This guest post by Kaylyn McKenna first appeared on the Social27 blog.
With the ongoing shift towards virtual events, many in-person event planners and organizers are starting to expand into virtual or hybrid events. This is great for attendees and event organizers! Virtual events are convenient to attend, more environmentally friendly, offer greater accessibility, and are more cost-effective for all parties involved! Who doesn’t like the idea of saving the planet and saving money?!
A lot goes into planning a successful event, and virtual events are no exception. If you’re new to virtual event planning or making the switch from traditional in-person events, going virtual can seem overwhelming – but fear not! We’ve created this virtual event checklist to help you stay organized while planning your next virtual event!
Table of Contents
Before the Event
Define Your Target Audience
Who are you putting on this event for? Are you hoping to attract fitness enthusiasts? Decision makers from potential B2B customers? People who need continuing education or training in a particular area that your business operates in? Think about who you want to attract to your event and how your event can appeal to them.
Develop Your Event Strategy
Set your goals for this event and look at how this event fits into your overall marketing and events strategy. Is this an event geared towards generating leads or boosting brand awareness? Is it an event focused on providing education and training? Define this early on so that you can build your event content and schedule around your goals. If you need more help formulating your virtual events strategy, check out our guide on how to maximize your event strategy with virtual and hybrid events.
Set Measurable KPIs
A key performance indicator (KPI) is a quantifiable measure that is used to measure how effectively you have met your intended goals. For example, you may have a registration goal or an attendance goal for your event. You may also have a KPI focused on generating a certain amount of social media mentions or gaining a number of new followers. These should be measurable values that you can easily track.
Set a Budget
Determine how much you can spend on your event. Virtual events tend to be more cost effective, but you do need to be willing to invest some funds into exciting speakers and a well-designed virtual event platform to provide attendees with a great event experience.
Choose a Virtual Event Platform
The right event platform can make or break your event. You don’t want your sponsors or attendees to be frustrated by tech issues or a hard-to-use platform throughout the whole event. That’s a surefire way to lose support for your future events! Demo potential platforms and make sure that they have the features and user experience that you need. If you’d like to try out Social27 Virtual Event Platform, you can set up a demo here.
Set a Date
Decide on the date(s) that your event will be held. There is more date flexibility with virtual events, as you don’t have to worry about the venue being booked up. However, you do need to consider attendee, sponsor, and speaker availability. You may want to research other events in the area or major industry events taking place in other areas of the country or virtually to prevent conflicts. Also consider how much time you’ll need to plan and promote your event. You don’t want the event to feel like it was rushed! You also don’t want to rush your event promotion and end up with low attendance numbers. A Markletic survey indicated that most event planners need 3-6 weeks to promote a small event and 65% of event marketers need more than 6 weeks to promote large virtual conferences in order to drive the desired registration numbers.
Speakers are an important component of your virtual event. They provide great content and attract attendees. Having a well-respected speaker booked to speak at your event can boost registrations and help you garner more media attention. One great benefit of planning a virtual event is that it can be easier to recruit high demand speakers due to the lack of travel and lower time commitment required.
Content is the cornerstone of your event. If the content isn’t great, you’ll fail to keep your attendees engaged. Remember, people lose focus during lackluster in-person speeches and activities all the time, but it’s even easier to get distracted or leave early when you’re attending from the comfort of your own home. You don’t want attendees dropping off to go scroll through TikTok or fold some laundry they’ve been putting off. You want them actively focused and engaged in your content. While you may or may not be personally creating content, you will be the one helping to curate strong content by working with speakers and sponsors. Encourage them to leverage pre-event content by recording short videos that attendees can watch to learn about speakers and introductory topics before sessions.
Set an Event Schedule
Take some time to plan out the event schedule. Be thoughtful when it comes to scheduling and build in plenty of breaks throughout the event day(s). Many organizers opt to spread the event out over several days instead of packing content into a few long event days. When attendees don’t need to travel and pay for accommodations near a set location, spreading out the content over a longer period of time is more practical. It’s also a great way to prevent Zoom fatigue and leaves some extra time for fun optional networking activities.
Getting sponsors to support your event is a great way to offset costs. Sponsors can also help your event gain credibility, and they can contribute content of their own through sponsored sessions, sponsor booths, and so much more. 65% of event organizers accept sponsorships for their events. Though there will be some events, such as strictly internal company events, that you may not want or need to recruit sponsors for.
Promote Your Event
It’s important to develop a strong promotion strategy and to follow through on it. Most event organizers use social media to generate buzz about their event and drive registration. If you have an email newsletter, that can be another great digital marketing channel to leverage for the event. The key is to know your target audience, and to make sure you reach them wherever they are. Adjust your approach and advertising settings to your audience.
Brand the Platform
When you host an in-person event, you brand and decorate the venue space, right? You should do the same for your virtual event space! Update your virtual event space with branding such as placing your logo throughout the event pages, incorporating your brand colors, and creating copy and imagery for your registration and event pages.
Learn the Platform Functions
Great, you’ve chosen a virtual event platform that will meet your needs. We hope it’s Social27 Virtual Event Platform, of course, but we respect your decision. Now it’s time to train everyone on the platform functions. The speakers and their moderators need to understand how to run a session and interact with viewers. Sponsors will need some training or resources to help them set up their virtual exhibition booths, upload content, run sessions, and host meetings on the platform. Your platform provider should be able to offer resources and training meetings to help everyone get the hang of the platform. Social27 is always happy to provide training to you and your partners or staff.
Procure Third-party Vendors for Virtual Experiences
Want to get creative with your sessions or networking activities? Now is the time to research vendor to put on special activities like music events, interactive skills classes, or other activities you may want to integrate into your event beyond standard sessions.
Prepare a Tech Support Plan
It’s important to have a plan in case you run into any tech questions or issues. Make note of who to contact throughout the event if you need tech support. Also be sure to share any platform guides or tech support article resources with your sponsors and speakers as well.
During the Event
Keep Attendees Engaged
You got them to the event, and now it’s time to keep them engaged! Monitor attendee engagement and encourage speakers to make use of features like polls and Q&As during their sessions. If you notice that chats are not active during sessions, speak with the moderator or assign a moderator to help encourage discussions. Don’t be afraid to jump in the session chats or networking lounge to get the conversation going.
Check-in with Speakers and Sponsors
Provide support to your speakers and sponsors to ensure that they have everything that they need to run their sessions and event activities smoothly.
Follow the Tech Support Plan
Follow your tech support plan to handle any minor tech concerns that arise. If you’re
Monitor Social Media and Post Updates
You’ve promoted your event on social media for several weeks now, but the work isn’t done yet. Throughout the event, you’ll still want to keep tabs on your social media mentions. See what attendees are sharing from your event, address any questions or concerns promptly, and repost or share positive press that your event is garnering.
Track Event Data in Real Time
One of the greatest benefits of hosting virtual events is that you have access to a wealth of event data in real-time. On Social27 Virtual Event Platform, you can track data on how many people are attending each session, how many chat messages are being sent, engagement with sponsor booths, and more!
After the Event
Follow-up With Attendees
It’s always a good idea to send a follow-up email after your event. If the event was planned to promote brand awareness or boost sales, send out an email to attendees with a call to action. For sales, invite them to set up a call or demo with a member of the sales team. For more general brand awareness, direct them to follow you on social media or sign up for your newsletter to stay connected. Refer back to your specific KPIs to see what kind of follow-up is appropriate. Even if the event was an internal employee event, you can still send a follow-up email to solicit feedback. Consider sending out an email thanking everyone for their attendance and including a link to a short survey on their experience. You can learn more about what they enjoyed, ideas to incorporate for next time, and how they felt about using the virtual event platform.
Evaluate the Success of Your Event
Now it’s time to circle back to those KPIs that you set towards the beginning of your planning process. Look at the final event data. Did you achieve your objectives? If not, try to identify what prevented you from hitting your KPIs and how you could improve your strategy for next time.
Gather Feedback from Sponsors and Speakers
It’s important to listen to feedback from attendees, but sponsors and speakers are also valuable sources of feedback. Afterall, you want them to come back to your events in the future! Check-in with them to see what went well and what they think could be improved for next time.
Start Planning the Next One!
Take the lessons learned from this event and start formulating the next one!
Plan Your Next Event On Social27 Virtual Event Platform
Social27 Virtual Event Platform can help you plan your next virtual and hybrid event. We can help you create an event that your attendees will love – and that will drive the results you’re looking for! Our platform is easy-to-use, and you’ll be provided with thorough real-time data to track the event’s performance.
Set up a demo today to see everything the platform has to offer.