How To Plan Interactive Online Events
Updated: Aug 27, 2021
The rise of virtual events is undeniable. It seems that every big name in the business game is hosting regular online events that attract hundreds of attendees. A successful event can grow your exposure and expand your professional network, turning regular customers into loyal brand advocates. If you want to hop on this trend, now is a perfect time. Data from Grand View Research shows that the virtual events industry is expected to exceed $400 billion by 2027. In addition, over 80% of online event attendees say they would not have attended the same conference if it was hosted as an in-person event.
It is true that planning virtual events takes a bit more effort, but once your event goes live, you are much more likely to have a great payoff. Feeling confused, overwhelmed or anxious when it comes to planning your online event is completely normal. It can be difficult to know where to start, which software to use or what speakers to choose for your event. Our article will teach you how to overcome your fears and put together a successful online event.
What are Virtual Events?
A virtual event is an event that takes place online. Depending on their purpose, they can take different forms, from invite-only webinars, live streams, online conferences or informal social media events like AMA (ask me anything) sessions. They usually take place on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, where you can easily connect with your audience via video chat or voice call. Hosting virtual events is relatively inexpensive, as there is no need to rent out space. What's more, is that you can get in touch with a global audience without even having to leave your home.
Types of Virtual Events
Webinars have taken over every industry and they have turned out to be the start of the season. A webinar is a virtual event that connects people from all around the world. It usually lasts between 45 and 80 minutes and is held in the form of a presentation or a real-time meeting held by one or more speakers. To maximize engagement, webinars usually include polls and Q&A sessions. Due to their educational nature, webinars have thrived with complete virtual attendance. Companies can charge participants to join using online payments or can be offered for free.
2. Virtual Conferences
Similar to in-person conferences, virtual conferences are built around a complex agenda that includes keynotes, breakouts, sessions and more. Attendees can view real-time keynotes, build their agenda from relevant, on-demand content and interact with other participants. Using online tools for engagement, organizers have been able to reach a wider audience, reach speakers from across the world, reduce costs and accomplish their goals more effectively than physical conferences would have ever allowed them to,
3. Internal Hybrid Events
When you work with teams spread across the world, it can be quite costly to bring them together to a certain location for a meeting. This is when internal virtual events come into play. They can be sales kickoffs, department meetings, training, and more- The main goal is to share the same message with the entire company, even when employees are not physically gathered in the same place. Virtual team building activities work well with internal hybrid events, but organizers must be creative about getting all employees involved, as some are there in person and others are not.
4. External Hybrid Events
These events are dedicated to those who are outside of your organization. They require high-quality video equipment to ensure that virtual attendees get the same experience as in-person participants. External events allow worldwide attendees to be part of this experience and gather as much information as possible. While networking can be a bit more difficult for those who attend virtually, planners can come up with ways to help them feel integrated and offer them equal opportunities.
Learn more about virtual events in the video below.
Preparing Before an Online Event
Before an online event, you must first think of its purpose. What are your goals? What do you want to achieve and how do you plan to do it? Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) and make sure you get your team on board with what you want to achieve. While an objective is something specific you want to achieve short-term, a goal is more complex, is the final destination of an overall process.
Secondly, think about your target audience in relation to your event's purpose. How can you make your event relevant to them? Find out ways to personalize it and make it more to your target's liking. Understanding who your attendees are, what they want, what they struggle with will create the foundation needed for any successful virtual event.
Getting your hands on the right event management software is crucial when you start planning. It can help you save time and stay organized, keeping all the important details of the event in one place. Choose the software depending on the type of virtual event you want to plan. Look into the features available and see which one works best with what you want to achieve. Also, when selecting the platform, make sure it is mobile-friendly, so attendees can join in wherever they are.
When researching different platforms, look at the pros and cons of each. Consider your budget, the features you need and the number of permitted. Here are some of the most popular platforms used: WebEx Events, GoToWebinar, Zoom, BigMarker, or Hopin. Once you've picked your top choices, try them out. Request a demo, if possible. Test the features you are most interested in, look at the video and quality and backdrop. Ask for a second opinion, should you feel like it.
The next step would be to let the world know about your event, Digital invitations are a great way to spread the news and draw more attendees. They are affordable, highly customizable and easy to send. Many tools offer free services to create online invitations that also allow you to link your event registration page.
Choose a Host
Train your speakers on the fundamentals of the software you plan to use, help them get familiar with your technology. Your speaker must get to know the platform before the event to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
Work on Content
The content you use for your event is crucial for delivering an amazing experience for your attendees. Think about what content you want to use early in the planning process. Split your content into three, before, during and after the event and start working on it ahead of time. Here are some ideas to
A Wyzowl study shows that 93% of marketers who use video say that it's an important part of their marketing strategy. Create videos related to your online event's theme and goals. Share them with your audience.
Create hype around your speakers and promote their work. They are the face of your event. It is important that your audience knows them ahead of time.
Shine a light on your attendees as well and share what they have to say. Showcase online the content they put out about your event.
Promote Your Event
Once you have everything set for the event, it is time to start promoting it. Write a blog post in advance, explain why it is relevant for your audience and what they could learn if they attend. Share your post on social media to boost attendance, to attract more participants. Use hashtags to increase engagement and expand your brand’s reach. You can even create your own hashtag attendees can use when asking questions. If your audience is already subscribed to your newsletter, use this opportunity to invite them to your event. Send email reminders to those who are already registered.
Don't forget, when promoting your content, always think of your audience. Do some research on which platforms they spend most of their time on. Place your content where they are more likely to interact with it.
Engage with Your Audience
Interacting with your audience during the event is highly important. Create opportunities for them to connect with your brand during the event. Let them feel part of the event through networking opportunities, rather than mere participants who just sit and listen. During your event, organize live polls, Q&A sessions, set one-to-one meetings or create rooms for participants to chat together. Here are some other ways to engage with your audience during your event:
Using the chat tool, ask your attendees to submit questions in the comment section.
Encourage live-tweeting and open discussions.
Take suggestions and requests from your viewers.
Give shoutouts to people who share content related to your event.
It can seem difficult to make networking happen when hosting online events. However, you don't have to get discouraged, the right software can solve all your problems. Plus, this way your brand can differentiate itself from other competitors who are organizing events. There are certain apps, such as Cvent, that can connect attendees through a messaging system. Once participants get on the app, they can schedule meetings with each other, as well as with sponsors and exhibitors. During your event, dedicate some time to network and encourage attendees to meet and interact with each other. Using registration data, attendees can be automatically paired with people with similar interests and set breakout rooms. You can also facilitate networking through video calls or group chats.
Measurement & Analytics
At the end of your event, there will be plenty of useful data you can use to your brand's advantage. You have now created an agenda of potential leads and you have gathered enough insights to know whether or not your event was successful. The feedback you receive can be used to understand what to improve for future events and it can also help you understand more about your audience's expectations.
Another useful tip would be to make available to your audience materials presented during the event. Giving access to your content can encourage your audience to keep coming back to your brand and possibly even share it with others, increasing your social media exposure.
Learn more about planning virtual events here:
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