Virtual events are becoming the go-to event type in our current situation and based on the success of virtual events, they won’t be going away anytime soon.
We’ve put together and easy to follow virtual event planning checklist to use when planning your next virtual event.
Before the virtual event
Define your event purpose
Every event is created for a specific purpose. Before you begin planning, identify what the purpose of your event will be. Do you want to raise brand awareness? Gather leads? Engage with attendees? Foster networking? Virtual events require a clear focus. Put your event purpose in writing and let it guide your planning process from start to finish.
Identify event goals
Goalsetting is done before an event as a way to gauge how well the event performs against clearly defined goals. Virtual events might be a newer event type, but your goals can be based on past in-person events. With a single event technology platform, you’ll be able to gather consistent data across your events to compare success. When making virtual event goals for the first time, recognize they are a guess. Once you have hosted a few virtual events, it will be easier to set realistic registration and attendance goals.
Create a virtual event budget
Your virtual event budget will vary from your in-person event budgets. While in-person events are used to having 25% of the budget spent on technology and 75% of the budget spent on venues, décor, F&B, staffing, travel, etc., that ratio is flipped for virtual events. As the event is hosted online, your biggest expense will be on your technology needs.
Build an event content plan
With no venue to source or F&B to plan, your first task after determining your event purpose is to build your content plan. Content drives attendance, engagement, and networking at a virtual event. It is the heart and soul of the entire attendee experience. As you plan your content, go for quality over quantity. With a virtual event, attendees have endless distractions a click away, which may lead you to stretch the event out over several days, provide live and on-demand content options, and keep sessions short and informative.
Virtual content best practices to keep in mind
- Production value matters. The better produced a session, the more engaged attendees will be.
- Be aware of session length. If the content format doesn’t vary and isn’t engaging, then keep sessions shorter than you might at an in-person event.
- Train speakers before the event and ensure their equipment is working.
- Integrate engagement opportunities, such as live Q&A and polling, into the sessions.
- Leverage different formats. Don’t stick to one speaker and a simple PowerPoint deck, vary the offerings with panels, video, and more.
- Test your technology and record the sessions that will be on-demand ahead of time.
Identify your virtual technology needs
The length of your event, as well as your content plan, will determine your virtual technology needs. A webinar will not require as much tech as a virtual conference. Whatever virtual solution you choose, it’s always best to go with one that offers every feature you may need in one platform. That way you’ll be able to work with one tool, one partner, and one source of data.
Promote your virtual event
Shout it from the rooftops – your event is coming! Build a promotion plan and market your virtual event. One of the best ways to do this is through email marketing with the help of an event marketing platform. You’ll also need to build an event website and set up event registration. When the event website is live, you can point potential attendees to the site using social media, email marketing, and any other forms of promotion at your disposal.
Find virtual event sponsors and partners
Attendees might be the crux of an event, but it couldn’t happen without virtual event sponsors and partners. Build out sponsorship packages that include sponsored sessions, sponsor ads, trade show space, and more.
Prepare attendees for the virtual experience
While it seems like the world learned how to use Zoom overnight, a virtual event, particularly a virtual conference, utilizes technology that’s more complex than clicking to join meeting. Even if your virtual tool is easy to use, send attendees a Know Before You Go email detailing how to maneuver the event, what they may need to download to launch meetings, and how to make the most of their time.
During the virtual event
Engage virtual event attendees
With the use of a mobile event app or without, engage attendees during sessions through live polling, Q&A, gamification, and social media. Make sure attendees have a way to interact with the content and each other.
Capture attendee data
Using virtual event technology, capture engagement rates such as session attendance, how long attendees engage with sessions, and more. Attendee data can help you build more robust attendee profiles to better identify leads for sales.
Facilitate networking and one-on-one appointments
Depending on the length and scope of your event, you’ll want to provide opportunities for attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors to interact. Facilitate one-on-one appointments, networking, and breakout sessions.
After the virtual event
Send a feedback survey
Your feedback survey will allow you to measure event success. Send attendees a feedback survey that isn’t too tiresome to fill out soon after the event to ensure you get reliable data.
Analyze the data from the virtual event
You gathered the data, time to dig into it. Using the virtual event goals as a guide, sift through the data to see how well your event stacked up against the goals you set from the start.
Present the results of the event to key stakeholders
No event is complete until you present event successes, and what might be improved upon, to stakeholders. Using the data captured and attendee testimonials, present the results in an easily understood way that speaks to the focuses of various stakeholders.
Planning your next virtual event
As time has shown us, virtual events, though not so dissimilar from in-person events as it once seemed, require their own strategy and execution plan.
While the value of face-to-face interaction will never go away, virtual events provide a unique opportunity to reach an audience up to 10 times greater than in-person events because of the low barrier to entry. Hopefully, this checklist will get you started on the right foot.
Looking for more on virtual? Check out Virtual Events Strategy and Execution: A Practitioner’s Guide and read 'The Future is Now: Stay Ahead of the Virtual Event Curve'
Madison Layman is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents.
When I'm not writing, you can find me binge-watching TV shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.