A great virtual event also requires great virtual event planning–in other words, the same levels of care and attention to detail you would apply to an in-person event.
Virtual events can run the gamut from a video-on-demand online class to multi-day conferences that feature a variety of activities (talks, workshops, networking) and multiple virtual spaces. This article is intended to give you a leg up on your virtual event planning and compare where virtual is similar or different to in-person. We hope you’ll leave with solid advice to get you started on a virtual event planning journey of any size or scope.
- What to Consider when Planning a Virtual Event
- 5 Steps for Successful Virtual Event Planning
- Virtual Event Checklist
- When to Consider Hiring a Virtual Event Planner
- Kaltura’s Virtual Event Solution
- Final Thoughts
What to Consider when Planning a Virtual Event
Why host a virtual event as opposed to in-person? Well of course there’s the recent issue of safety for your attendees during a pandemic. But broadly, virtual events are much like in-person events in that they allow you to deliver your company or organization’s message, drive leads, revenue and adoption, and build brand loyalty. However, they also allow you to open attendance to guests and audiences that would be unable to come to the event due to physical distance or obstacles. Additionally, virtual events offer many opportunities for saving money on venues, presentation, and other material concerns related to in-person events, so going virtual might be gentler to your budget. And keep in mind online engagement also creates an unparalleled opportunity for deep user data and analysis.
Virtual events, like physical events, can be described as “value-added, engagement-driven experiences.” Virtual event planning will hinge on the quality of content and engagement; since there isn’t the same capacity to sell the event via a unique location and face-to-face networking opportunities, your content needs to be front and center. Beyond that, make sure you have a grasp on your audience’s content preferences and needs, as well as understanding step by step what will be required to stand up your event (cameras? streaming gear? a venue? a virtual destination for networking?).
In short, you want to craft an event strategy and determine how your event goals can be met within a virtual environment. Consider which virtual technology or event platform will best meet your needs.
We also have a checklist you can use (check it out further below) to help keep your planning process on track.
Some additional questions you might want to ask during virtual event planning are:
- If pivoting from an in-person event: How well will your agenda translate from in-person to virtual? If you have concerns, how will you pick up the slack?
- Will the content be live, on-demand, hybrid in-person, or a combination?
- What are the Key Performance Indicators for your event?
- What kind of bandwidth do you need and how will you provide tech support?
- Will content be available after the event, and how?
- Will attendees have tools to network with one another?
5 Steps for Successful Virtual Event Planning
- Know Your Audience
Step one is to understand the people your event is for, and what value they’ll take from it. This is relatively easy if you are already pitching an event in a professional niche or area of special interest (i.e., “Our audience are data scientists” or “Our audience are Otis Elevator enthusiasts,” etc.) Nonetheless, you’ll want some kind of demographic profile: What particular subject areas are they most interested in? How heavily do they use social media? What kind of incentives do they respond to? What kind of events and engagement do they favor?
Another key concern is how tech-savvy your average audience member will be. Nowadays especially, not every online event is for a tech crowd, so during virtual event planning, make sure your attendees will understand how to log in, communicate, and navigate the event space.
- Hosts, SMEs, relevant guests
Again, your event is going to live or die by its content. So, consider recruiting or hiring an event host, either a pro speaker with chops for hosting and officiating, or a highly relevant figure in your organization or industry who’s comfortable with (virtual) public speaking. Also, having popular guests and subject matter experts weighing in, leading workshops or seminars, and otherwise being present will be a value add for the audience. Though keep in mind just because someone is important in your circles doesn’t mean they’re automatically a compelling host or presenter–vet your speakers and guests as carefully as you can. Experience on-camera or with public speaking is always a plus.
Note: The point above asking whether your attendees will be technically up to speed with your event platform goes double for guests. There are few things worse (in context) than having to watch a speaker struggle with their video streaming platform, so take extra care!
- Define Your Event
Virtual events come in different shapes and sizes (webinars, virtual conferences, live stream or prerecorded events, hybrid events, …). Early on you’ll want to decide which format will best suit the content you want to present. Single topic deep dive with Q&A, geared towards small group learning? Maybe a webinar is a good fit. Annual blow-out with multiple speakers, workshops, and celebrity guests? You’re probably talking “virtual conference.” Coming to grips with scale and complexity is key at this stage, so you understand the next steps.
- Choose Your Platform Wisely
When you have a good idea of the scope of your event, it’s time to decide what platform will best support your content. Maybe your organization already has a tool or tools, but it can be worth shopping around for a better fit. A platform that can integrate and centralize your content is an advantage over a bunch of different apps that can’t coordinate with one another.
- Location and/or Venue
The location of your virtual event needn’t be limited to choices like “inside our office’s conference room” or “cyberspace”; you can actually curate the experience more by finding an event venue with a stage, podium, or some other appealing visual feature(s). If you have the means and interest to go with a pro-level multicam and AV setup for your speakers, MCs, performers, or presenters, this is particularly a consideration. There are even some platforms geared towards creating unique online-only experiences.
- Schedule Your Dates
The good news is, you won’t have to worry about your attendees getting to your location or many other geographical concerns if you’re planning a completely virtual event. But there’s still a concern as far as scheduling!
Event times scheduled after typical office hours (9 AM-5 PM), or weekends on early evenings are usually good times; but be aware that your geographically dispersed attendees may live in different time zones, which will affect their availability. Also make sure you’re not conflicting with other major events, both in your industry or in general (major holidays, major sporting events, etc.)
Pro tip: Whenever possible, you want to plan out months in advance as opposed to days or even weeks. The strongest virtual events are a product of as much advance planning as the organizers can put in. This also helps you anticipate and get in front of possible scheduling conflicts.
- Market the Event
Once the fundamentals are in place, you need to get people to your event! Use all channels: email marketing, newsletters (physical or digital), buying advertising within your budget, and especially social media! Create a hashtag, link to supplemental materials, and make sure to encourage your community, followers, and subscribers to repost and retweet!
Virtual Event Checklist
To help you in your virtual event planning, we’ve created this checklist. This should give you some much-needed assistance with essential boxes to check to stay on track!
Download your free copy of our Checklist!
When to Consider Hiring a Virtual Event Planner
When engaging in virtual event planning, it’s not always best to go it alone! Just like in-person events, there are event management companies dedicated to the planning and execution of virtual and hybrid events as well. Particularly as your events scale up, you may feel overwhelmed: virtual event planning can be quite a process requiring lots of know-how. There are pitfalls all the way down the line from initial concept, organization, and event promotion to the actual event day and your follow-ups. If you’re new to the game or feel out of your depth, virtual event planners can provide the support and backup to ensure your virtual event’s success.
Many highly successful virtual events are in fact a collaboration of companies, each contributing its area of expertise. Virtual events management companies have the experience and expertise to deal with all aspects of your virtual event planning: you can stay focused on your branding and content while virtual event planners relieve some of the burden by concentrating on the audience experience.
Our Kaltura blog has already provided a rundown of some virtual event management companies that we think are outstanding. Recapping a main point, virtual event planners are there to ideate, plan, organize, execute, and coordinate virtual events for you, offering support and consultation to make your event unique and memorable as well as ensure smooth execution. If you think your virtual events have expanded to the point where you need to bring on help, we recommend clicking the link above and checking out the article for further details.
Kaltura’s Virtual Event Solution
With Kaltura Virtual Events, our advanced virtual event solution, even if your event is not in-person, nothing will feel like anything less than a full effort. When it comes to virtual event planning, we want to make sure all your events can be on-brand and simple to create and execute. Kaltura Virtual Events is fully featured to help you in the virtual event planning 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. Our 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. There are 5 basic templates that 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.
To wrap things up, our ultimate piece of advice is “Start planning your virtual event planning efforts early.” It’s good practice to put virtual events into your repertoire as a key part of your digital strategy. Take some time to determine how virtual events fit into your overall programming and marketing strategy and do some research on types of events, platforms, and how to organize and realize the types of events you find most compelling. Hopefully, this article has given you the boost you need to step up your virtual event agenda!