It can feel like an overwhelmingly large task to host a virtual event. The good news is that the ability to communicate, inspire, and educate people across the city, the country, and the world has never been easier.
Not sure where to start? Follow our step-by-step guide to putting on a successful virtual event including everything you need to know to plan, schedule, and pull off a memorable affair.
In the guide, we’ll cover:
- The Power of Hosting Virtual Events
- What is a Virtual Event?
- Types of Virtual Events
- How to Host a Virtual Event
- The Benefits of Hosting Virtual Events
- How to Choose a Location for Your Virtual Event
- Tips to Planning a Virtual Event
- Why You Should Host a Virtual Event
The power of hosting virtual events
Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, our attendance at virtual events worldwide skyrocketed. Over the first few months of COVID-19 alone, attendance at online events was up an astounding 1000%, according to one source.
From online staff meetings and courses, to on-demand fitness classes, to virtual concerts, people have been working, working out, and entertaining themselves via their computers.
According to Google Trends, the world has reached a comfortable plateau when it comes to attending virtual events.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is one that is offered exclusively online. Attendees experience the occasion via their computers instead of going to an event venue in person.
While there may be a component that’s offered in-person, such as a delivery of a gift basket, meal, wine, or other event-related items, the main occasion is held virtually.
Types of virtual events
There are several different types of virtual events:
- Virtual conferences
- Online trade shows, expos, & exhibits
- Virtual fundraising events
- Virtual entertainment events
- Hybrid events
The most common type of virtual event
The most widespread virtual event, webinars, are popular because they can be hosted for small groups of people.
You can host a work webinar for any number of reasons, including:
- Boost company morale
- Host conference calls with other offices within a business
- Share a presentation
- Collaborate on a project
- Host a staff or client meeting
- Discuss financial and practical solutions with upper management
Now that we know what virtual events are and their major types, let’s talk about how to host an online event.
How to host a virtual event
Depending on the scope and type of occasion, and thanks to the push by the pandemic to develop new options, there are many hosting platforms to choose from when planning an online event.
Whether you want to connect participants via voice call or video chat, here are some of the apps, social media, and software options you can choose from when planning your event:
- Google Meet
- GoToMeeting / GoToWebinar
- Skype for Business
- WebEx by Cisco
When selecting the right platform for a virtual event, keep the following questions in mind:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What do you want participants to take away?
If you’re hoping to allow participants to mingle and network you’ll want to choose a different platform than if you’d like them to sit back, watch, and listen.
The benefits of hosting a virtual event
There are countless benefits to hosting a virtual event, including:
- Improved communication,
- A boost to team morale,
- The ability to attract and host more people,
- The ability to attract people from a larger geographic area,
- An opportunity to host shorter, more frequent events,
- The option to more easily collaborate with other attendees,
- More inclusive and accessible,
- Higher attendance because they’re easier to attend,
- Shareable, consumable, scaleable, and evergreen (because they can be recorded),
- Lower participant costs, and
How virtual events are cost-effective
Where cost-effectiveness is concerned, this extends to both event hosts and attendees.
Hosts don’t need to pay tons of money to rent out a large and expensive space to host hundreds of people. Instead, all you need is room for the organizers and presenters.
Participants can attend a virtual event without the need to pay for a babysitter, parking, transit, food, refreshments, etc., and without the need to schedule off as much time to attend.
How to choose a location for your virtual event
When selecting a location from which to live stream your online event, consider the following:
- Is the location quiet and professional-looking with plenty of privacy?
- Does it have the equipment and technology needed to allow you to record and stream a high-quality live event (think audio and video)?
- Does it look and feel of a real office where you can give off an air of professionalism and focus on giving your listeners a high-quality experience?
- Is the space comfortable and usable with the right amenities? For example, does it have a break spot to have a coffee, parking, and access to washrooms?
- Does it have tech support on-site if needed?
Tips for a planning a virtual event
Once you decide on the type of event you want to host, your main objectives, your hosting platform, and from where you’ll live stream the event, it’s time to start the planning process.
Every successful event is the result of careful, advanced planning.
We recommend you prioritize planning to minimize the chances you’ll be faced with an issue you hadn’t planned for .
Here are our top 10 tips for hosting a virtual event that will inspire and inform attendees.
1. Avoid connectivity issues
The number one complaint heard during virtual events involves connectivity.
Avoid hearing your participants say things like, “I can’t hear you?” and “Jim, you’re frozen!” with proper planning.
Keys to avoiding connectivity issues
The key here is to plan, plan, plan by doing the following:
- Choose a reliable internet connection,
- Test your connection before the event,
- Learn how to troubleshoot common issues associated with your chosen platform,
- Carefully read the directions on how to use the platform,
- Make sure to share relevant information about using the platform with attendees prior to the event,
- Ask attendees to connect in advance to troubleshoot issues before the event begins, and
- Assign one event organizer to act as tech support. This person should not be the host!
While there are no guarantees when it comes to technology, with proper planning you’ll be better able to mitigate and troubleshoot tech issues in real-time during the event.
2. Use a reliable platform
In addition to a reliable Internet connection, you need a reliable platform to host your event.
With so many platforms to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your event. The following questions will help guide your decision-making:
- Which devices are most participants using?
- Which platform will offer the highest data security and privacy?
- What do online platform reviews say?
- Which network do most people connect to?
- How good is the platform’s customer support?
- What features does the platform have (document sharing, breakout rooms, etc.)?
3. Set an agenda
Before you can host an event, everyone participating needs to know how the event will unfold.
When creating an event agenda, include the following:
- Start and end times, including how early people can log on,
- Mention whether questions will be answered during the event and whether these should come in in advance or whether they can be posed in real-time in, say, a chat,
- Outline the timing of the event including whether there will be a keynote, how many guest speakers will be talking,
- Whether or not there will be breaks and, if there are, when and for how long,
- Whether there will be time for the participants to ask questions to the presenters at the end of their talk, and
- If there will be time to network or mingle with other participants and for how long.
An agenda gives participants a better idea of what to expect from your virtual event.
With an organized schedule you can properly plan for all speakers and presentations, leave time for questions and answers, and include white space for improvisation and the unexpected.
Finally, sticking to a schedule also prevents dead space where you may lose momentum and the attention of participants.
What about meeting agendas?
When creating a meeting agenda, make sure you:
- Clearly state the purpose of your meeting
- List questions that need to be addressed
- Identify the purpose of all agenda items
- Provide timeframes for each discussion topic
- Choose a person to lead each topic
- Add a ‘review’ section at the end of your meeting
Be sure to leave your agenda somewhat flexible in case unexpected issues come up.
4. Time your virtual event well
One secret to hosting a successful virtual event is choosing a convenient time that accommodates as much of your target audience as possible.
With the whole world as your potential audience, however, it’ll be impossible to cater to everyone.
Pick a reasonable start and end time for your virtual get-together. Accept that you can’t, nor should you, try to attract everyone from multiple time zones.
5. Invite engaging and popular speakers
With over 50% of people admitting to doing other things during virtual meetings, your choice of speaker is crucial to keep people’s attention and hosting a successful virtual event.
Choose someone who’s message motivates and inspires. Invite a presenter who will be memorable and who will captivate the audience.
What to look for in a presenter
A presenter must:
- Be relatable, high-energy, and entertaining,
- Be an expert on the subject they’re speaking about,
- Be relevant to what your audience wants and needs,
- Speak in an engaging, outgoing voice, not monotone
Vet your speakers well before selecting them for your virtual event. Watch and listen to other keynotes, webinars, or podcasts they may have given to get a feel for their style. Ask for references from other event organizers who have used them in the past
Before the big day, be clear with your presenters about your expectations of them. This will go a long way to ensuring everyone is on the same page.
6. Promote your virtual event
If no one knows about the event, how will they know to attend it?
Here’s how you can promote your virtual event more effectively:
- Send evites to your network, use social media posts and promotions, and do a PR and media push to spread the word about your event,
- Request that participants RSVP and keep an attendance list even if the event is free (this will provide an air of formality to guests and improve the odds people will attend),
- Send your attendees reminders as the date approaches,
- Promote any special guests (speakers, keynotes, company higher-ups, etc),
- Talk about rewards for attendees, e.g., takeaways, participant-only downloads and resources, discounts on future events, etc.
- Tell your trusted clients and customers about it. Word of mouth is powerful.
7. Make your virtual event relevant
Make sure the topics you cover are relevant and offer value to participant’s. This shows that you respect their time and are serious about offering them useful information and resources.
It’s also a good idea to check out the demographic of your audience. Are they mostly millennials? If so, try adding upbeat music or even a live DJ.
Do they tend to be corporate types? Give them an excuse to have fun and take a break from the daily grind.
The more relevant your virtual event, the more successful it will be.
8. Content is king when you host a virtual event
Speaking of relevant content, when it comes to hosting an online event, your content is your presentation.
Without the benefit of an in-person event, you need to captivate, entertain, and engage participants. Here’s how:
- Use presentation slides with colorful and powerful visuals, not text,
- Include an attractive and modern background for, say, virtual fitness or speaking events,
- Hire powerful keynote speakers,
- Incorporate videos and animated infographics,
- Be sure to tailor content so it’s relevant to the industry,
- For smaller events, think about what specific interests of attendees.
No matter what, your content needs to be top-notch. Ask yourself: when I record this event and play it back in a year, will it feel dated or will I be proud of its high-quality and ongoing relevance?
9. Make your virtual event interactive
Another hurdle of virtual events is keeping participants engaged.
While people can get involved from the comfort of their home, it doesn’t always deliver the same sense of excitement or immediacy as an in-person gathering.
The good news is with proper planning and a little insight, you can create an interactive event that will keep attendees engaged and have them talking about it long after it’s over.
Tips for participant engagement
Here are some ideas for how to encourage participation and engagement:
- Avoid streaming endless content with no breaks and no opportunity for input or feedback
- Create specific Q&A sessions,
- Use chat for attendees to ask questions and layer the answers to these into the event in real-time,
- Let people discuss what’s happening with other attendees through the use of breakout rooms or the like,
- Allow anonymous questions and feedback to allow for shy or a more personal interaction
This approach makes everyone feel part of the action!
10. Don’t forget to follow up after your virtual event is over
Congratulations! You successfully hosted a virtual event—now what?
It’s time to follow up.
- Contact everyone your attended and participated in the event to see what aspects worked well and which ones could be improved on
- Provide attendees with a survey about all aspects of the virtual event
- Ask important questions when asking for feedback:
- Did the agenda work? The timing?
- Was the platform easy to use?
- Were there any connectivity issues?
- Were the guest speakers engaging and inspiring?
- Did you feel the event provided value for your time and/or money?
Feedback is crucial and will help you improve the next time you host a virtual event.
Why you should host a virtual event—and the ideal location you should use to host it
With advancements in technology and an increase in remote work, virtual event planning is easier than ever—and a must if you want to build your audience.
Backbone Executive Offices offers the perfect spot to host both virtual and in-person events.
With gorgeous and professional offices and conference rooms equipped with the latest technology, and a smaller media room created specifically with online content creation in mind, you can focus on planning your virtual event while we take care of the logistics.
Schedule a tour today and let us show you how hosting a virtual event from our coworking space is the right decision.
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Backbone Coworking & Executive Offices
104-32615 S Fraser Way
Abbotsford, BC, V2T 1X8