost effective since there is no need to pay for a venue, catering, or equipment rentals. You also have the ability to reach more people than you ever could with an in-person event. People from all around the world can attend as long as they have a working internet connection. Monetizing your virtual fundraiser can be done similarly to other virtual events through ticket sales and sponsorships.

Choosing The Right Platform

With so many options on the market, choosing the right platform for your virtual event can be overwhelming. You can easily get caught up comparing every tool and what they offer instead of making progress on what really matters. When choosing the right platform for your virtual event, it is important to keep in mind what you need most. Evaluate the purpose of your event and what your audience expects to get out of the experience to ensure every need is met. Here are a few features to keep in mind:

Video: Video is important to any virtual event, so any platform you choose must have the ability to stream clearly and with high quality. Is your event going to be live-streamed? Pre-recorded? Or a mixture of both? These are the types of questions you need to ask when considering platforms with respect to video. Platforms vary, and one may be better for pre-recorded content. Do your research once you know your video strategy to figure out what is best for you.

Engagement: Is audience engagement important to you? It should be. Engagement features include things like live chats and break out rooms. Many platforms offer a live chat feature, but some do it better than others. If you expect to have high attendance rates and engagement is a priority, make sure the platform you choose has a live chat room that can handle a large number of attendees.

Security: Security features within a virtual event platform are highly necessary. You want to make sure your connection is secure and only the right people are able to join, and if allowed to, engage. There are settings on every virtual event platform that allow for different levels of access and participation. If you want to prevent issues, make sure the platform you choose offers security features like protected event passwords and complete control over the livestream.

Finding The Right Virtual Speakers

The process for finding virtual speakers is not much different from in-person events. Going virtual presents some great event speaker opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be possible for live in-person events. Since virtual events allow the speaker to attend from home, you may find it easier to book names you would otherwise see as unreachable. On top of this, many popular speakers are becoming more and more available. With in-person events continuing to be delayed or cancelled, many speakers have plenty of time to consider other opportunities.

Speakers can make or break a virtual event. If you have ever been a part of a webinar or virtual conference and the speaker was unenthusiastic and dull, you know what I’m talking about. You want to ensure that your speaker can captivate an audience and keep positive energy throughout the entirety of the event. While it may seem daunting to find the perfect virtual speaker, it can be quite easy when taking the right approach.

Trending Topics: Finding speakers based on trending topics is a great strategy when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Trending topics are great because it gives you insight into what is popular right now and what the attendees of your virtual event might want to hear about. Think about the type of people in your audience and whether or not they would enjoy hearing from a trending virtual speaker.

On top of trending speakers, you may want to consider using a moderator or emcee to engage your audience and keep the content flowing with smooth transitions. Moderators are also great for when audience members have questions about a certain topic or another aspect of the event.

Related Speakers: Oftentimes, you know exactly who you want to speak at your event, but they are too busy and can’t make it. This is a great time to consider speakers similar to who you were originally thinking of. Sometimes the speaker you end up going with turns out to have a better impact than your original plan. Keep an open mind and consider all of your options.

Reach out to one of our agents: If you need help deciding on who would have the best impact on your virtual event, or just want to talk through your options, feel free to reach out to one of our certified Digital Event Strategists.

Hosting Your Virtual Event

After planning and doing all the work before the event, it’s showtime! Hosting a virtual event  can be a little scary if you’ve never done this before, but it can be quite seamless if you know how to approach it. Viewing experience is arguably the most important aspect of hosting a virtual event, and right next to that is engagement. If you can focus on these two things, your virtual event will be a success. Things don’t always go according to plan, however, so make sure you know what to do if things go wrong.

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Be Prepared! Here’s Our Tech Tips Guide for Virtual Events.

How To Improve Viewing Experience

Maximizing viewing experience during a virtual event is so important for audience retention. It is so easy for attendees to click on another tab or close yours out entirely, so you want your virtual event to run as smoothly as possible. Oftentimes, virtual event planners will get so caught up in the logistics that they don’t think about viewer experience.

Offer Value: This may sound simple, but it is so important to always make sure you are offering exceptional value to the people attending your event. Value can come through many features, including hiring informative speakers, hosting question and answer sessions, providing networking opportunities, and so on. Figure out what experience you want your audience to have, then make sure your virtual event agenda reflects these features to provide the most value.

Keep Your Content Flowing: While taking breaks is important for in-person  events, they can actually hurt the retention of your virtual audience. It is already easy enough to lose an attendee of a virtual event, as attention spans are lower and people get distracted by email or social media. That said, depending on the length and format of your event, people might need a brief break after a while. If you must include a small break, keep it minimal (15 min or less) and provide alternate programming, like a live chat on social media, a fun game or a yoga stretch. This is a great way to leverage a host or moderator to keep the audience engaged instead of a static “taking a break” screen.

Prioritize Engagement: Knowing how to make virtual events interactive is very important for audience retention and overall experience. If your audience is engaged and interacting within the virtual environment, they are more likely to stay for the entirety of the event. Great ways to increase the interactivity of your virtual event are to ask questions using polls, engage on social media feeds,  or to host Q&A sessions that answer questions from the audience.

What Often Goes Wrong with Virtual Events

When it comes down to it, many event planners are still new to virtual events. You don’t have the advantage of knowing what to plan and watch out for that you have with in-person events. Virtual event planners and hosts are presented with new problems at each event, but there are a few things you should definitely prepare for.

Attendance: Although virtual events can see a significantly higher number of registrations, don’t be surprised if you experience up to a 50% attendance drop from people who say they would come. It is so much easier to sign up for a virtual event than it is to arrange travel details and block out time for in-person events. Because of this, many people will sign up and then decide at the last minute they are too busy to attend or would rather do something else. On top of this, many people register for virtual events just to receive the recorded version of it after it’s over.

To help, you may decide to offer incentives for actually attending the live event. This could include things such as providing a free lunch, giveaways, Q&As with popular speakers, or the ability to network with attendees in breakout rooms.

Internet Connection: A big problem with virtual events is, well, the virtual part. Internet connection issues can pose a threat to user experience if speakers do not have the ideal setup or are not plugged in directly to their router. If they don’t know how to already, be sure to help your speakers optimize their internet connection before the event to prevent any problems occurring on event day. You might also want to recommend they have a back up mobile hotspot in case of surprise outages.

Sound Issues: Audio settings can be tricky, but they need to be perfect if you want a smooth virtual event. This is also important to go over before the event happens, as speakers don’t always know where to look for sound settings, or may even need to upgrade their microphone. Sound is critical to the viewing experience of the user. Attendees may tolerate below average video quality, but if sound quality is poor, you will greatly struggle with retention rate. Running into sound issues during the event can be a disaster, so make sure you account for them prior to the start.

Audio issues can be solved by using an external microphone or headset and sound-friendly rooms that reduce echo. Also, having someone available throughout the event to address issues with sound will help your virtual event run smoothly.

What To Do After Your Virtual Event

The work isn’t over once your virtual event is complete. Not only do you need to measure the success of your virtual event and figure out ways to improve for next time, you also need to continue to leverage the content.

How To Measure Success

Since virtual events take so much time and effort to plan and host, you want to be sure there are measurable results that show your hard work has paid off. Measuring the success of your virtual event is also important for improving on future events. Here are a few indicators of a successful virtual event:

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Number of registrants: Number of registrants is a good way to tell how well the marketing efforts surrounding your event have performed. If you had a lower number of registrations than expected, you may want to take a look at how your advertising efforts can be improved.

Another thing to keep in mind is the percentage of registrants that actually attend the event. Due to the ease of attending virtual events from your home, it is reasonable to expect an attendance percentage higher than that of your normal in-person events.

Email Engagement: The number of people engaging with your post event emails is another great way to measure the impact of your virtual event. If an attendee had a positive experience and gained value from what you had to offer, they will be more likely to open and engage with content you send them later on. If they opt in, make sure you are staying in contact with attendees and continuously providing value through email.

Feedback: It is okay to directly ask your attendees for feedback after the completion of the event. This is a great way to get a feel for how the content you presented was received and is a good way to pinpoint ways to improve for next time. Don’t be afraid to live poll your audience at the end of an event or send them an email asking for feedback.

Social media engagement: Be sure to also monitor social media to see if attendees are engaging with event related content or if they are sharing posts of their own. Creating a specific hashtag for your event is a great way to receive genuine feedback from your audience and you can encourage the use of it throughout your broadcast.

Continue To Leverage Your Content

Understanding how to leverage content presented in your virtual event can increase your reach and impact. It is important to remember that many people sign up for virtual events just to receive the recording, and never actually attend. Keep every kind of person in mind and make sure you create content that will resonate with as many people as possible.

Social Media: Virtual events are gold mines for social media content. Whether it be one of your speakers making a great point or an audience member asking a value-packed question in a Q&A, social media is a good way to share small highlights for people that were too busy to attend the whole event. You have the opportunity to share video teaser clips to entice people to watch the full recording or create new resources entirely that focus on social media engagement. Infographics are great for getting the attention of your audience and are a good way to visually communicate statistics mentioned during the event.

Blog Post: Create a blog post on the virtual event topic with a link to the event content. Blog posts are quick and easy reads that are perfect for people that don’t have the time to sit through an entire virtual event, but still want the high level information.

On-Demand: After sending the recording out to your list of sign ups, cutting up the content for social media, and turning it into engaging blog posts, turning the event into a piece of on demand content increases its longevity.

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