Even as the world has (mostly) re-opened, virtual events show no sign of losing steam! We at Kaltura want to provide you with a thorough and reliable guide on how to host a virtual event in 2022-2023, as the bar for event quality has assuredly gotten higher! The guide below should help you through putting together dynamic and relevant virtual events both this year and next.
- What to Do Before the Virtual Event
- How to Host a Virtual Event
- What to do After the Virtual Event
- The Need for Creative Event Ideas
- How Kaltura can Elevate your Next Online Event
What to Do Before the Virtual Event
The planning stages are key! If you’re just learning how to host a virtual event, make sure you go through the following steps:
Brainstorm the Type of Event You Want
In very broad strokes, there are six major types of virtual events: virtual seminars, webinars, virtual conferences, virtual trade shows, virtual exhibitions, and hybrid events (which could be internal or external to your organization). Your virtual event will most likely resemble one of these categories but consider carefully which type of event is appropriate for your budget and topic and can best meet your goals!
Also, just because your virtual event will most likely fit into a category doesn’t mean you should make it generic! Use your imagination and creativity to come up with something that will make it a unique experience for your participants.
Set a Date and Time
Scheduling is key! Strategically determine your event date and time. While virtual events aren’t subject to physical constraints, you nonetheless should identify days, dates, and times where a maximum number of your target audience will be available. Maybe that will be Friday afternoons during summer, maybe it will be weekends, but consult your research and make sure you won’t be talking to a virtual “empty room.”
The other important point is setting your timeline to put the event together, so you’ll want to plan ahead! If at all possible an 8-10 week planning and setup period is usually recommended … although if you can allocate more time, especially if it’s a big event, go ahead. Your event date is the goal you’re holding to, so schedule your lead-up time wisely.
Choose Your Tech Platform for Hosting a Virtual Event
Your tech platform will be a big part of how you distinguish your event and brand when you’re looking to host a virtual event. Whether you want to create a gamified 3D event space attendees can walk an avatar around or prefer to keep more to business but need high-quality video streaming that can handle multiple event tracks, you need an appropriate platform to do the lift. Whatever platform you need will be based on your projected audience size, goals, activities, and so on. Our strong recommendation is to make sure you have a platform with excellent live and on-demand streaming technology, integrations for third-party apps (create a holistic experience by integrating multiple tools), and that will let you creatively design, individualize, and brand the event experience.
Begin Inviting People, Advertise and Promote Your Virtual Event
With your planning period in place, you’ll want to start inviting and scheduling relevant guests. You might even want to start teasing the event well in advance if you have existing audience or client lists. Remember, as this is a virtual event, you’ll probably benefit the most from a digital-first promotion strategy. Make sure to use digital channels including social media and paid advertising to reach out to your target audience. You can also connect the event link to your other promotions for increased exposure!
Create Contingency Plans
Always have a backup plan! Identify a short list of substitute guest speakers or facilitators in case anyone needs to drop out. Have tech support on hand for when the event will be running and do your best to prepare an alternative in case of a technical failure (spare cameras, a backup server, etc.). If resources permit, some virtual event platforms (such as Kaltura!) offer white glove support for your events. Finally, make sure you brief your speakers, guests, performers, etc. about how to proceed if there are unexpected scenarios.
Create a Run Sheet, Practice, and Remind Guests
With any event, it’s always best to prepare an agenda and do your best to stick to it!
For the attendees: Provide a clear schedule with clearly marked times and relevant links. You don’t want to have people waiting around for long periods of time, or not have the information they need.
For guests, speakers, and others: Make sure you’ve done an adequate practice run of the event, and guests are receiving active reminders about the upcoming event.
How to Host a Virtual Event
When it’s event time, other key components to your process include providing an event host, a literal MC and guide to engage and guide participants, as well as moderators to make sure the audience-participation segments are moving along smoothly (and respectfully). This will be a key “human touch” for your attendees to help bridge the gap between the types of in-person experiences they may be used to and the highly mediated environment of a virtual event.
There are a few other major points to keep in mind as the time for your event rolls around. Consider the following:
Teaching Your Platform (to Participants Who Aren’t Tech-Savvy)
Remember, virtual events are still a little new to everyone … but newer to some than others! Since your attendees might not all be “tech people” make sure to guide them through virtual event basics. At the start of the event, make sure to lay out the basic procedure, schedule, how to access streams and sessions and other vital navigation information, event duration, break times, and any other relevant information. You might even include a recorded demonstration or tutorial of navigating the event space and operating major features if you think it’s likely that many of your attendees don’t have extensive experience in virtual events or virtual environments.
Promote Engagement and Interaction
To get the most out of your virtual event, include elements such as Q&A sessions, a live chat, breakout discussions for knowledge-sharing, image and video sharing, testimonials from audience members, and other activities that encourage audience engagement. Create spaces for attendee networking as well!
Take Note of Audience/User Details for Future Outreach
One of the key advantages of a virtual event is the amount of user data generated. But the first and easiest step is making sure you’re keeping the contact data of attendees for future events and promotions.
What to do After the Virtual Event
No matter how successful your event is, it’s still crucial to have a strong follow-up.
Create a Feedback Survey for Attendees and Guest Speakers
Related to the above point, the more data the better. A survey can also help you with direct feedback from your participants. Find out what the experience was as well as gather information regarding the activities, agenda, and whether your objectives were met.
Compile Notes on What Was Successful for Future Events
Your survey can also help you evaluate the overall performance of the virtual event, and whether you’re achieving your goals and expected outcomes. Hopefully, your virtual event was a big success! But even still, you can identify what worked best, and what you can work to improve for your next event. Debrief with your event team as well! If you understand from their perspective what worked and what didn’t, it will help you prepare better for next time.
Share Event Details for Marketing Purposes
Social media is going to be one of your closest allies throughout the process. Share some enticing clips and posts from your event through social and other channels, and highlight audience engagement and feedback. A good virtual event platform will also give you the option to let the event live in an on-demand format so highlights, or even the full program, can be reviewed both by those who attended and potentially even those who did not.
The goal should be to carry on some of the excitement and engagement that surrounded the event, so that you’ll continue to benefit from the positive buzz, and your next event can be even bigger.
The Need for Creative Event Ideas
As we mentioned at the top, virtual events being more prevalent than ever demands more effort and creative thinking. To make a lasting impression it won’t be enough to simply set up a “talking head” speaker and a live chat and call it an “event.” Make sure to use your creativity and plan activities that involve participation, not simply lectures. If you’re stumped there is a wealth of inspiration online–and in fact, we’ve touched on the subject before.
Online Fatigue Post-Lockdowns and COVID19
While “work from home” has proved popular with many, even without mandatory stay-at-home and quarantine orders, people nonetheless are feeling burned out on living a more solitary existence and interacting via screens. The good news is that virtual and hybrid events have been shown to help reduce “lockdown fatigue” and “Zoom fatigue.” It works either through providing the option of choosing virtual attendance or a smaller-scale in-person event (hybrid events) or by creating a well-structured experience, promotes engagement and learning, and offers more of a human networking connection than slogging through work online (virtual events). Just remember that you need to provide a real value add with your online event, it’s not just another everyday webinar or multi-participant video call!
How Kaltura can Elevate your Next Online Event
If you’re looking for a creative and technical edge for your next virtual event, Kaltura has you covered. Our advanced virtual event solution Kaltura Virtual Events will make every event feel like a fully-crafted experience that mustered a full planning and organizing effort–even when in-person events are not an option. It’s our mission to make sure all your events can be on brand and simple to create and execute, but nothing less than a complete event for your attendees.
Kaltura Virtual Events is fully featured to help you throughout all virtual event planning and execution stages. While planning and setting up your virtual event, you can take advantage of agenda-building capabilities as well as fully customizable landing pages and preset event templates. These templates have robust features for individualized modification and are intended to keep you 100% on-brand, as well as make it possible to extend your reach by scaling up and adding tracks and content. 5 basic templates can be implemented as-is but also reused or reworked: Interactive Webinar, Town Hall and Large Broadcast, Single Track, Multi-Day Multi-Track, and Flagship Event. Our Flagship Events in particular (geared toward those “Once-a-year and one-of-a-kind” types of events) come with the full advantages of our platform as well as excellent production support from our teams.
Additionally, we enable hyper-personalization for all attendees, including personalized agendas, selecting topics of interest during registration to content recommendations, customizable layouts, personal media collections, and other options to individualize any experience.
Finally, we also feature out-of-the-box integrations as a modular framework for your SaaS tools including conferencing clients, marketing automation platforms, and data analytics. Marketing automation features empower your event to create personalized, customized, and automated live marketing that puts you on track for follow-up campaigns.
We hope that this post has given you some helpful pointers on how to host a virtual event in 2022-2023. The main points we want to stress are engagement and creativity! A virtual event should feel like, well, an Event! And ultimately adding some fun will reward you in both keeping your audience from tuning out, as well as contributing ample engagement data. With strong objectives laid out, and a quality virtual event platform, we’re confident that your virtual events will hit their mark!