The coronavirus pandemic has stopped all in-person events and large gatherings. Weddings, concerts, and sporting events have all been postponed or modified to prevent the spread of the disease. While many companies and organizations originally rescheduled, the uncertainty of when the pandemic will end remains, causing more questions about how to move forward.
While in-person events are postponed, the number of virtual events has skyrocketed. For example, virtual events company 6Connex has seen a 1,000 percent increase in their virtual events since the start of COVID, according to Forbes.
There has been an outpouring of creativity from performers and innovation from companies in shifting to virtual and creating engaging online programming. If you’re struggling to shift from offline to online with your events, here’s what you need to know about getting started with virtual events.
Choose Your Virtual Events Platform
The first step to host a virtual event is to choose your platform. Many of these streaming services existed long before the pandemic, but all of them have become immensely popular in the wake of COVID. Here are a few options to consider:
- Zoom: Zoom is free for meetings with up to 100 people that last 40 minutes. However, there are plans ranging from $150 to $200 that allow you to host up to 500 participants, have unlimited cloud storage of recorded events, have transcriptions of what people say and much more.
- Facebook Live: The benefit of Facebook Live is that your recording can be automatically shared on your page afterward, making it accessible to a wider range of people. You can also integrate Facebook and Zoom to live cast your Zoom events on the platform.
- AdobeConnect: AdobeConnect takes many standard video conferencing platforms to the next level, allowing you a much higher range of customization and flexibility for hosting a well-branded, interactive and engaging event.
- GoToMeeting: GoToMeeting is typically used in a professional setting, but can be used for private events. If you’re planning to host a webinar or virtual conference where you sell tickets and limit attendance, consider using this option.
As you can see, each platform offers solutions specific to the needs of the organization. The option you choose will depend on how you plan to broadcast the content, the number of people in attendance and how custom the experience needs to be.
Create Valuable Supporting Content
Virtual events can be engaging like in-person events—and one way to make them engaging is to provide supporting content for attendees. For example, you may create worksheets or a full workbook, or even send out a swag bag to all attendees ahead of the event.
This supporting content can also be shared with attendees after so they have the information long after the event ends. For example, the Adobe Summit moved completely virtual this year. However, the company shared more than 100 videos across six breakout tracks and made them free online afterward. This allowed business owners to get the information they needed and watch it on their time.
Don’t forget to make sure these supporting materials are easily accessible and available. You may want to schedule an email to auto-send after the event with a copy of the presentation, a recording of the video, and any PDFs, graphics, or takeaway content you want people to have.
If you’re worried about sharing media and using screen share features during your event, set up a few practice runs with your team. This will help you get used to the technology and troubleshoot issues ahead of the actual event.
Develop a Promotion Plan
Like any event, you need to build up excitement around your virtual gathering and encourage people to attend. You may not need as large of a marketing budget if you are only reaching people online, but you still need to build up hype.
Consider creating a sense of exclusivity within the event by limiting the number of attendees or creating a “VIP experience,” by offering early access, bonus content, or one-on-one meetings with speakers. This gets people excited while driving ticket sales.
Don’t forget all the usual promotion tactics too, including:
- Email marketing
- Social media posts
- Guest or presenter promotion
- Paid ads
- Updated website copy/event landing pages
Learn from Other Virtual Events Happening Now
You don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel with your virtual event. As more audiences attend these virtual meetups, they’re growing more comfortable and learning what to expect.
Consider attending a few events by competitors in your field or events by non-competitors who have a format that you like. Take notes on what makes these events amazing and how they can improve. You can then create the best possible virtual events for your own audience based on what resonates as being great or not good for you. Give attendees what they’ve come to love about virtual events while putting your own spin on it.
Your Audiences Are Excited About Your Event
Like with anything new, you have to be willing to try, make mistakes and learn as you go. The good news is, with everyone being new to this concept, your attendees are likely unaware of the little mistakes that happen along the way and more forgiving of the ones they do notice. Take it one step at a time, choosing your video platform, creating supporting content, promoting the event and attending others so you can learn and grow with each new event you hos