Virtual events are the way of the future - connecting people to one another across the country and the world, even from the comfort of their own homes. Hosting an event, whether internally for your team or externally for your customers and prospective clients, may be a big adjustment. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you! This is an opportunity to share your message or large-scale event with people that may not be able to attend in person.
First, let’s help you understand some of the different types of virtual environments:
- Webinar: A seminar that typically includes 1 or more speakers with little communication from the audience, except potentially a Q&A session.
- Video Conferencing: A call between 2 or more people, typically a discussion format. These are usually private and require a password or access to be granted by the host.
- Virtual Town Hall: One or multiple speakers present ideas or share corporate communications and are available for questions from the audience.
- Live Stream: Live video and audio coverage of an event or performance for people to join and watch. This can be a component of the event where a live audience is still present (sometimes referred to a hybrid event), or with no audience at all.
Now here are our 5 steps to hosting a successful virtual event
Step 1: DETERMINE THE W’S: WHO, WHAT, WHEN & WHERE
Who & What: Consider the goals of your virtual event, who will be involved, and to what degree.
- Who is your audience?
- How involved do you want your audience to be?
- Are there multiple speakers? Who are they?
- What are you presenting?
This will help you determine what type of virtual event you’ll host, which will also set some expectations with your audience.
When: Think about the audience & what makes most sense for them. When will they most likely be available to join?
Where: Wherever your audience is! That’s one of the many positive benefits of virtual events. Something also important to decide: where will you be? If you’re the host, make sure you’ll be in an area where other noises or backgrounds won’t disrupt the event. Offices, boardrooms, or lobbies are all great spaces to convert into webinar or video conferencing studios. Don’t have the space to host a live stream? Sight & Sound Productions has created a professional studio in our office. Larger venues will be needed for events that have multiple people speaking at the same time or if a stage set is being used.
Step 2: GET THE TECHNOLOGY AND SET UP YOU NEED
Top 6 basic items needed for a virtual event:
- A streaming platform, such as social media, Vimeo Live, Zoom, or another streaming outlet
- High speed internet, 100% recommend using a hard line and not the wifi
- Great natural light, lighting supplied by softboxes, or stage wash
- Quality microphone and camera for audio and video
- *Switchers, a teradek, and other AV equipment might be needed for the integration of live streaming during events.
If you need to rent any of this equipment, our team is happy to help. We’re experts on all things events, both in-person and virtually, so we’re happy to answer any questions you have about the equipment you need.
Tip: If you can, do a test with a colleague and use all of the equipment that you would use. Make sure you feel comfortable using everything and that things run smoothly.
Step 3: INVITE PEOPLE TO YOUR EVENT
How you invite people should reflect the type of event you’re hosting. Be sure to add the tone and style of your event into your invitation. If you’re live streaming a large corporate event, include the same theme and messaging on your invitations.
Here are some of our invitation recommendations based on your event type:
- Webinar: a personalized email with a link to register and a social media post
- Video Conferencing: a personalized email with a link to the virtual conference room.
- Virtual Town Hall: a personalized email with a link. If a public event, social media post.
- Live Stream: a physical invitational and personalized email. If a public event, social media post.
Be sure to give your potential attendees plenty of information on what to expect so they don’t get frustrated trying to join. Consider including this type of information in your invitation:
- The software the virtual event will take place on: Zoom, Google, Vimeo Live, Facebook Live, etc.
- Whether or not it will be recorded in case they’re unable to attend
- If you’ll be taking questions so they can prepare questions ahead of time
- How long your event will be
- If they can join at any time or if they have a window to join
- Whether or not the event is open to anyone, or if they should only extend the invitation to certain people.
Step 4: HOST YOUR EVENT
Is your event strictly online? Or is it an in-person event that you’re sharing online? Here are our tips for both.
High quality audio and video is essential. You want your audience at home to feel like they are truly part of the event. Poor quality audio and video can cause frustration for the at home audience and might lead them to not pay attention or leave.
Build a detailed agenda. Know who’s doing introductions, when speakers should be speaking and how transitions between sessions/speakers will be handled.
Tip: Are there a lot of transitions in your program? If so, having an MC is recommended.
Have interactive elements to keep your audience engaged. Allow attendees to submit questions, take polls, and include an open Q&A session. If you’re having a hybrid event, don’t forget about the people online! Your online audience wants to feel like they’re part of the experience too, so give them a shout out during the event.
Step 5: FOLLOW UP & PLAN YOUR NEXT EVENT
Following up with your attendees is just as important as the invitation. Make sure they know you appreciate their attendance and participation in your event. Most email software allows you to customize your introduction with their name, and that personal touch goes a long way.
If your event is recurring, such as a weekly or monthly webinar or an annual gala, go ahead and put as many details as you have for the event on their follow up email or invitation. You want to stay on their radar and have them excited to attend your next event.
Ready to plan your next one? Consider surveying your last attendees on ways you could improve your next event. For example, you may have live-streamed your event on Facebook and now your online attendees are interested in attending in-person. Now you have a better idea of how many people to anticipate in-person next time. Maybe people loved your Q&A session after your webinar and would be interested in attending another with more speakers. Your online audience will give you feedback to help you plan your next great virtual event.